Friday, January 23, 2009

Does Toonces Have a Cousin?

I'm finding all kinds of fun blog carnivals to participate in! This is my first week participating in Candid Carrie's Friday Foto Finish Fiesta!

You guys remember Toonces, right? This photo is one of my favorites from recent weeks. Now that we have a lap-sized dog, she has decided her place is ALWAYS in Daddy's lap. She's definitely a Daddy's girl! She will actually leave my lap to go sit in his (traitor!) But he's okay with that. She's such an adorable munchkin.

Happy Friday Y'all!

Love, Dahrlin'

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Wordful Wednesday - Fall in Photos

Okay, I know I'm a little late in posting these pics. But it was a little bit of a busy fall around here, and I am just now getting a little caught up!

My friend Steph over at Live.Love.Eat participates in Wordful Wednesdays, hosted by Angie over at 7ClownCircus. I have tried several times to participate in "Wordless Wednesday," but just can't seem to stop adding words to what is supposed to be a wordless post ;-) I guess I just have a need to explain my photos! (Or else I just can't shut up. Either way...)

So here's my first Wordful Wednesday post. I'm including several of my favorite shots from this fall. It's my favorite time of year for lots of reasons, including food, football and extra time with friends and family. But I'm also a huge lover of the fall color change. I also love early morning or late afternoon natural lighting (I'm a huge fan of Thomas Kinkade's work, as well). So I especially love photos that capture colors and light together. I'm no PW, LOL, but I liked a few of these shots.

The first few are a series of the same spot in our backyard, over time as the leaves changed. It's so much fun to watch day by day! (And hopefully our neighbors in the house behind us don't feel like they are being stalked!)

I love all the colors that are unveiled under the greens of summer. The beautiful oranges and golds:

And some more golden orange colors (and, AHEM, some school fighting colors that also make an appearance in our landscape, LOL!)

The tree in the next few photos dropped almost all of its leaves at once. But along the way, I watched it go from green, to yellow, to orange, to red. All these leaves are from that tree (I think!)

And as it turned, the pictures don't entirely capture the effect, but with the setting sun shining on it, it was the most glorious shade of red. I just kept taking more pics!

We also made some yummy Cranberry Bread:

Then, at Thanksgiving, my Dad and his wife brought this beautiful floral cornucopia to dinner. It became our centerpiece for the buffet - and it looked almost edibly gorgeous!

Hope you enjoyed the photos!

Love, Dahrlin'

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Quick and Healthy - Arctic Char

Happy Tuesday! I found a new recipe carnival that I think will be really fun, and I look forward to participating. So if you are visiting here from TMTT (Tempt My Tummy Tuesday), welcome and enjoy your stay!

Some may recognize the fish I'm featuring today. I'm on a bit of a fish kick after all the turkey and heavier foods of the holidays. And yep, this is my second post about this particular fish. I just discovered it a week ago, but it's the first time I've actually cooked it, LOL! Last time I started out planning to cook it, but ended up preparing salmon that night (because it was ready to go). I'm excited to share that it's just as wonderful as Whole Foods made it sound. It's related to both salmon and trout. It tastes like a combination of both, but more closely resembles salmon in flavor and texture. I encourage you to give it a try!

Some of you also know I love to make foods that are healthy, freeze well (either before or after cooking) and are quick for workdays/weeknights. My husband traveled a couple of days this week, so it was just me and Pixie hanging around the house. That gives me the freedom to eat whatever and whenever I want for dinner, so I pulled out the char I bought last week. I thawed it (in a ziploc) in cool water for about 20 minutes (doesn't take long) and then decided to sautee it simply in olive oil, with some salt and pepper. I wanted to see how it tastes on its own, before doing anything to add additional flavor. It was awesome! This pic is of a little bit of an odd-shaped filet, but it was all good!

This makes a great weeknight meal, and it's extra-quick if you make a big batch of brown rice ahead of time, and freeze it in dinner portions. I happened to have some brown rice in the fridge, and some haricots vert (thin green beans) in the freezer. In half an hour (probably less), I was able to pull together Arctic Char with Lemon Butter, Brown Rice, and Garlicky Green Beans. Yummy - and very healthy!

So my one-and-only New Year's resolution (I don't make many, because I'm not great at keeping them) was to learn how to take better pictures for this blog. So far, I am only familiar with two settings on our camera - flash on, or flash off, LOL! That results in pictures that look somehow lost in between "well lit" and "strangely dim." But anyway, this is about food and not photography, right? So you'll forgive the photos!?

On to the recipe - super quick and easy. A method, really - this takes all of fifteen minutes. Even if you're drinking wine as you go (I'm a bad influence! ;-) I won't give too much detail because it's super-simple!

I make the beans first. Simply heat some olive oil in a nonstick skillet. Toss in the frozen beans, and stir continuously for the first couple minutes. Season with salt and pepper and remove them to a serving dish when they are still bright green but tender-crisp (say, 4 minutes). To the same pan, add 1 clove chopped or minced garlic and 1 tsp butter. Stir this around for about a minute, just until the garlic is golden (don't let it brown!) Pour that over the beans and toss to coat. They're done! (Keep 'em warm in a 200 degree oven if you like).

Next, in the same skillet, sautee the fish on the stovetop (start with a medium-high heat and warm the pan and olive oil first). I start all fish skin-side up, so the top gets a nice brown glaze and a bit of crust to it. When you flip it, season the top with salt and pepper. Most fish doesn't take long to cook, so flip it when it appears (from the side view) that it's cooked halfway through.

Meanwhile, warm your rice in the microwave, and toss with any seasoning you like - butter, olive oil, soy sauce, salt, red pepper flakes, you pick it!

When you're done, it'll look something like this. Enjoy!

Love, Dahrlin'

Monday, January 19, 2009

Menu Plan Monday: Frugal, Week 2

It's our second week of eating frugally from our freezer and pantry!

I'm happy to report that we did pretty well with last week's menu. I ended up eating out for lunch more often than I would have liked, but that was mostly due to cooking things that didn't leave leftovers for whatever reason. Sunday and Monday we ate as planned, and Tuesday I had some "freezer pleaser" black beans with sausage and brown rice. Hubby was traveling a couple of days last week, so I made a burger as planned for Wednesday, and then made a yummy fish entree for myself Thurs and Friday (it, too came from the freezer). It was a new type of fish for me and I will post that recipe here tomorrow!

Meanwhile, on to this week. To recap, the goal around our house for at least three more weeks is to eat the best possible meals we can create from food that is already in the house (read: has been languishing, unloved, in our freezer or pantry for too long!). There will, obviously, be a few repeats along the way (such as burgers, since we have several in the freezer). But I also want to be as creative as possible, because I usually find that we have the ingredients to make a lot more than I think we do.

So here's this week's plan!

Sunday: Asian Pork Tenderloin, Garlic Mashed Potatoes, Buttered Broccoli

Monday: Whitefish Parmesan, Rosemary Oven Fries, Sauteed Green Beans with Tomatoes

Tuesday: Michelle's Tortilla Stacker, Broccoli

Wednesday: Burgers, Baked Beans, Wilted Spinach

Thursday: Halibut in Artichoke Broth (we did not use this one last week), Baby Limas

Friday: Parmesan Crusted Chicken, Lemony Chard, Herbed Noodles

Saturday: Leftover cleanup!

Hope you enjoy your week! For more menu planning inspiration, head on over to OrgJunkie and check out this week's menus!

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Giveaway Winner!

Good morning and greetings from the Deeply Frozen Deep South!

I know it isn't as cold here as it is in some parts of the country, but for us, the 12 degrees we had yesterday morning is certainly the coldest it's been here in recent memory. BRRRR!!!

This morning we've warmed up to a comparatively balmy 23. But when I look into my backyard I see this:

And this:

Wait, let's look a little closer:

Yikes! The pond waterfall is basically completely frozen. (You can tell I am easily entertained, but hey, we rarely see icicles here in Atlanta). {{shivers}}

But anyway, the title of this post would have led you to believe that a winner has been chosen from my Scrapbooking Giveaway. And so one has! Edbteach, please email me (rottpaw -at- yahoo -dot- com) to claim your scrapping goodies!

Thank you to all who entered my first giveaway! I am really glad that someone can give these items a good home!

Love and happy weekend to ya!


Monday, January 12, 2009

Menu Plan Monday- Four Weeks of (Being) Frugal!

It’s a new week, and that means a new menu! You know the song, the “Twelve Days of Christmas?” Well, this is kind of similar... only we are going to call it the “Four Weeks of Frugal Eating!” This week’s menu is going to kick off a round of themed menus on this blog – and the theme is “let’s see how much money we can save on groceries and food, since I overspent so much on the holidays this year!” LOL!

Due to some (ahem!!) excessive spending over the holidays (not to mention excessive eating), one of my goals for January and February is to see how many yummy, creative, healthy and yet-still-frugal meals we can squeeze out of what is currently in my freezer and pantry. It’s really just a challenge to myself, but I also have another motive – it is that time of year when we defrost and clean the freezer, and also remove everything and thoroughly clean the fridge. I do my “spring cleaning” in the winter, because by early March we are covered up in pollen here and can’t open doors or windows for a while. So, in the name of economy and winter cleaning, I decided I had better figure out just exactly what has been lurking in my freezer and pantry – and eat it! The first week will be easy. I figure by week 4 we will really be scraping the bottom of the barrel, but we shall see!

I hope to be able, for at least four weeks in a row, to avoid buying much of anything at the store except groceries (non-food items) and a few perishables that we go through quickly, like milk and sandwich bread. Also, of course, we will need seasonal produce to go along with each meal, but that is not generally the area where I run over budget. I go over on “fun” items, like expensive cheeses, treats like chocolate, bargains I just can't refuse, etc.

So, let’s see how I do! Want to come along and watch? I will try to report back each week and ‘fess up to whatever I’ve had to buy for these menus. I hope it will help me be aware of what we’re buying and spending. Feel free to follow along and keep me accountable!!!

Week 1: Dinners

Sunday: Pepper Steak, Brown Rice (movie night)

Leftover Pepper Steak, Brown Rice, and Broccoli

Tuesday: Atkins Park Pork Tenderloin, Garlic Mashed Potatoes, Sautéed Green Beans

Wednesday: Burgers, Baked Beans, Garlic and Rosemary Oven Fries

Thursday: Tilapia with Baby Lima Beans, Garlic Toast (hmmm… lots of garlic on the menu this week!)

Friday: Halibut with Artichokes, Herb-Buttered Noodles, Wilted Greens (probably Chard)

Saturday: Visiting with friends

After reviewing the pantry and freezer situation, we had everything we needed for these meals except for a can of diced tomatoes (I know, I don’t know whether it’s wonderful or terrible that I have this much food hanging around the house, but it’s just hubby and me so we don’t eat things as quickly as some!). We also needed milk and eggs and a couple of grocery items, but all in all I think we did pretty well on our grocery budget for the week.

(It’s a good thing, too, because whatever we saved on groceries, we promptly spent on the other side of Target, buying junk for the house... but we won’t talk about that right now ;-)

I’ll report back on how we do. For more menu-planning inspiration, check out Menu Plan Monday over at OrgJunkie! Hope you all have a great week!!!

Love, Dahrlin’

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Salmon with Sauteed Swiss Chard

So, it's a new year and I'm getting back to trying to find balance in my diet. Yesterday, I was surfing the Whole Foods website (it's one of my favorite places in the world!) and looking for inspiration for dinner. I came across this article on Arctic Char, which is a relative of both salmon and trout (and tastes like a combo of those flavors). It looked and sounded delicious, and I require almost no incentive to take a trip to Whole Foods anytime, so off I went after work yesterday.

I love seasonal cooking and the idea of eating produce and meals based on season, so this recipe appealed to me. I need that rhythm in life and really enjoy the variety I get from it. I have also found that (particularly after the holiday excesses) fish is a great way to lighten up some of my otherwise "fall and winter" inspired recipes, which tend to be heavier. Dishes like brisket quesadillas, which I adore but which feature red meat, can get a nod from something like one of our favorites, salmon, spinach and gouda quesadillas.

So yesterday, I found a recipe for Arctic Char with Sauteed Swiss Chard. I got all the ingredients, but our WF also had these simply gorgeous salmon filets all ready to cook (the char was a larger piece that I will have to cut up into dinner portions later). By the time I got home it was after 7, so I took the opportunity to use the salmon instead. It was delightful and I wanted to share the recipe with you guys!

[Side note to Steph at Live.Love.Eat - I had an extra glass of Prosecco while I was cooking, in your honor! :-))

The recipe uses lovely winter greens - chard, in this case. If you've never tried it, do! It's great and a wonderful way to get extra nutrition in these darker, colder winter days. The salmon (or char, of course) is full of heart-healthy fats, lemon juice provides bright flavor and vitamin C, and I decided to serve it with whole wheat spaghetti. That's another product that, if you have not tried it, you may be pleasantly surprised (Mueller's makes a good one). It has a slightly different flavor than white flour pasta, but I love it. It's got character and texture (and it's good for you - what else can you ask for in pasta, LOL!?). But you could always serve it with any regular noodle you prefer, or rice.

One other note on ingredients here - the seasoning is Asian, but don't be afraid of any odd-sounding ingredients. Tamari is a variation of soy sauce - use regular soy sauce if you don't have tamari. And sesame oil is a yummy addition to many Asian dishes, and can be found in your regular supermarket.

So here's the recipe - hope you guys enjoy! (My one new year's resolution is to learn how to use my camera properly, so I can take better photographs in my kitchen for this blog, LOL!)

Salmon (or Arctic Char) with Swiss Chard
Adapted from Whole Foods Market Recipes
Serves two - but easy to double or triple!

1/2 bunch Swiss Chard
1/4 yellow onion
3 cloves garlic (or to taste)
2 salmon or char filets
Juice of 1 lemon
1 tsp tamari
1 tsp sesame oil
Olive oil, salt and pepper

If making pasta, go ahead and start water/pasta. Toss with butter, salt and pepper and keep warm while everything else is prepared.

Meanwhile, wash chard, remove leaves from stems and chop leaves to desired size. Thinly slice onion and garlic.

Rinse filets and pat dry, then drizzle with tamari, sesame oil and half the lemon juice.

Saute onion and garlic in olive oil until translucent, about 5 minutes. Add chard, toss and then cover and steam for about three minutes, until just wilted but still bright green. Uncover and remove from heat.

While the onions cook, begin the fish in a separate nonstick skillet - saute in a little olive oil and start fish skin-side down. Cook about 3-4 minutes (depending on thickness) and baste with pan drippings as it cooks. Flip fish and cook on the other side, continuing to baste, until done to your liking. Remove fish from heat and drizzle with remaining lemon juice and a little freshly ground pepper.

Serve fish over the greens, with spaghetti or rice alongside.

Excellent with a light white wine - pinot grigio, white burgundy or riesling!

Hope you enjoy!

Love, Dahrlin'

PS - edited to add: I love this blog carnival. Check out more yummy recipes at Tempt My Tummy Tuesday! (And yes, I know today is not, in fact, Tuesday, LOL!)

Scrapping Giveaway Reminder!

The wedding-themed scrapbooking giveaway ends on the 15th! Please cross-post if you know anyone who may be interested! Thanks in advance!

Love, Dahrlin'

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Christmas Card Recycling

I am just posting all over the place today, LOL! I just read a post by my friend Lora that contains some great "green" ideas for recycling Christmas cards past. And Lora's post reminded me that I've been meaning to share this idea with you.

This particular idea comes from my Mom, and it also happens to be a great way to give a shout out (hopefully without embarrasing her *too* much) to my childhood best friend and next-door-neighbor. Several years ago, my Mom gave both me and my sister a set of handmade Christmas tree ornaments, which Mom had made from recycled Christmas cards and old family photos. Here's one of me and Betty:

I apologize for the blurry photo, but I could not get a flash pic without glare (and it seems my camera cannot focus without a flash, so I'm pretty much out of luck on the blog photography sometimes!) It's hard to get a good picture-of-a-picture, but you'll get the idea. You just pick some cards you love, crop your pictures in the shape you want, use photo safe adhesive to attach the pics to the cards, then trim the cards as you wish. They are very fun and are truly my favorite ornaments on the tree.

Hope everyone had a great weekend. I'm off to continue putting away Christmas stuff, this time in the dining room.

Love, Dahrlin'

Happy Blogoversary to Lora!

Another quick post, as we're still getting the house put back together and ready for a new work week. But run and check out Lora's great giveaway here. She's celebrating one year and her blog is awesome!

Love, Dahrlin'

Friday, January 2, 2009

Christmas, Christmas Time is Here...

...and of course, now it's all done for another year! I had an alternate title for this post, but I decided it was too goofy. When even I think something sounds corny, it probably is. :-)

But I wanted to share a few photos and happy scenes from this year's celebrations. We were blessed once again to have my Dad, his wife, and my mother in law visit us, and Pixie had a visitor too (my Dad's dog, Max, tagged along). Borrowing an idea from my friend Stephanie, I'm going to consolidate several themes in one - here are a few of my favorite shots taken over the holidays. We hope one and all had a wonderful holiday season!

We were a little late getting the decorations up this year, but it finally happened. The tree came out well,

I actually decorated the mantel this year with fresh fir branches,

and by Dec. 24 we actually had gifts under the tree, LOL!

Pixie enjoyed all the preparations, and my Dad's wife bought her a really cute Christmas bandana to wear. Here she is, taking revenge on us for dressing her like that, by squashing the couch cushions:

She was also an immense help with wrapping, cheerfully subduing all used wrapping paper tubes.

And in her spare time, she hung and actually watched A Christmas Story, every time the dogs would come on. She cracks me up!

Meanwhile, you know I am all about the food, so we also enjoyed a wonderful dinner incorporating a couple of themes. I won't post all the recipes at this point since it's a little late in the game, but let me know if any sound particularly good and I will certainly share them. I am also sad to report that I did not take many pics of our food, because I was scrambling around like a crazy person trying to get everything ready at once :-) But at least you'll get the idea!

Hubby insisted on turkey and dressing with gravy, along with his Mom's broccoli cheese casserole, since that is his all time favorite meal. She also makes a VERY good coconut cake (from scratch with fresh, real coconut, no less) that is to die for. But I (and some others in our party) was a little tired of turkey, as I'm not a huge fan anyway, and we ate it for a week after Thanksgiving (blame the 20# bird hubby insisted we needed!) So along with hub's favorites, we had beef tenderloin with mushroom gravy, a green salad with citrus vinaigrette and pomegranate kernels, my favorite garlic mashed potatoes, and rosemary sourdough garlic bread. And a pan of Marshall's biscuits, which I could have cheerfully eaten all in one sitting.

For dessert, in addition to my MIL's cake, I made my favorite Christmas food tradition, Derby Pie. I did manage to get a photo of that for you, but as you'll see I did not quite get to it before the I the savages our guests descended upon it. But at least you can see what the middle looks like. Try it warm, with a little vanilla ice cream. Sooo yummy!

Our meal was a hit, and we went on to open gifts. After that was accomplished, we all sat around too stuffed to move, and watched the dogs play. Max and Pixie are just the right size to play well with each other, and since after two and a half years in this house we still do not have a coffee table in the living room, they have plenty of room to run.

By the time we had watched "A Christmas Story" for the 800th time that day on TBS, all the food had been demolished, all gifts gleefully exchanged, and the puppers were tired out and had retired to their respective corners. A wonderful Christmas was had by all around here - hope you enjoyed the photos, and a Happy New Year to each one reading this!

Oh, and I almost forgot, I do have a recipe for you in this post. Not so much a recipe actually, as a method - but for all those people who think they hate eggnog (or who love it and just want another excuse to drink it), try this one. My grandmother has always made eggnog this way, and it's the only way I enjoy it (if you've been reading my recipes long, you'll know it's because I love the cream and ice cream...not so much on the eggnog). But anyway, pour a little eggnog into a cup. Add a touch of bourbon if you wish. Then stuff the cup full of melon-ball size scoops of real whipped cream and vanilla ice cream. Top with a sprinkle of nutmeg. Mmmmmm...Cheers!!

Love, Dahrlin'
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