Monday, September 27, 2010

Recipe challenge - RESULTS

Whew, what a busy few weeks I've had! I meant to post my 5 day cooking challenge day by day, but first Cayden got sick and then Mando and I got it so I haven't been cooking as much as I'd like. HOWEVER, I did make a point to hunt down fall friendly recipes, make a list, get my ingredients, and have been cooking a new meal here and there over the past few weeks and I have successfully made 5 BRAND NEW dinners! As promised, I'm going to share the recipes, along with my notes and how I think I did. So here we go!

(Original recipes below with my notes in bold.)

Day 1:

Nixon Chicken (recipe shared by @AnnieUS13)
Served with: white rice
Difficulty Level: Easy

Broccoli (frozen works)
Chicken (either two boiled, shredded chicken breasts, or the picked meat of a rotisserie chicken)
1 can of Cream of Chicken Soup
1 cup of Mayo (I skipped this because I'm not a Mayo fan and it still turned out great!)
Shredded Cheddar Cheese
Potato Chips (I used bread crumbs for the top layer and it was delish!)

Mix together the Cream of Chicken Soup and the Mayo. Then layer in a casserole dish:
1. Broccoli
2. Chicken
3. Cream of Chicken and Mayo mix
4. Cheese
5. Crumble some potato chips on top to make a little crust

Bake at 350 for about 30 minutes or until the broccoli is done. Serve with rice.

Overall impression: I thought this was a great meal that's SO easy and quick to make! It makes leftovers for lunch the next day, or you can freeze and reheat later. I will definitely be making this again.

Day 2:

Potato Cheese Soup (recipe was from an old co-worker of mine)
Served with: French bread and butter
Difficulty Level: Intermediate
How'd I Do? Major fail

8 cups peeled and cubed potatoes (I used about 5 potatoes)
2 cups peeled and chopped onions (I used 1 yellow onion)
4 cups chopped celery (I used 3 cups)
2 teaspoons salt
4 cups half and half (I used 3 cups)
6 tablespoons butter
1 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese
several pieces of cooked bacon (finely chopped) (I used half a package)

Place potatoes, onions, celery and salt in water to cover in a large pot. Simmer until tender, about 15 minutes.
Put in blender or food processor fitted with the metal blade and puree until chunky.
For a chunkier soup do not put all of soup in food processor, leave out some the the large pieces.
Return to soup pot; add half-and-half, butter, chopped bacon, and cheese. Stirring, simmer until piping hot. (Do not boil.)
If the soup is too runny and you want to thicken it up, add potato flakes for desired thickness.

Overall impression: First of all, I messed with the quantities because I was only cooking for my boyfriend and myself and I knew a huge pot of soup would go to waste (and trust me, this makes a HUGE POT). Secondly, I don't know what I was thinking, but I added water to 'boil' the potatoes when the recipe doesn't say to do that so mine came out EXTREMELY watery. Major fail. Thirdly, the recipe says to puree in a blender/food processor... I don't know if it's because I added water or what, but the puree made this so liquid-y I don't recommend it. I would pulse in the blender for a chunkier soup. Lastly, I would half the amount of celery... I subtracted a cup and it was still WAY too much celery for my taste. I would also double the bacon and the cheese to make it more flavorful and salt to taste. I like things SALTY and this soup was so bland to me (once again, could be due to the extra water). All in all, I think this recipe could be a success if you work with the ingredient amounts and season to taste. And whatever you do, DON'T ADD WATER!

Day 3:

Garlic Roast Chicken with Rosemary and Lemon (recipe from Food Network by Rachel Ray)
Served with: mashed potatoes and green beans
Difficulty Level: Easy

2 1/2 lbs boneless skinless chicken breasts
6 cloves of garlic, crushed (I used 2 TBL raw garlic from a jar, just because I like it better)
3 TBL fresh rosemary stripped from the stems (I used 2 TBL dried rosemary because that's what I had)
3 TBL extra virgin olive oil
1 lemon zested and juiced
1 TBL seasoning (I used salt and pepper but you could get creative)
1/2 cup dry white wine or chicken broth (I used chicken broth)

Preheat oven to 450 degrees F.
Arrange chicken in a baking dish, 9 by 13-inch. Add garlic, rosemary, extra-virgin olive oil, lemon zest and grill seasoning or salt and pepper to the dish. Toss and coat the chicken with all ingredients, then place in oven. Roast 20 minutes. Add wine and lemon juice to the dish and combine with pan juices. Return to oven and turn oven off. Let stand 5 minutes longer then remove chicken from the oven. Place baking dish on trivet and serve, spooning pan juices over the chicken pieces.

Overall impression: This chicken was TO DIE FOR. I basically didn't eat chicken for 10 months because I couldn't stand it when I was pregnant so it may have just been me falling in love with chicken all over again, but my boyfriend loved it too. It was so full of flavor and juicy! This is something that was relatively easy to make and delicious so I'll definitely making it again!

Day 4:

Roast pork loin with garlic and rosemary (recipe from
Served with: baked potatoes and asparagus
Difficulty Level: Easy

4 large garlic cloves, pressed (I used 3 TBL raw garlic from a jar)
4 teaspoons chopped fresh rosemary or 2 teaspoons dried (I used dried)
1 1/2 teaspoons coarse salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 2 1/2-pound boneless pork loin roast, well trimmed
Fresh rosemary sprigs (optional) (I didn't use these because I didn't have them)

Preheat oven to 400°F. Line 13 x 9 x 2-inch roasting pan with foil. Mix first 4 ingredients in bowl. Rub garlic mixture all over pork. Place pork, fat side down, in prepared roasting pan. Roast pork 30 minutes. Turn roast fat side up. Roast until thermometer inserted into center of pork registers 155°F., about 25 minutes longer. Remove from oven; let stand 10 minutes.
Pour any juices from roasting pan into small saucepan; set over low heat to keep warm. Cut pork crosswise into 1/3-inch-thick slices. Arrange pork slices on platter. Pour pan juices over. Garnish with rosemary sprigs, if desired.

Overall impression: This was a great dinner and pork tenderloin is low in fat and delicious. The pan drippings are absorbed once you pour them over the pork slices and make it moist and flavorful. It does take over an hour to make, but it's something yummy that I'll definitely serve again.

Day 5:

Chad's mom's recipe (yes, it's really called this. Chad was an ex-boyfriend of mine and his mom gave MY mom this recipe a million years ago. This was the first time I attempted to make it by myself)
Served with: serve it over mashed potatoes
Difficulty Level: Intermediate
How'd I Do? Decent

1 LBS Chopped Steak (also called skirt steak or round steak)
1 Medium White Onion (I used half an onion)
2 TBLS Garlic (I used 2 TBL raw garlic)
1 Box Sliced Mushrooms (I opted out of the mushrooms because my boyfriend hates them, but I've have this recipe both ways and it's yummy either way)
2 TBLS Steak Seasoning
2 Packages Lawry’s Aus Jus Mix
2 TBL oil (I used vegetable oil)

Brown Meat, Onions, Garlic, & seasoning in 2 TBLS oil. Add Mushrooms cook for 3-4 minutes. Add Aus Jus mix & 2 cups water. Simmer 30-40 minutes. Thicken with corn starch. Serve over mashed Potatoes.

Overall impression: This recipe comes out yummy if you follow the instructions, but I messed up. My normal outlook on cooking is that you can never have enough garlic or salt so what did I do? Added a ton of garlic salt to the meat. Now the seasoning and the au jus is already extremely salty so I ruined it and it was WAY TOO SALTY (like, you could barely swallow it). Also, my instant mashed potatoes came out too runny so it wasn't a huge success. But like I said, if you follow the instructions unlike me, this is a yummy recipe good for cold nights!

Overall I had a lot of fun with this challenge. Sure, I made some mistakes and might have ruined some dinners, but my boyfriend is sweet and swears every one of them was delicious. Plus, I now have some new and yummy recipes to add to my cookbook and successfully got out of my same-5-meal funk! I plan on trying to cook one new recipe every week until I have a ton of dinner options for myself.

Did anyone else challenge themselves this week? Share your recipes! And feel free to try out any of the recipes above and make sure to let me know how they come out!

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Fancy Schmancy Blog Makeover!

It's done! My blog makeover is complete. So what do you guys think? I personally think it looks fab and I am so happy with how it turned out. If anyone is considering getting their blog done you have to contact Jennifer at Apple of My Eye Designs. She is so easy to work with and so talented (obviously)! Also, she is great with communication which is good for me since I'm so busy and she always emailed me back right away whenever I had a question or a change I wanted to make. Be sure to check out her blog and get on the wait list ASAP!

Anyway, I'll be posting more in the next few days... Poor baby Cayden caught a cold last week and then passed it on to Mando and I so things have been hectic to say the least. I'm going to post my 5 new recipes ASAP though, so stay tuned!


Friday, September 10, 2010

Recipe swap and a personal challenge...

While I was on Twitter the other day, a group of awesome women had the idea to do a recipe swap and of course I immediately invited myself to join in! I feel like lately I've been cooking the same 5 meals over and over and I'm ALWAYS looking for new things to make. This can be a challenge at times because I have the pickiest eater EVER living with me. Mando eats everything plain and the list of things he won't eat is a mile long. So you can imagine I was thrilled to be getting ideas from other women on new, tasty meals.

And now that fall is approaching (HALLELUJAH!) I can finally start making the things that I love without melting from a hot oven. Now is the time for hot soups, sweet baked goods, and comfort foods and I couldn't be more excited. I become even more of a homebody in the fall/winter and I find myself cooking all the time! So I decided to challenge myself... I'm going find all new recipes, make a meal plan, go grocery shopping, and for the next week I'm only going to make things that I've NEVER made before (SEE?! Making a meal plan and eating at home... I'm already getting better at saving money!). Hopefully this will inspire me and get me out of my same-5-meals funk. Each day that I cook something new I'll post the recipe here and hopefully inspire my lovely readers too!

If anyone else wants to participate in my challenge let me know and we can do it together! And if you have any to-die-for recipes I'd love to have them! I'm slowly but surely putting together a big recipe book and hopefully I can pass it on to my own kids someday like my mom is doing for me.

Happy cooking everyone!

Thursday, September 9, 2010

(I want to be a) Budget Friendly Mommy

I'll admit it... I have a spending problem. When I'm shopping I rarely look at price tags *hides in shame*. I've never made a budget in my life and I definitely don't balance my checkbook which has resulted in more than one over-draft fee and returned check. This is obviously a really bad thing. Now with the added cost of childcare (HOLY RIDICULOUSNESS!), our over-priced apartment, and a higher payment for my new car, I'm really trying to be more budget friendly. I have recently started clipping coupons, shopping on clearance, buying in bulk, and trying to curb my shopping addiction. It's become a bit of an obsession lately... I refuse to buy anything unless I have a coupon for it and it's like a game now to see how much money I can save after each shopping trip. I'm always keeping my eyes peeled for a big sale or a deal.

With that being said, I obviously still need a lot of help. So tell me my smart and savvy shoppers, how do you save money? I want all your tips and tricks on how to make a monthly budget, how to get the most bang for your buck, where to get the best coupons and deals, and any other useful information you may have for this desperate mama! And I promise I'll update you all on my money-saving progress!


Miss Desperation

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Wordless Wednesday

Here is your daily dose of deliciousness! Baby Cayden at 3 weeks old.

**The adorable crocheted teddy bear hat and diaper cover were made by Julie at TheGirlyTutu. Julie is a pleasure to work with and rushed my order to me so I could get these pictures taken on time! Visit her Etsy shop to see all of the adorable newborn photo props she creates! Thanks again Julie!

Thursday, September 2, 2010

When insomnia strikes...

Outside my window the sun is finally starting to lift his sleepy head and make his way towards the morning sky.

I am thinking about autumn, my favorite season getting closer and closer. I can't wait for the air to get crisper. I can't wait to light my pumpkin pie scented candles and cozy up with my two boys under fluffy comforters. I can't wait to decorate Cayden's first Christmas tree and cook holiday feasts with my mother. This is undoubtedly my FAVORITE time of the year.

I am thankful for a healthy family filled with my sweet baby boy, helpful daddies, grandmas who spoil, cousins close in age, creative sisters, and wonderful in-laws.

From the kitchen... a full fridge, a stocked cupboard, and a dishwasher full of clean dishes waiting to be emptied.

I am wearing my boyfriend's dirty t-shirt. Because it's big and comfy and I love the way it smells.

I am creating a memory book filled with pictures and mementos from my boyfriend and I's first year together. I can't wait to give it to him.

I am going to cherish every second I have with my sweet baby boy and never take advantage of the gift of motherhood.

I am reading How To Start a Home Based Event Planning Business. Because it's my goal to one day make money doing something I truly love.

I am hoping to look back at my life one day and smile at the beautiful memories I've created and the things I've accomplished.

I am hearing the soft breathing of my baby asleep on my chest and his father's continuous snoring beside me.

Around the house baby items are strewn everywhere! Just the way I'd always pictured.

One of my favorite things is a spa pedicure. And paying the extra $5 for a 15 minute foot massage.

A few plans for the rest of the week are to have an early morning garage sale at my mother's house, sneak in a date and some alone time with my boyfriend, attend a child's birthday party, and cherish every single second I have left with my little boy before I must return to work.

Here is picture for thought I am sharing: