Thursday, July 31, 2008

Happy Birthday Honey!

Today is my hubby's 40th birthday. Happy Birthday Sweetie!

I wanted to post a pic of just him, but he is very particular about what pics of him I post. So I found this older one (an engagement portrait from *ahem* several years ago) that I figured he would approve - if only because it was taken when he was barely 33, LOL!



But he looks much the same today. He's still as handsome as always!

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

100 Pushup Challenge: Week Two, Day 1

Good evening!

I'm sorry to be late posting this. In the future I'll try to post the new week's information the night before.

I just completed my reps, before I thought to check the site for what's new in Week 2. Apparently, this week we will continue as scheduled here, but at the end of the second round we will re-test to determine where we should be training. So let's work hard this week! I'm going to cut this post short because I just did my reps and can barely type or mouse, but will see you back here at this post to report in Friday and Monday! YAY for us!

Bonus - here's something to look forward to!

Love, Dahrlin'

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Pool Party!

So the new pool finally saw its first real party this weekend!

We all had a great time Sunday, just relaxing around by the pool and watching the kids play. We basically spent the entire day in the water, with periodic breaks for food and sunscreen. It was well over 90 degrees here, so the weather was perfect for swimming!

Here's an introduction to our cast of visitor characters:

First we have Miss Snack.



That is not, of course, her real name, but it is an appropriate pseudonym. She's my sister-in-law's adorable 4 year old, and she is literally an eating machine. Her metabolism is the envy of the entire household! Miss Snack's vocabulary is also quite stunning for her age. She speaks like an 8 year old (at least) and is fond of phrases (perfectly applied, I might add) such as "that's quite amazing!" and "I'd like to discuss that later." (and I'm really NOT making this up).



One of my favorite examples is that on Friday night, we'd been telling the kids all afternoon that they had to get some sleep, because they had a big day the next day (they were going to the local amusement park). So Snack comes downstairs after being put to bed, asking (don't they always?) for water. We gave her some water and as she was heading back up the stairs, she looked over her shoulder (think Cindy-Lou Who) and smiled and said "G'night everyone! I have to go to sleep now... I have a verrrry big day tomorrow!" This munchkin knows when she needs her beauty sleep!



She's a perfect mimic and repeats almost anything she hears. But what's uncanny about it is that she applies the phrases she hears correctly, sometimes days later. It's not like she repeats it without understanding; she fully comprehends the meaning of the words and uses them in context. See her watching and listening?



But by far her favorite phrase, often heard within minutes of her last meal hitting her tummy, is "could I please have a snack?" Hence the name. When you see how energetic she is, though, it's hard to doubt her need for all those calories. She's constantly in motion and has enough energy for three:



Next up is my brother-in-law's oldest. Now 12, the Big Guy is quickly becoming a teenager. I can't believe how old he is already. This trip, he's got braces and is starting 7th grade. That's just crazy!



He's old enough to start learning to play pool (billiards) in earnest, so he enjoyed working on his pool skills while here and challenging his uncle and his grandpa. (Here, he's contemplating another kind of pool skill; the kids had all kinds of fun diving and jumping off the hot tub).



He also played very sweetly with the younger kids in the pool, and very kindly offered to help his uncle grill lunch. He's growing up right before our eyes!



Big Guy's sister, Princess Fiona, is also growing faster than I can imagine.



Now 10, Fiona is fond of dancing (particularly to the karaoke dance party on the bonus features at the end of the movie Shrek), Shrek in general, and doing tricks while she swims. She did flips (with a little help from her Dad),



dives, leaps and the ever popular "air pose" for her applauding audience.



She's become very outgoing and is quite the entertainer. Fiona and her cousin Snack don't get to visit each other that often, but they really hit it off and enjoyed playing together all weekend.



Our fourth little visitor was Nintendo Man. Nintendo Man is the youngest sibling of Big Guy and Fiona, and Nintendo Man garnered his nickname from his habit of holing up, away from everyone else, and playing Gameboy for nearly the entire trip. This is one of the few action (read: visible) shots I could get of NM.



On previous visits, Nintendo Man has been the life of the party. But on this trip he was a little more subdued, preferring to do everything on his own.



He came to the table for breakfast once everyone else had eaten, and (after a minor dustup with his older brother) he came back outside to swim after everyone else retreated in to change. Still, I love the pics I got of him because they show his many moods. Such a cutie, this little guy was born just before hubby and I got married. He's about a month older than our marriage, LOL! But maybe because of that, he will always have a special place in my heart.

Lastly, here are a few shots of other family members - hubby's brother (and one more of Nintendo Man),



Sister, and Dad:



And one shot of the whole family - three generations! It was a nice chance for all of them to see each other in one spot for a change. The only one missing from the group shot is Nintendo Man, who resisted almost all photographs :-) If you look closely, you can see either a hand or foot (not sure) hiding behind everyone else. He's back there somewhere!



For all our family viewing this, hope everyone had a great weekend. We enjoyed seeing all of you!

Love, Dahrlin'

That's a LOTTA food!

Happy Tuesday!

So as may be obvious from my blog generally, I love food. I love to shop for it, cook it, eat it, talk about it, plan around it, etc. I know that won't be any surprise to most of you! :-)

As I mentioned, we have had seven houseguests visiting for the last few days. I know some of you moms of five kids are dying of laughter right now, thinking "what is she complaining about!?" But usually it's just two of us, so a large influx of people creates all kinds of interesting scenarios. Everyone arrived Friday, then three went home late Sunday, three little ones went home Monday and the last guest departed this morning.

The weekend was a whirlwind, and I'll be posting more about that later. It was tons of fun, lots of chaos and a great time. But for today, I just started considering how much food we went through over those few days, and thought it would be interesting to take a tally. This was just done out of curiosity - we are thrilled that we got to see everyone and we were delighted to host the gathering. I'm not in any way complaining about what was eaten, I just found it fascinating to see how fast food can fly out of the fridge and pantry when nine people are milling around through the house. And one tiny one always wants a snack (she is absolutely precious and hilarious!)... but more on that story later :-)

So anyway, it was truly amazing to me to see how much food 9 people could go through in three days. Two days, really, considering that the majority of guests were only with us (for dining purposes) Friday night through Sunday night. I know this will not be a shock to many of you out there with teenagers or large families, but hubby and I are used to being the only people eating at our house, at least for the most part. So just for fun, here's a partial list (meaning stuff I can think of off the top of my head) of the items we, as a group of five adults and four kids, demolished between Friday and Monday. The really funny part is that except for the catfish, this list does not include meals that we ate out, including two dinners and a lunch.

4 medium pizzas
2 pounds BBQ
1 quart coleslaw
1 quart baked beans
2 boxes pop tarts
1 large (family size) box cheerios
1.5 gallons milk
4 catfish fillets
1 dozen eggs
1 pound bacon
4 biscuits
8 juice boxes
8 hot dogs
8 hot dog buns
6 hamburgers
6 burger buns
1 package american cheese
1 pound shrimp
1 bag tortilla chips
1 jar salsa
1 jar cocktail sauce
1/2 gallon ice cream
2 bags microwave popcorn
1 pitcher apple juice
1 pitcher lemonade
1/2 gallon OJ
1 quart half and half
Various beer, wine and drinks for the adults

And that's just what I can think of off the top of my head, LOL! But anyway, I'm curious - what does your family go through a lot of food-wise?

While you're chewing on that question (geeze, I crack myself up!) I'm off to work on the next post from this weekend...right after I finish work!

Love, Dahrlin'

Monday, July 28, 2008

100 Pushup Challenge! Last Day of Week One!

Okay Ladies! I'm off to do my pushups now. Post back here and let's finish strong for this week! (Can you hear that? That's me psyching myself into this...)

And no, Angie, you don't get a pass even though your arms are probably falling off from responding to comments today. :-)

Go, go go!

Love, Dahrlin'

Menu Plan Monday!

Our plans this week will probably have us eating out a couple times, though that's still up in the air. My brother in law will probably be spending the night with us, so we may go out tonight with him. Then hubby's birthday (a big one - 40!!!) falls during the work week, so we'll probably go out Saturday night to celebrate. If we do go out I'm guessing we'll go to our favorite Tex/Mex place with my BIL, and to our favorite steak place for hub's birthday, so I'm planning the rest of the week around those ideas. And I'm bringing forward a couple of meals planned for last week that we didn't end up eating.



So here's my plan:

Monday - Eating out (Tex/Mex)

Tuesday - Chinese Pepper Steak, Rice

Wednesday - Grilled Apricot BBQ Chicken, Buttered Noodles, Broccoli with Lemon

Thursday - Honey Apple Pork Tenderloin, Fresh Corn, and Wilted Spinach

Friday - Chicken Broccoli Braid (a one-dish favorite!)

Saturday - probably out for steaks. Yum, yum!

Sunday - I will probably try something new. Not sure what yet, but this choice gives me the excuse to spend the week poring over recipes I've been wanting to try - and drooling!

Love, Dahrlin'

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Weeknight Favorites: Chicken Broccoli Braid

This is another recipe I mentioned recently that my friend Michelle requested. It's truly a favorite of mine and it's one of the first recipes from outside my family that I learned to make. A neighbor invited me to her Pampered Chef party about 10 years ago, beginning a lifelong love affair between me and both this recipe and the company's products.

The actual recipe is very simple, and I call it a weeknight favorite because it works well as a freezer meal (just freeze the filling, not the rolls). So I can thaw a portion of the filling in the fridge overnight and have dinner ready in about half an hour if I need to. I consider it a one-dish meal, because you're getting chicken, vegetables and rolls all in one. And it's soooooooo yummy that you won't want any other dishes to divide your attention as you enjoy every tasty bite! (I'll stop raving now, because I am even making myself hungry).

Anyway, I'll get to the actual recipe in a second, but wanted to mention one other thing. The trick to making these "braids" (which are quite impressive to company, I might add) is just learning how to twist the dough. It's super easy once you get the hang of it, but it can be hard to picture in your mind if you've never seen it done. So I'm going to point you to a copy of the recipe that is online, so you can see a photo of how it's done. I won't even try to describe the process to you in words, because I just tried and failed to come up with anything remotely understandable. ;-) So just read the directions and let me know if any questions. But it's a very pretty, and tasty, recipe that's beautiful for any occasion. Family meals, company, bridal or baby showers, etc. Even hubby loves this one (I think it's the crescent roll factor).

To size it for meals for two, I make the above recipe (using about twice as much broccoli and red pepper as called for) and divide it in thirds. Then to bake, I use a 4 oz can of crescent rolls. Fits perfectly, and makes two servings.

I keep meaning to improvise and try new variations on this theme, as I think there are a zillion different things you could bake in this crust. Some that I have envisioned (but not yet tried) include a pizza one (any of your favorite pizza toppings), an Italian one (chicken and artichoke with maybe mozzarella?), a Philly cheesesteak one, a Mexican one (taco-type ingredients and flavorings), etc. I will definitely let you know if I try any new ones, and please let me know if you do!

Because I've got you clicking over to see the photo anyway, I won't recopy the recipe here until I make it again and have a photo of my own for you. Meantime, enjoy!!

Chicken Broccoli Braid

See recipe and photos here.

Love, Dahrlin'

Saturday, July 26, 2008

I Won! I Really Won! (You may have too!)

I'm so excited to share that I recently received my first blogging award! Woohoo! Happy Dance, Happy Dance!! Even better, it's one I get to SHARE! I'm so honored that my best friend chose me as one of her top five blog recommendations! Now, I am waaayyyy late in posting this thank you and paying this forward, so I will try to make up for it by honoring several more blogs than are requested by the rules. What's better than making one person happy? Making lots of people happy, LOL!

Since Angie so graciously bestowed this honor on me, I want to give a shout out to her. She and I have been best friends for oh, something like 28 years now, and I can honestly say we're still learning new things about each other every day! It's such a blessing to have a friend that knows me so well (and has known me for so long)! She and I share a sense of humor (and, we are convinced, two halves of the same brain). So run over and check out Angie and her family! Her blog has just been beautifully redecorated and I guarantee you'll enjoy your visit!

This award comes with a few rules attached, so here are the details:

This is the Arte y Pico award, and it originated in Uruguay. Here are the rules that accompany this esteemed award.



1. Choose 5 blogs that you consider deserving of this award for their creativity, design, interesting material, and also contribute to the blogging community.

2. Each award has to have the name of the author and a link to his/her blog.

3. Each award winner has to show the award and put the name of and link to the blog that presented her/him with the award.

4. The award winner and the one who has given the prize has to show the link of Arte Y Pico blog so everyone will know the origin of this award.

5. Show these rules.

I have many old and new friends who blog, so it is nearly impossible to choose just a few to honor. If you're not on this list, please don't be offended. I have about 50 subscriptions in my blog reader and follow a ton of worthwhile and wonderful ladies (and gentlemen) who blog. But I'm going to try to keep this to about 7 or 8 bloggers on various themes that I want to share with you.

So without further ado, in no particular order, here are the blogs I chose to pay this forward:

(1) Domain Dephal - my friend Phyllis is a fellow dog lover, lawyer and knitter. I blame credit Phyllis for getting me back into a favorite hobby - knitting. By way of knitting, she is also the person who introduced me to blogging. She posts on various other themes, including travels to beautiful places, and is a thoughtful and most delightful person to know and correspond with. Check out Phyllis, Things 1 and 2, and Saint Ruthie!

(2) Robin at Raising Fishermen - my friend Robin is another dog lover, a sister in Christ, and an amazing artist. Robin's beautiful artwork hangs in several homes of my friends and family, and she has an equally beautiful and artful commitment to raising her boys to be 'fishers of men.' Robin's gentle thoughts and patient ways with her boys, puppies and (chickens?!) also translate to her beautiful garden posts. I only wish I could grow veggies like she does! She also inspires me in the kitchen, and reminds me to eat more seafood, LOL! Check out Robin and her fishing family!

(3) Steppin' Heavenward - Renee and her family are an amazing group of people whom I found through my friend Robin. I have spent many happy hours reading about this wonderful family and their commitment to adopt a number of children out of desperate situations. Their devotion to the Lord, as well as Renee and Jim's endless patience and gentleness with their 11 children, shows clearly on the kids' smiling faces. This is a wonderful group of people that I would love to meet someday. In the meantime, I learn something new about perspective every time I visit Renee's site. And those smiling kids never fail to bring a smile into my heart. Even without all those factors, Renee deserves this award simply for finding time to blog while raising (and homeschooling) 11 kids!

(4) Stretch Marks - My new friend and prayer partner Melissa is a really fun and feisty lady from my home state of Tennessee. On most occasions her blog posts are guaranteed to make me fall out of my chair laughing. Like this one. Or this one. However, this particular week, Melissa needs some love. I know it may be awhile before she has a smile in her heart again and can enjoy something fun and silly like this award, but I hope that at least in a tiny way, this will bring a little lightheartedness to her day. I am still praying for you, my sweet friend, and my heart is broken for you.

(5) Let Joy Resound! - Alicia is another (new to me) blogger I have started reading lately. Posting on subjects ranging from food to Christian themes to the intricacies of vaccine dangers, I am really enjoying reading Alicia's blog (and her husband is also blogging - his blog is where I learned of our 100 Pushup Challenge!) I look forward to reading more of Alicia's and Ryan's thoughts. Hope you'll check them out!

And I know I said I was going to honor more than five, but our weekend guests are returning home soon from their visit to the amusement park, and I've got to run for now. Happy Saturday everyone!

Love, Dahrlin'

Summertime Favorites: Mint Julep Pineapple

Happy Saturday!

I'm taking a break from our family vacation to bring you a new recipe! (Okay, so most of our guests went to Six Flags for the day, leaving me lots of time to blog!! Wheee!!!)

This is one I mentioned in a recent menu plan, and had a couple of requests for. It's one that I love during summer, and really anytime I want something that just reminds me of summer...such as on a gray and rainy afternoon in January. Its bright, cheerful colors and happy flavors make me think of Hawaii. And the Kentucky Derby. And just Southern cocktails in general. You get the idea. This is happy food!

I'm a born and raised Tennessee girl, so I'm a bit snobby with my bourbon and will only use Jack Daniel's, but you could use any bourbon you prefer. (If you want to keep it alcohol free, just omit the bourbon, no biggie). This is another one I plan to make again soon, so I will take a photo for you then. But in the meantime, here you go!

Mint Julep Pineapple
(adapted from May 2005 issue of Gourmet magazine)
(serves 4 as dessert)

2 Tbsp bourbon
1/4 cup finely chopped fresh mint
2 Tbsp whole fresh mint leaves (use small ones)
1 Tbsp sugar (I use brown sugar, but it calls for white)
1 medium pineapple (about 2 pounds) - extra sweet if you can find it

Combine bourbon, chopped mint and sugar and stir well. Allow to stand for about 20 minutes to blend flavors. While you're waiting, trim, core and slice pineapple into your preferred shape (I like thin, bite size wedges, but you could also do larger slices on a plate for a pretty presentation). Top pineapple with strained mint mixture (you just want the syrup) and toss gently with whole mint leaves. Serve and enjoy!

Love, Dahrlin'

Friday, July 25, 2008

Happy Friday!

Good morning!

I'm writing this the night before you are reading it, which is a feature I just love on Blogger. We've got a houseful of family coming to visit this weekend - three adults and four kids! I think that's a new record for us, or at least ties the current prevailing house guest record. I'm pretty sure having nine of us rambling around the house for the weekend will be a scene not heard of around these parts since Thanksgiving! Coming to visit are my brother in law, two nephews and a niece, sister in law and another niece, and father in law. It will be a nice family reunion for my father in law and hubby's side of the family, with all my FIL's kids and grand kids in one place for the first time in years.

Hubby and I have just spent the evening reconnoitering and cleaning to try and figure out where to put everyone. After a couple hours now of housecleaning and preparing, I'm now sitting down with my reward: Baileys over ice! Wait, maybe I didn't say that loud enough. Mmmmm... Baileys! (Yes, I do realize how silly that will sound if you're reading this at 9:34 a.m. Friday, but trust me, I really enjoyed my drink!)

I may obviously be "offline" for most of the weekend, but I will try to get a couple new recipes and hopefully some photos up to share. Michelle has requested a couple of specific recipes, and I think a couple others have as well. Never fear; I'm on the case! :-) If I'm not here blogging, you'll know it's because I'm being forced to leave the computer and actually go outside, into the sunshine. LOL! Have a great Friday, don't forget to do your pushups today (and report back here!), and I will check in Saturday if not sooner.

Love, Dahrlin'

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Ow, Ow, OW!!

First, THANK YOU all for the love and comments on the new site. I'm having so much fun reading all your feedback and I'm so glad you like the new design!

Meanwhile, I just have to say, I'm so glad to read that I'm not the only one who's incredibly sore from all those pushups yesterday. From what I'm reading in the comments I'm not alone here, LOL! I'd forgotten how many muscles are used when you actually do a pushup with correct form. And I am doing them on an incline (the kind that makes them possible easier, not harder :-) and I'm still dying here. Ouch!

Lunch is over so I've got to run for now, but I'll be back tonight or tomorrow morning with a new recipe or two to reward encourage us!

Love, Dahrlin'

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

WAHOO! Welcome to My New Blog Space!

I'm so excited I'm doing a little dance!! The amazing Shannon over at EightCrazy Design has outdone herself! I love the new design and I hope you all love it as well! Let me know whatcha think. I'd love to hear any constructive criticism!

If there's something you'd like to see more (or less) of on my blog, please let me know. And Shannon made me a blog button, so if you'd like, feel free to grab it for your site! I'll definitely appreciate (and reciprocate) any bloggy love!

Please grab yourself a drink, make yourselves at home and enjoy exploring!

Love, Dahrlin'

Please Pardon our Progress!

Just wanted to let you all know that the new blog design is almost complete! Shannon is working on the finishing touches, so please be patient if you encounter any glitches or oddities over the next couple of days, while she puts everything in place. Can't wait to hear your thoughts on what you think of the new design!

Love, Dahrlin'

100 Pushup Challenge - Week 1

Here we go! Check in on the comments when you're done with your first set! I'll do the same, assuming my arms haven't fallen off can still reach the keyboard still move... ;-)

So glad you ladies are doing this with me, because I'm going to need the encouragement!

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Today's That Day!

Okay. I've put this off long enough! Today's the day we officially begin our pushup challenge. (Notice how I didn't mention the ultimate number goal here? No need to start us off in a bad mood!) "We" being Angie, Michelle and me, so far. And I think my friend Janyne is also joining us, but I'll wait for her to chime in and confirm that. If you'd like to join us, it's not too late! Just comment to let us know you're participating - the more the merrier! :-)

Okay ladies! So today we do the intial test. This is just so we can figure out where in the program to start. So go here and get your baseline established! And don't be like me - there's no need to cry if you can barely do more than one aren't yet at level 7. I can't afford to cry over it. I am going to need that energy for the actual training phase, LOL!

So I'm not going to ask you to share your starting point, and you certainly don't have to unless you want to make me feel worse. I trust you! Just make a record for yourself. Your homework is to read up on the first week, which we're going to start tomorrow. Wheeeee!!!

Now, once you've done your initial test, if you're anything like me, you need help getting off the floor and then something like this to cheer you up. So go enjoy, and start gathering your mental stamina for Wednesday! See you back here!

Love, Dahrlin'

Monday, July 21, 2008

Menu Plan Monday!

Happy Monday!

I'm posting this over my lunch hour, so this will be a quick post. But here's the plan.

This week's menu will be a little different for us, because we have some family coming to visit this weekend. My brother in law is bringing his three kids to visit, and my sister in law may come down with her daughter. Then, it's possible that my father in law may also join us. The plans are somewhat fluid, though, so I'm not setting anything in stone for those days. Just want to have a plan in place so at least I know I'll have something to feed everyone!



Monday: Whitefish packets, baked sweet potatoes and I may try PW's Zucchini Cakes

Tuesday: Omelette with asparagus, shallots and cream cheese, sides will be garlic toast and blueberries

Wednesday: Pepper Steak over Rice

Thursday: Honey Apple Pork Tenderloin, corn, wilted spinach

Friday: Pizza!

Saturday: Our visitors are going to Six Flags for the day, so we're only on for dinner. I think we'll do BBQ, chips and Mint Julep Pineapple for dessert

Sunday: Pool Day - Burgers, hot dogs, baked beans, and watermelon (Lime Slush for the grownups :-)

And on a side note, I wanted to mention that we tried Stephanie's Parmesan Potatoes last night. They were YUMMY! And for the first time, I succeeded in convincing my microwave not to turn the potatoes into weapons. I almost never have good results with microwave potato cooking, because our microwave is so overpowered that it could cheerfully cook food blocks away in other houses. But I ran it at 70% power, and that seemed to work. They were delicious! Thanks for the recipe, Stephanie!

Saturday, July 19, 2008

A Day In The Kitchen

One of my very favorite ways to spend a Saturday is cooking. This will be no surprise to most of you! So yesterday, I finally got around to making (or at least starting to make) the meal kits I mentioned a week or so ago. I got about 11 meals done, and some of those will create leftovers for us, so all told I'm going to estimate that we now have 15 dinners in the freezer. Once I finish them up today, we should have about 24, which gives us dinners for almost a month. Woohoo! (And a good thing, too, since like Michelle, I scrimped and saved tried to be good but still managed to singlehandedly spend this country out of the recession overspend my budget by a tad... so hopefully we won't need many more groceries this next few weeks. But in any event, we'll be all set for dinners for most every evening.

My actual hands-on cooking time yesterday was about 4 hours. And truly, the meal kits are actually great budget savers. Most of my spendiness yesterday was stuff unrelated to the meals themselves. I've had some friends ask how long it takes to do the meal kits (because we all know you can't do 20 of them in 2.5 hours like the author claims, unless you have 8 hands or a whole LOT of help). I really do think the time investment is worth it - all told, it usually takes me about 8 hours of work to get 20-25 meals ready. From that point, any of the meals can be prepared (say on a weeknight after work) in 30 minutes or less, generally including cooking time. That kind of timeframe makes weeknight dinner doable for us, and I love that we're eating super yummy meals, whose ingredients I know, and that don't leave me washing dishes at 9:30.

Now, bear in mind - I am doing these alone, as hubby's not big on kitchen time. So if you have any kind of help at all, even if it's just helping you bag meals and label them, you'd be able to move a lot faster than I do. And the other thing is, I just don't rush. I don't enjoy cooking if I rush through it like I'm on a schedule, so I tend to take my time, take breaks, etc. And sometimes I clean up a little as I go, which can also add time. But mostly, the dishes all go into the dishwasher, and that part is definitely hubby's responsibility :-)

So, for yesterday's roundup, I completed these:

(1) Pepper Steak
(2) Caribbean Steak
(3) Chicken Broccoli Braid (x2)
(4) Honey Apple Pork Tenderloin (x2)
(5) Meat Loaf (x2)
(6) Pork Tenderloin with Plum Sauce
(7) Grilled Apricot BBQ Chicken
(8) Atkins Park Pork Tenderloin
(9) ** See update below

We had the third (remaining portion) Chicken Broccoli Braid recipe for dinner last night, and I was reminded why I love that dish. I first learned of it at a Pampered Chef party about ten years ago, and it is still one of my favorite recipes. To make a freezer kit out of it , I just mix up all the ingredients (except the rolls), and freeze. To use, thaw overnight and then bake as directed. Ummy Yummy!

Meanwhile, in the interest of "keepin' it real," as PW would say, here's the scene about halfway through yesterday's adventures:



Believe it or not, it's a lot easier to clean up than it looks like. It's truly ordered chaos, and it's actually kind of fun if you are crazy like me love to cook...I'm heading back into the kitchen this morning to finish up the chicken meals. Then I'm headed outside to the pool for some serious R&R!

Everyone have a blessed Sunday!

Love, Dahrlin'

** Update: I've now finished the remaining recipes I wanted to freeze, except one that I'll put together tonight as I'm making dinner. The additional recipes are:

(1) Lemon Chicken Scallopine
(2) Stuffed Chicken Breasts
(3) Garlic Lime Chicken
(4) Chicken and Artichoke Calzones

So now, with yesterday's meals, since some of these recipes make multiple batches, we have a total of 25 dinners in the freezer. That's a whole month of no major cooking. More, if we eat out occasionally, etc. Another thing I love about these meals is they free me up to focus on other recipes we've been wanting to try, but haven't because I've been overwhelmed with cooking every night. Things like trying out new drink, or side dish, or salad recipes. Or (let's be honest here) dessert. Wahoo!

Enjoy the rest of your weekend, and please pray that my power does not go out! ;-)

Love, Dahrlin'

Williams Sonoma Giftcard Giveaway!

Okay, so unfortunately it's not MY giveaway, LOL! Wish I could do that for you guys! But seriously, if I had a WS gift card, I am ashamed to say it is not likely that I would be able to part with it, nor would it stand a chance of making it out the door to the post office! And I promise I'm not usually selfish like that... but man, I love me some WS.

So here's the deal: Run on over to SITS Recipes and enter to win!

The contest rules require that I mention my favorite recipe from those that have been featured so far on the Saucy Eats site. It's nearly impossible to pick just one, so because I could not possibly choose among the beautiful and wonderful food (I love all food, LOL!) I'm going to go with a drink. My favorite recipe so far, thusly, is Lime Slush. I haven't tried it yet, but because I adore anything lime, I am sure I will love it. And hmmm. I have a lot of cooking to do today, so I may just have to make some to keep me company!

Happy Saturday gang. If I can remember I will take some pics of the meal kit preparation to share.

Love, Dahrlin'

Friday, July 18, 2008

Foodie Friday: Ummm... Yummy!

Happy Friday!

So tonight, I came home from work a little tired, and decided to do something fun that I haven't done in a while. I pulled out one of my favorite cooking magazines and started looking through the current issue. I was trolling for dinner ideas that wouldn't require a lot of work, since I'm hoping to do a lot of cooking this weekend. And what to my wondering eyes did appear, but a fabulous article on fresh salmon - and a dinner inspiration that turned out exceptionally well!

(Okay, that didn't quite rhyme... moving on!)

We already have a favorite recipe that makes easy weeknight use of whitefish and veggies or beans. But I don't have a similar preparation for salmon, which is what I wanted to make. I found a delicious-looking recipe in the magazine, but I didn't have asparagus on hand (or several other herbs called for) and I am not big on mussels. But still, the recipe was generally similar in theory to the one we like for whitefish, and I figured we could make it come together with what we had on hand. So, working off ideas from this beautiful dish in the magazine,



and incorporating a few elements of our favorite standby above, I put together this:



Hubby pronounced it a winner (despite the conspicuous lack of both beef and potatoes!), and I agree. It's a lovely flavor combination, and super easy to put together. Plus, it's just pretty! And if you're using wild-caught salmon, which I prefer, this cooking method helps keep the fish moist and yummy.

I'm big on seasonal eating, and try to choose ingredients and put together meals based on what's in season. I think if you wanted to make this with fresh spring peas, you could really make the peas the star of the dish. Or if you have some fantastic fresh salmon in late summer, it'd be even better. Probably the best combo would be fresh-frozen baby spring peas, and fresh summer salmon. But what I also love about this recipe is it's a total pantry meal for us. I made it tonight with frozen salmon filets, frozen organic peas, and fresh parsley (I keep it in the fridge in an herb keeper from Pampered Chef - keeps for weeks!). Everything else comes straight out of the pantry as well, and there you go. Much better - and better for us - than takeout! And in no more time than that would take.

Since the entree is nice and light, if you've been reading this blog for very long, you know I couldn't stop there! I should have, but couldn't... so just for fun, since I tripped over them in the freezer, and they just looked lonesome, I also made some poached pears to go over vanilla ice cream.



I adore poached pears (think bananas foster, only with pears and muscat wine) and I love the combination of warm fruit over cold ice cream (like in cobbler). So since all we had with the salmon was peas, making it a very nearly carb-free dish,** I figured we could afford the calories. And they were sooooo worth it! I'll share that recipe soon as well. Again, the pears are not exactly seasonal, but hey - super super yummy!

Hope you enjoy!

Salmon with Peas in Butter Broth

Skinless salmon filets (proportions given are for two)
1 cup or so frozen peas
1/4 cup diced onion or shallots
2 Tbsp minced parsley
1 cup white wine
1/4 cup chicken broth
Extra virgin olive oil
2 Tbsp butter, cut into four pieces
Salt and pepper

Rinse salmon and pat dry. Rub both sides with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Lay in single layer of shallow baking dish. Sprinkle evenly with diced onion and parsley, and top with 'flattened' pats of butter. Sprinkle peas (no need to thaw) over top, then pour wine and broth over the top. Cover tightly and bake at 350 for 20 minutes. Turn oven off for last 5 minutes. Remove from heat and allow to sit 5-10 minutes covered. Drizzle filets and peas with sauce and ladle into shallow bowls.

** This recipe is dedicated to my diabetic friend Crowzma, who gently reminded me I've only posted desserts lately :-)

Love, Dahrlin'

Thursday, July 17, 2008

This Week's Just Gone By So Fast...

...That I completely, utterly, totally forgot to start the Pushup Challenge on Tuesday. Think it had anything to do with my subconscious, trying valiantly to protect my upper body from what it will certainly view as senseless torture? Hmmm...

Okay. So only because it's been such a busy week, and only because I know Angie (who, God bless her, as only a best friend could, has promised to do this thing with me) has also had a crazy week, I'm giving us a pass until next Tuesday. Stay tuned!!!

(And Happy Thursday!)

Love, Dahrlin'

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Catchup

Have you ever heard that saying that goes, "I try to take one day at a time, but lately, several days have attacked me at once?"

That's how I feel on this fine Wednesday evening. Ever since I was ecstatically, thrillingly, super-fabulously honored to be featured on Saucy Eats on Monday, I've wanted to sit down and do nothing but blog, blog, blog. And read all your wonderful blogs, and leave you comment love, and just enjoy the wonderful thoughts everyone left. That's what I've wanted to do!

In reality, I've instead been completely absent from blogland for days now, and I'm going into withdrawal. That can't be good for anybody! But a conspiracy of factors, including returning-to-work-after-vacation, trying-to-restore-order-to-house-after-week-of-staycation, trying-to-care-for-sick-hubby-who's-been-home-sick-all-week-after-vacation, and just trying to keep myself healthy have all come together to keep me from enjoying guilt-free blog time. [Pause for hysterical laughter from self, as blog time is almost never guilt free, but is sooooooo much more fun than Being Responsible. And besides, I have mastered the art of procrastination!]

So in the spirit of masterful procrastination, I have had enough of being away from blogger and I am rebelling. Thusly, here I sit, blogging happily while egg salad and toast a magnificent four course dinner simmers gently on the stove. (I heard that. Don't hurt yourselves laughing, now!)

In the meantime, I remembered another favorite recipe I have been meaning to post. It is one of my very favorite desserts, and includes two of my very favorite foods in the world: chocolate and peanut butter. Okay, three favorites - it's got ice cream, too. I mean, seriously. Does it get any better than that flavor combination? It is VERY easy, so don't even think you can't do it. I PROMISE, you can! It's sooooo good, and there's no baking involved. I don't have pics handy yet, but I can tell you we'll definitely be making this one again sometime this summer, so I'll come back and edit the post with photos then.

In the meantime, I present the most crowd-pleasing, kid-pleasing, bliss-inducing dessert you could possibly make in the heat of summer. So here ya go. Enjoy!!

Chocolate Peanut Butter Pie
(adapted from Lori Hunter, Quick Cooking, July 2005)

Handful of honey roasted peanuts, chopped
Graham Cracker Pie Crust (shhhhhh! I use store bought)
3 pints good quality chocolate ice cream, softened a bit
1 cup creamy peanut butter
1 cup coarsely chopped miniature peanut butter cups, divided (easier to chop if you freeze 'em first)
Caramel and Hot Fudge Toppings (optional)

Now, I can already hear some of you from here. If you want to make your own graham cracker crust (or even a chocolate cookie crust - ooohhh, that would be yummy!) you certainly can. But because this is basically a no-fuss recipe, I give myself a break and go with my good friends at Keebler. Plus I am pretty sure I had some pie crusts I wanted to use up the first few times I made this, which could have played into that decision, LOL!

In a stand mixer or large bowl, gently combine the ice cream and peanut butter just until blended smoothly. You don't want to beat all the air out of the ice cream. And you also want to work quickly, because once you taste this heavenly mixture (who KNEW???) if you're like me, you'll be very tempted to just curl up on the couch with the bowl and a spoon, and forget the pie (and everything else that's going on in your life). The peanut butter does something amazing to the ice cream's texture. I can't describe it adequately, but... just trust me on this one. If you like creamy desserts, this one's for you. But you must fight the power, and proceed directly to making the pie!

Spoon half the ice cream mixture into the pie shell and freeze until mostly firm - around an hour. (Don't forget to put the remaining ice cream back in the freezer too, but you'll want to soften it a bit again before you fill the rest of the pie). When the pie's almost frozen, sprinkle with most of the chopped peanut butter cups (you can throw in some chopped peanuts here too, if you like) and then top with the remaining ice cream mixture. It'll be pretty full, but don't worry! Just round it off so it looks pretty. It'll look rock-star awesome when you serve it. Sprinkle top with the remaining peanut butter cups (and peanuts if you want) and cover. Freeze until firm. To serve, slice and enjoy - or top with anything you want - caramel, hot fudge, more nuts, etc. Be prepared to literally lick the plate - this one's that yummy!

Love, Dahrlin'

Monday, July 14, 2008

I'm SO Excited!

Oh my goodness, I was stunned to check my email this morning and see comments from fellow SITStas, saying my blog had been featured on the new SITS Saucy Eats site! WOOHOO! I'm so excited that I've been going a teeny bit crazy all morning, LOL!

Please make yourselves at home! Grab a glass/mug/cup of your favorite beverage (or even better, a dish of your favorite dessert), take a few moments out of your day and please enjoy! I've got a number of my favorite recipes and cooking tips on my blog these days, and I continue to post them regularly, so if you enjoy I do hope you'll subscribe or return! If you do, please let me know if there is anything in particular you'd like to see more or less of, or learn more about foodwise. If I have any wisdom to share, I will gladly do so!

And thanks so much for all your wonderful comments so far. I will definitely visit each of you very soon to return the love! Thanks again for visiting and sharing your thoughts!

Love, Dahrlin'

Menu Plan Monday!

Back to the real world! No more easy-breezy vacation where hubby grills lunch AND dinner for us, LOL! (We ate way too many grilled hot dogs for lunch last week...) This week's menu plan will feature some freezer and pantry meals, because for some reason I just could NOT discipline myself to go to the grocery store this weekend. And it was easy to talk myself out of it, because hubby's grumbling about our grocery budget. So, we're going to wing it for at least a couple days and, hopefully, till next weekend. Let's see how far we can actually get. Here are my ideas, and I'm hoping most of them will pan out. (HA! No pun intended!)



Monday: Salmon patties, fresh corn with lime butter, wilted spinach salad

Tuesday: Grilled pork chops, baked sweet potatoes, buttered peas

Wednesday: Burgers, sauteed bell peppers and carrots, salad

Thursday: Chicken and Sundried Tomato Ravioli (probably with vodka cream sauce), wilted spinach salad

Friday: Grilled chicken, loaded baked potatoes, steamed kale

Saturday: Probably eating out, but if not, it'll be every person for him or herself!

Sunday: I'll have to, this-time-I-really-mean-it, go to the store before Sunday. So hopefully I'll have some new options by then. LOL!

Enjoy your week!

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Happy Sunday! Vacation Wrapup

Good morning!

We're enjoying our last few hours of vacation week, and I've been trying to decide on what to blog about this morning. I'm not a morning person, and I'm indecisive in this area a lot, so this morning's post will be a mixed basket of items. Hope you enjoy!

First off, my BFF honored me recently with my very first blogging award. I was super happy to receive it, but haven't posted yet because I am having trouble choosing from the many blogs I love (I have to honor five people to pay it forward). See indecisive, above, LOL! I just hate to pick only five. But I've put this off long enough, so look for that post later today!

Next, hubby and I have really enjoyed our week off. I don't have any new pics to share, largely because we haven't really accomplished anything much... lots of R&R and lots of fun just reading, swimming and sunning. I really needed a break, and this has been nice. I promised myself I wouldn't work on a zillion projects, and can honestly say I stuck to that. I now wish I'd accomplished something, anything, but I'm trying not to let it bother me :-) That's what vacation is for, right? Oh wait!! I DID accomplish two workouts this week, which is definitely more than I've done lately in any other week. So that's good.

I haven't even done much cooking this week, and I am going to sheepishly admit that after all my grand planning, I didn't even get the meal kits done this weekend. Actually, it may have been my lack of grand planning that led to that circumstance, in that I never really actually sat down and made the grocery list :-) We finally got some sunny days Friday and Saturday, and I wanted to enjoy some time by the pool, so I just let it go. Next weekend, for sure, I will get those done. But we're back to rain this morning, so I'm hoping for a productive morning/early afternoon in my office.

We have grilled out a lot, which has been a nice change of pace for me. And we've had a nice variety of foods. I even tried the Lime Butter recipe (served over fresh corn) recommended by Alicia, and that was super yummy. I went ahead and put the ingredients in a blender to really emulsify it, then refrigerated the leftovers, which remain at the perfect consistency to pour over veggies. I put some on my green beans last night and liked it that way as well. But then, I adore the flavor of lime, and there aren't many veggies that I don't love with butter, LOL!

So let's see, what else? We've watched a few movies - Spider Man 3, Charlie Wilson's War, and something else that's escaping me right now. Both of these movies were good. I learned a few more details about the players in the Soviet war in Afghanistan, which was going on when I was growing up. I remarked to my husband that I seem to know a lot more about what was "history" when I was growing up than what was (then) current events. Oh, I definitely remember the Wall coming down and those types of events, but for whatever reason I don't recall the Afghan situation being taught in depth in our schools. Maybe they did and I just didn't pick up on it, but at any rate, I learned a fair bit from the Charlie Wilson movie (which is largely historically accurate). Very interesting.

I've also enjoyed reading a couple books by the pool this week. For summer, pool or beach reading, I tend to go light and fun. (Oh, who am I kidding? I read all day at work, so when I go for entertainment reading, it's almost ALWAYS light and fun :-) This week's choices are part of a political/covert ops thriller series I've been reading by Brad Thor (his Scot Harvath novels). He's pretty good. The books are quick and easy reads, but are fun and interesting enough to keep your attention. And he pulls in a lot of exotic locations, which makes it fun (a little flavor of James Bond). I'm now on the fourth one, which is called Blowback. So far, it's pretty good.

Finally, for my Soulful Sunday thought for the day, I wanted to share these thoughts on Christian prayer for others from one of my favorite pastors. He has (as usual) said things a lot more eloquently than I could, so I will just refer you to the link. But I hope you enjoy. I especially love the story told of St. Augustine, and his mother's prayers for him (see the section, "The Son of So Many Tears"). May we all be moved to pray with that intensity and dedication.

Hope everyone had a great weekend. As always, thanks for reading and following along with my ramblings!

Love, Dahrlin'

Saturday, July 12, 2008

EW's New Movie Classics

My best friend brought this fun post to my attention this morning, and after a week of watching movies over vacation, it fits right in with my thoughts. I'm going to say right up front that I have no clue what a meme is, but I hope someone will enlighten me. And y'all play along!

Here goes!

Here's how to play:
Copy and paste this list.If you’ve seen the movie, put the title in bold type.Put an asterisk next to the movies you’ve seen and liked.

The following list comes from the current double issue of Entertainment Weekly in which they list the 100 best movies of the last 25 years (aka The New Classics).

1. Pulp Fiction 1994
2. The Lord of the Rings trilogy 2001-03 *
3. Titanic 1997 *
4. Blue Velvet 1986
5. Toy Story 1995 *
6. Saving Private Ryan 1998 *
7. Hannah and Her Sisters 1986
8. The Silence of the Lambs 1991*
9. Die Hard 1988 *
10. Moulin Rouge 2001
11. This Is Spinal Tap 1984
12. The Matrix 1999 *
13. GoodFellas 1990
14. Crumb 1995
15. Edward Scissorhands 1990
16. Boogie Nights 1997
17. Jerry Maguire 1996 *
18. Do the Right Thing 1989
19. Casino Royale 2006 *
20. The Lion King 1994*
21. Schindler’s List 1993 *
22. Rushmore 1998
23. Memento 2001
24. A Room With a View 1986
25. Shrek 2001*
26. Hoop Dreams 1994
27. Aliens 1986*
28. Wings of Desire 1988
29. The Bourne Supremacy 2004*
30. When Harry Met Sally… 1989*
31. Brokeback Mountain 2005
32. Fight Club 1999
33. The Breakfast Club 1985*
34. Fargo 1996
35. The Incredibles 2004 *
36. Spider-Man 2 2004 *
37. Pretty Woman 1990 *
38. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind 2004
39. The Sixth Sense 1999 *
40. Speed 1994*
41. Dazed and Confused 1993
42. Clueless 1995
43. Gladiator 2000*
44. The Player 1992
45. Rain Man 1988 *
46. Children of Men 2006
47. Men in Black 1997 *
48. Scarface 1983*
49. Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon 2000
50. The Piano 1993
51. There Will Be Blood 2007
52. The Naked Gun: From the Files of Police Squad 1988
53. The Truman Show 1998
54. Fatal Attraction 1987
55. Risky Business 1983 *
56. The Lives of Others 2006
57. There’s Something About Mary 1998
58. Ghostbusters 198459. L.A. Confidential 1997
60. Scream 1996
61. Beverly Hills Cop 1984*
62. sex, lies and videotape 1989
63. Big 1988*
64. No Country For Old Men 2007
65. Dirty Dancing 1987 *
66. Natural Born Killers 1994
67. Donnie Brasco 1997
68. Witness 1985*
69. All About My Mother 1999
70. Broadcast News 1987
71. Unforgiven 1992
72. Thelma & Louise 1991*
73. Office Space 1999*
74. Drugstore Cowboy 1989
75. Out of Africa 1985
76. The Departed 2006
77. Sid and Nancy 1986
78. Terminator 2: Judgment Day 1991 *
79. Waiting for Guffman 1996
80. Michael Clayton 2007 *
81. Moonstruck 1987
82. Lost in Translation 2003
83. Evil Dead 2: Dead by Dawn 1987
84. Sideways 2004*
85. The 40 Year-Old Virgin 2005*
86. Y Tu Mamá También 2002
87. Swingers 1996
88. Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery 1997*
89. Breaking the Waves 1996
90. Napoleon Dynamite 2004
91. Back to the Future 1985*
92. Menace II Society 1993
93. Ed Wood 1994
94. Full Metal Jacket 1987
95. In the Mood for Love 2001
96. Far From Heaven 2002
97. Glory 1989
98. The Talented Mr. Ripley 1999*
99. The Blair Witch Project 1999
100. South Park: Bigger Longer & Uncut 1999

EW also listed the top 7 movies that readers said were missing from the list. They are:

Shawshank Redemption* - I can't say it better than Angie. It's a travesty that this was left off the list.

Forrest Gump* - Okay, I liked this one, but it depresses me so I don't like to watch it over and over, which leaves it off my list of classics. But I see why it is considered great.

American Beauty - I saw this, but I must be the only person in America who thinks it's disturbingly screwed up. I don't put "disturbing" in my definition of entertainment. But here again, I do see why people like it.

The Ususal Suspects* - This is a classic. If you haven't seen it, RUN.

Jurassic Park* - This is just one of the coolest things I've ever seen. The special effects were incredible. They did a tremendous job bringing the dinosaurs "back to life."

The Princess Bride* - I don't know who was in charge of compiling the EW list, but whomever it was should be fired. STAT. Such a great movie.

Braveheart* - They've saved one of my all time favorites for last. I love the country of Scotland (going way back, my ancestry tracks there) and this is such a great (and true) story. I bawl every time, but I adore this movie.

And now, I want to add a couple of my own. Just because I'm feeling saucy today!

(1) The Rock (1996). Who doesn't love Sean Connery? And a great story about Alcatraz? (Oh, okaaaaay. And Nick Cage)
(2) Ferris Beuller's Day Off (1986). Ummmmm... How did they miss this one? Anyone with me on this?
(2) Top Gun (1986). Ahhh...ditto...huh?

Okay. That's it for me, because I could go on adding favorite movies to this list (yes, those I consider "classics") for a looooong time. But I know my wonderful readers don't have all day to listen to my ramblings. So, Happy Saturday!

Love, Dahrlin'

Lord, Help Me!!

That isn't just a post title. It's an actual prayer. Because another blogger has inspired me to take this challenge. And believe me, I'm going to need ALL the help I can get!!! In fact, for me to do even five of these is going to require a direct act from the Lord above. So don't wish me luck; just send prayers!!! LOL!

This inspiration is born in part out of my determination of late to actually get back in shape. Hubby and I are planning to start trying for kids in just a few months (yep, for all my family reading this, you heard it here first! Mom, you can start getting excited now :-) And I would like to be in much better shape before that happens, since grad school and the ensuing 7 years of desk work have pretty much left me with that dreaded "10 and 10"**.

Want to take the challenge with me? Let me know and we can commiserate together!

Love, Dahrlin'

*(10 and 10 means ten years older, 10 pounds heavier ;-)

Friday, July 11, 2008

Foodie Friday! A New Round of Freezer Meals

It's Friday, and you know what that means on this blog!

For this week's "official" foodie post (notwithstanding the five or ten recipes I've already posted this week), I've got the current freezer meal plan. We've pretty much demolished the freezer inventory, so since we're back to the real world next week, I want to get another batch of ready-to-cook meals in there. These freezer meals have proven so helpful in many areas, including cost savings, cutting down on wasted food, making menu planning easier, and time savings. I love being able to cook fresh food for dinner, without having to start from scratch on a work night. And in the process, we've discovered some truly yummy new favorite recipes, as well as some things I had no idea you could freeze for later cooking.

For those who've recently come across my blog, the freezer meal plans I use are largely based around this product. I adore this woman for her use of healthy, real foods with a major focus on fresh produce at each meal. She uses very few prepackaged/processed/convenience foods (another thing I'm trying to avoid these days), and the few that she does incorporate (such as prepared BBQ sauce) I've been able to find at Whole Foods or a similar version with no yucky, unpronounceable ingredients.

I have also been incorporating a lot of our own favorite recipes that adapt well to this method, and that's working great. On this round of meals, we're doing all "favorites." Around here, that pretty much means that I love it and it's husband approved, LOL! I've figured out that because I work alone on these meals, I only undertake about 12 at a time. That basically takes me one weekend to do. I usually work all day Sat. and then about half a day Sunday. Since I'm doing all the dishes, too (grrr!!) that's about all I'm game for.

So anyway, without further ado, here's the plan. I hope to get all these in the freezer by Sunday night!

(1) Pepper Steak (great "do-it-yourself takeout")
(2) Caribbean Steak
(3) Apricot BBQ Chicken Thighs
(4) Honey Apple Pork Tenderloin
(5) Parmesan Crusted Chicken
(6) Lemon Chicken Scallopine
(7) Stuffed Chicken Breasts
(8) Hamburger Mac and Cheese Toss
(9) My Favorite Meat Loaf
(10) Atkins Park Pork Tenderloin
(11) Chicken Broccoli Braid (a Pampered Chef fave)
(12) Plum Pork Tenderloin

I'll try to take some fun pics of the prep process this weekend. For now, happy dreams of yummy food!

Love, Dahrlin'

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Happy Birthday, Doug!

Today is July 10th, and it's Doug's birthday! I know most of you don't know my friend Doug, but he and I make a point to remember each other's birthdays. And I am NOT going to be the one to drop the ball. So I'm publishing a happy birthday wish for him here. There's a really humiliating story behind the fact that I never forget his birthday, and he's sweet enough to always remember mine. And I promise to share my humiliation with you soon. But for now, happy birthday, man. Hope you have a great day! And thanks for going on ahead of the rest of us (by a few months, anyway) to check things out!

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Caribbean Turkey

Happy Wednesday! Boy, why do work weeks never fly by at the same speed as vacation weeks? How can it be Wednesday already? Scary thought!

While I've got food on the brain this week and I'm planning my next round of freezer menus, I remember several people requested that I share the Caribbean Turkey recipe I mentioned a couple of weeks ago. Ask, and you shall receive!

This recipe is from Leanne Ely, also known as the Dinner Diva. If you've never checked out her freezer meal kits, do yourself a favor - run, don't walk! She's introduced us to a number of new recipes that we love. And bonus - they're freezable!

I haven't tried this one yet, but will soon. It's already prepped and in the freezer, so we'll probably try it next week. I'll update with a photo then, but for now, here you go!

Caribbean Turkey
(Can be prepared immediately or as a freezer kit, then baked when you're ready)

8 turkey breast cutlets
4 Tbsp honey
1/4 cup lime juice
1/4 cup olive or vegetable oil
2 Tbsp mustard
2 (or more) cloves garlic, pressed
1 tsp (or to taste) grated lime zest
Salt and pepper to taste

Combine all ingredients except turkey in a small bowl. Place turkey in a large freezer bag and pour marinade into bag. Seal bag and turn to coat meat evenly. Remove excess air from bag, press turkey into a flat, single layer and place first bag into a second freezer bag. Freeze until ready to use. Thaw overnight. Reserve marinade and bake turkey at 375 (basting occasionally) until done. Garnish with lime slices, if desired.

If you try this one, let me know how you liked it, and whether you have any suggestions. We're looking forward to trying it!

*** Update: We did finally make this, and it was delicious. And easy! It literally is one that you pour out of the bag, into the pan, and bake. Very yummy for something so easy! I used a regular 9x13 glass pan, and had four cutlets. They fit perfectly and I baked them in the marinade, almost like I was poaching them (but bake uncovered). This worked well and kept the turkey very moist. I would say they baked at 375 for about 30-40 minutes. Just keep an eye on them and about the time the tops start browning, they're done. Yum! (ooh, and bonus - leftovers for dinner later in the week!)

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

My Favorite Summer Movies, Part 1

Okay, I'm going to give you guys a break from my constant food-related posts of late. I'm sitting here at 11:20 pm (when I should be sleeping) watching one of my favorite movies of all time. My new friend Michelle just posted a neat piece about baseball and how it, in many ways, defines summer. That got me thinking about what reminds me of summer.

Anyone else love the movie The Great Outdoors? I just love, love, love this movie. It's good clean fun and reminds me of when I was a kid. Reminds me of summer camp, lake cabins, boating, and all kinds of fun things I associate with my childhood and teen years :-) Oh, and adorable Chris Young. My friends and I were all in love with him very appreciative of his acting skills! With a great cast, and a very decent plot, this movie never fails to put a smile on my face. John Candy, Dan Akroyd, Annette Bening and Chris Young. I won't ruin the story for you if you haven't seen it, but it just shrieks summer to me. I have been known to put this movie on in the middle of January, to give me a lift out of the winter doldrums.

If you haven't seen it, I highly recommend it. If you're in the mood to make snacks while you watch, make some s'mores and coke (or root beer) floats. They'll go well with the theme!

What about y'all? What movies do you love in the summertime?

Asian Slaw



Okay, I know it isn't Foodie Friday yet. But while we're on vacation, I'm going to freeze another set of dinner kits, so I've got food positively on the brain. And thought I might share another recipe with you - this is another of my summertime favorites. I first had it at a restaurant that has since (very sadly) closed. But the slaw was so yummy - and I don't even like coleslaw! - that I went digging on the web for a similar recipe. This one is darned close to the original in flavor, and I think you'll like it as much as we do. Great for picnics (no mayo) and for any warm-weather meal. The recipe is basically proportional, so just adjust as needed for your crowd.

Asian Slaw
(Feeds a bunch!)

1 bag coleslaw mix (about a pound or so)
1/2 to 1 square package plain ramen noodles, uncooked
1 cup sliced almonds, toasted
1 cup sunflower kernels (I use the dry roasted ones)
1 bunch green onions, chopped

Crumble the noodles with your fingers and then combine all ingredients in a large bowl. For the dressing, make this to taste. I'm going to tell you how I make it, but adjust to your liking. I like it a little more tart.

1/4 cup brown sugar
3/4 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup white vinegar (or cider vinegar)

Blend dressing, adjust to taste and toss desired amount with slaw. I never use all (or even most) of the dressing, so don't throw it all in at once. Add a little, stir and then continue to adjust desired quantity.

If we won't be eating all the slaw at once, I dress each serving. That way the ingredients stay crispy and you can enjoy the whole batch over a few days.

Hope you enjoy!

Monday, July 7, 2008

Weekend Wrapup

Wow, it feels like I've been away from blog land forEVER. I've missed you all!

Hope everyone had a great fourth! We had a wonderful weekend visiting with several of our best friends, and stuffing ourselves full of yummy food. While I'm on the subject of food, we did in fact make the 4th of July cake recommended by P-Dub. And I can, in turn, highly recommend it. I made half the recipe, which fit perfectly in my smaller pan. And she's right about the cream cheese frosting. It's a confection all its own!



We also had so much fun visiting with one of our favorite little ones. He's the son of two of our best friends, and we love getting to see them. He's at such a cute age right now, too. He had a blast playing in the pool and running us all ragged!



In other news, today officially begins Our Week Off. We're staying at home to enjoy the pool, but we're officially ON VACATION! WOOHOO! I'm sure we'll spend most of the week trying to talk ourselves out of doing chores around the house while on vacation, but I'm just SO happy to have some time off.

I hope to get lots of blogging in this week, so stay tuned! And I hope to get caught up on all of your blogs. My reader overfloweth, LOL!

Meanwhile, here's a yummy recipe that we made this weekend. I wanted to make potato salad, but wanted something more crowd-friendly than my own two preferred versions. I'm not a big mayo fan, so I usually make either sour cream and dill potato salad, or a Rachael Ray version that I love with capers and a vinaigrette dressing. I wasn't sure either of those would necessarily appeal to everyone in our party, so I made something I thought everyone would like. And they did! Hope you enjoy!

Baked Potato Salad
(Feeds at least 6 as a side)

3 very large baking potatoes
("Very Large" was all my market had!)
1 pound bacon
1 bunch green onions, chopped
2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
1.5 cups sour cream (to desired texture)
Salt and Pepper to taste
Butter (optional)

Cube potatoes (I leave the skins on) and boil gently until tender. Drain and allow to cool a bit. Meanwhile, brown bacon and crumble (I chop it into pieces first before browning, so it's more uniformly crispy, but you could do it either way). When potatoes are cool, stir in remaining ingredients. Serve chilled. Loaded baked potato taste, without the hassle!

Happy Monday!

Friday, July 4, 2008

God Bless America!



Happy Independence Day, everyone!

I am so thankful to live in this country that, even with its flaws, is the greatest in the world. Some of the things I've read in the news this week have reinforced that feeling, and reminded me how thankful I am just to live where I do. To be born here and have the rights and privileges of American citizenship, and to grow up with the values our country embraces.

I also want to say a huge thank you, to all the military men, women and families who make so many sacrifices so that people like me can live free. Thank you, and may God bless and protect you, as you protect us.

Hope each of you and your families have a wonderful holiday weekend. Stay safe - and make some chocolate ice cream, while you're at it! LOL!

Love, Dahrlin'

(Photo courtesy freefoto.com)

Foodie Friday! Chocolate Truffle Ice Cream

When the heat is on, sometimes all a girl wants is something cool, creamy and chocolaty. And for today’s recipe, I’m going to share my very favorite homemade ice cream. If you’re craving chocolate, this will take care of your craving in a hurry!

The recipe is based on the ingredients for chocolate ganache. You know, that fancy sounding French wonderfulness that usually fills truffles. Use the best quality chocolate you can find – you’ll be glad you did!

So take a quick whirl through this recipe, then go stir up some of your own. I promise, you won’t be disappointed!

Chocolate Truffle Ice Cream
(Makes about 1 quart)

½ cup sugar
2 large egg yolks
1 cup milk (2% or whole milk)
¼ cup cocoa powder
1.5 cups heavy cream
6 oz. bittersweet chocolate, chopped
1 tsp. vanilla extract

Whisk sugar and egg yolks together until pale yellow. In a heavy-bottom medium saucepan, scald the milk (bring to a simmer, but don’t boil). Whisk in the cocoa and simmer about 3 minutes, stirring constantly. Slowly add the milk and cocoa mixture into the egg mixture, stirring constantly, then add the entire mixture back into the saucepan. Stir constantly over low heat until thickened slightly (don’t boil, or the eggs will scramble). Remove from heat.

Meanwhile, scald the cream in a separate pan. Remove from heat and stir in the chopped chocolate until smooth. Add the milk mixture and the vanilla, and stir to combine. Cover and refrigerate until cold (or overnight).

When ready to freeze, stir and then pour into ice cream freezer. Freeze according to manufacturer’s directions. Enjoy!!

(Adapted from The Ultimate Ice Cream Book by Bruce Weinstein)

Thursday, July 3, 2008

She Who Procrastinates...

I'm sure there are a lot of ways one could finish that sentence. For now, let's just say I'm living to rue my own procrastination habit. Or reaping what I've sown. Or something like that. I'll look it up later...

You see, I am one of those people who chronically, habitually, dogmatically, religiously, emphatically puts things off. Just about anything qualifies for this treatment, but especially anything I don't particularly relish doing. From putting dishes into the sink (instead of directly into the dishwasher), to postponing putting away clean laundry (I mean, really - I'm going to wear it again this week; do I really need to take it all the way upstairs??), to washing my car (last wash and wax was in September...of 2006...).

One of my favorite sayings is that little gem that goes "I love deadlines. I love the whooshing sound they make as they fly by!"

My wonderful mother has spent entire years of her life on this earth trying to teach me the wisdom of not putting things off. When I had a school project due in six weeks, she'd start the day I brought it home. Telling me I needed to break it into bite size pieces, do fifteen or twenty minutes a day, that kind of wonderful, organized, sensible method of project management. However, my typical response to any deadline is exemplified by an overview of our 7th grade Geography project.

Bear in mind, this particular project was assigned over a span of months. I'm not kidding you. The deal was we had to collect at least 75 newspaper or magazine articles from different cities worldwide (I would live to hate that very number). I.e., the geographical location (can't remember what this is properly called in a news article byline) had to be different for each piece. There was a quota assigned for each continent, maybe say sixteen articles had to come from the African continent or something like that. And you could only have a couple from the same country, etc. In other words, there were rules.

Now, this was back in the dark, scary stone ages good old days before the internet. Before a timely email, with a bunch of news article links from friends around the world, could save your little 7th grade hiney from certain doom. And really, my family didn't subscribe to a bunch of newspapers. So my mom had to buy a subscription to our local paper, the Washington Post and the NY Times. Or at least, I'm pretty sure that's what she would have done, if I had told her about this little project at any point prior to the weekend before it was due. She's a great mom that way.

But since I did not, in fact, actually inform her about this project, she didn't know until Friday night (it was due on a Monday; that much I remember clearly). When she found out, I remember she actually wished me luck. And laughed, and said "Honey, I don't know exactly what miracle you think I can pull off in 48 hours here, but I suggest you call your father" (as it happened, Dad did subscribe to a bunch of different periodicals and papers).

And the rest of that weekend is pretty much a blur. Finding the articles themselves was only half the problem (if, indeed, that much). The larger issue was that we were to write a summary of several facts about the country, city or state of origin. No duplicates allowed. We had to include a certain number of facts which could be anything from population, weather patterns, primary exports, etc. etc. etc. And I'm sure that the idea was very sound. In fact, some of you homeschoolers are probably wearing evil grins right about now. And I'm sure that other children, whose parents knew and thus forced them to stay on track with this project, probably learned a lot. For me, however, that weekend pretty much stands out as one big blur in my mind. A blur of frantic scanning through stacks of papers and magazines (can't remember where we got these at that point), slashing of scissors or just plain tearing things out of pages, hateful newsprint everywhere, scotch tape on every surface and me pulling my first TWO consecutive all-nighters. Ever. And I wish I could say that's the last time I ever pulled 48 hours straight. But I can't...

Anyway, what stands out in my mind is an incredible amount of very hasty research and sloppy handwritten summaries (75 of them, remember) of random facts and figures from all over the place. Annual coffee exports from Colombia, popular sports in Iceland, the topography of Ethiopia, the birth and death rates in China, and lots of other random tidbits that now escape me completely (as you can see, I really must have learned a LOT!) One might have thought I would have learned a valuable lesson from this experience. Alas, not so!

So all of this is to say that I do not exactly excel in the areas of personal/home organization and accomplishment. Now I do want to add a caveat: At work, I am incredibly organized and efficient. That's not my problem. I am GREAT and diligent about managing my outside-the-home tasks. It's when I get home that tasks get away from me. They run away for a while and hide, and then they suddenly jump out and all attack me at once.

Which brings me back to the present. At present, I am writing this instead of doing any of the 804 things that would actually relieve some of my self-induced stress going into this weekend. I could be doing something productive, but instead I'm writing to all of you. Which I adore doing, but doesn't exactly help get my house ready for company. LOL!

Anyway, I have a word of advice for all y'all Others Who Procrastinate. DON'T put it off. Whatever it is, just DON'T. Because here's what comes to She Who Procrastinates:

(1) She will, without fail, promptly get sick before She is about to have company and go on a week-long staycation.

(2) She will, in fact, do this spectacularly and actually get sick well in advance of the last few days at work, where she would normally accomplish a task list of lovely year-end items.

(3) When She gets sick, She will begin to do so over the prior weekend, effectively removing it as a tool for getting anything (including visit home with family for happy event) done.

(4) The loss of that time window will pile on more stress for the upcoming week, so that She gets sicker, struggling through hateful Year End Monday and just hoping to survive rest of week.

(5) By Wednesday afternoon, She Who Procrastinates can be found curled up in bed with fever at 1 PM, sleeping deeply till 4:15. At this point, plans for even upcoming weekend look iffy.

(6) Thankfully, She will be feeling at least more functional by day before holiday, just in time to get even more slammed at work. Of course, because rest of world has ALSO procrastinated, wave of work does not arrive until 3 pm in current time zone. Generators of last-minute work wave, cheerfully living in land of earlier time zone, do not really understand the logistical problem created thereby.

(7) She will at this point begin to wonder if it might, just possibly, be a good idea to start just a few things early. (But it's difficult to imagine how this might work, without any real life experience to go on.)

(8) So now we find our heroine, in a last ditch effort to get something done before guests arrive...yep, you guessed it...

(9) BLOGGING about it. Because you know what? She Who Procrastinates NEVER procrastinates Blogging!!! She does, after all, have priorities firmly in place!

And now, I should really go make a grocery list for this weekend. (Or maybe I'll do it later...)

Love, Dahrlin'

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Grilled Flank Steak with Red Wine Sauce

Happy Wednesday! How's your week going so far? Today I've got a quick and easy meal for you that will improve most any weekday, and help put a smile on your face after a long day at work. Bonus - it's husband approved!

We tried this recipe recently, and like most recipes I've tried from Giada, it's a keeper! It's super yummy, and it's weeknight-friendly. The steak is easily tossed on the grill. It's not really diet food, but the calories are worth it! (If you wanted, you could leave out most of the butter. But I don't recommend it! Don't worry, it doesn't all end up in the sauce...)

I love stovetop and, even better, grill recipes in the summertime. For grilled dishes, I can hand hubby a plate of ingredients and food magically reappears cooked (it's a great trick!). And while he's working his grill magic, I can prepare the sauce and side dishes on the stove. This meal is just such a combination, except the steak cooks very quickly, so you don't want to start grilling too far ahead.

As usual, I forgot to take a picture of the finished meal, but I promise I'm going to get better about that!

When I made this, I happened to have a couple of russet potatoes, some leftover chives and an open bottle of red wine languishing in the kitchen, and as I've mentioned before, I'm all about saving money and not wasting food these days. So for our side dish, I took the opportunity to make sour cream and chive mashed potatoes. They're just as yummy as they sound, and I'll post that quick recipe below too. Without further ado...

Steak with Red Wine Sauce
(adapted from Giada de Laurentiis)

1.5 lbs. flank steak or skirt steak (or any you prefer)
1 onion, thinly sliced
1 Tbsp minced garlic
2.5 cups red wine (any that you like)
6 Tbsp butter, divided
1 tsp. dried oregano
1/4 cup tomato paste
Olive oil (if cooking steak on stovetop)
Salt and freshly ground pepper

If you're using flank or skirt steak, it'll cook quickly (a couple minutes per side for medium rare). So just plan your sauce and sides, and cook your steak as necessary based on what type of meat you choose. If you use flank or skirt steak, just be sure to slice it thinly across the grain (after cooking).

This recipe is all about the sauce, which is heavenly. It's got a wonderful flavor and a velvety texture that goes great with beef!

Melt 2 Tbsp butter in a medium saucepan. Saute the onion for a few minutes until it begins to soften, then add garlic and oregano. Saute for about a minute, then stir in the tomato paste. Cook for a couple of minutes, being careful to stir often. Whisk in wine and combine well, boiling gently until sauce is reduced by about half. Stir in the remaining butter. Strain the sauce into a small bowl and discard the solids. Season to taste (and try not to eat the sauce by the spoonful standing over the counter, like I did). Serve over the steak.

Now, as I mentioned, I made some mashed potatoes to go with this because my husband doesn't know how to eat steak without potatoes loves the things. I had sour cream and chives on hand, so that's what I tossed in. But you could use most any potato topping you like. Potatoes are versatile that way! Just cube the potatoes (I leave them unpeeled), boil gently until tender, and drain. Add potatoes back to hot pan, and stir in about 1/2 cup sour cream, some chopped chives or whatever flavors you prefer. Don't forget to salt and peper well. I might have added some butter to mine, as well. But I wouldn't know anything about that... ;-)

Let me know how you like this one!

Love, Dahrlin'
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