Wednesday, August 11, 2010

A Bruschetta Party!

I can't decide if I think food begets entertaining or the other way around. I think to me, that's the way it works. Here's how it happens: Tracy and I accumulate a stack of magazines each month. Usually Martha Stewart Living, Real Simple, Southern Living, and Better Homes and Gardens. All laden with "in season" recipes. I could read recipes for hours. In fact that's something I passed down to Homey apparently:

Anyway, so Tracy and I plopped down on one of our porches with the latest stack of glossy paged publications to go through. We dog-ear pages. We squeal. We plan meals with new recipes. Then we came across an article in Martha Stewart with all sorts of different ways to make bruschetta. Check some of these out for inspiration:

Lemony Zucchini Bruschetta

Mozzarella, Pesto, Arugula, and Parmesan

Prosciutto, Melon, and Balsamic Vinegar

And dessert bruschetta?! (A huge hit!)

Ricotta with Lemon, Basil, and Honey
(shockingly delicious!)

Dark Chocolate with Fleur de Sel

And the possibilities are endless. We had most of this stuff on hand. Add a few loaves of french bread, and we were set!

We set it up as a Build Your Own. Check out our spread:

Salami, tuna, cucumber, tomato, sauteed eggplant, roasted garlic, fresh mozzarella, parmesan, feta, arugula, basil, pesto, "green sauce" (a delicious parsley/cilantro sauce), olive oil, balsamic and red wine vinegars, sea salt, fresh ground pepper, ricotta, lemon slices, melted chocolate, and honey.

How easy is that?!
Just invite your favorite girlfriends over. We served homemade lemonade and asked the ladies to bring each bring a tasty six pack of "fancy beer" to share. A "beer tasting", if you will! You could easily serve one cocktail or turn it into a wine tasting type gig, also. It was a great idea for a Happy Hour.

I'm already trying to decide what kind of fare to serve at the next one...better go through some glossy paged publications!

Monday, August 9, 2010

"Better" Homes and Gardens...

The key word here is better.

Surely, you'll remember that wretched "master bathroom/laundry/mudroom" shenanigan in this crazy house. If not, refresh your memory here. Just prepare yourself. It's horrible. It's disturbing. It's Williamsburg blue.

But I fixed it! Well, I made it "better". Because doing it the correct way would, as you remember, involved ripping off the back corner of the house. We're not doing that right makes my head hurt to think about it.

But Williamsburg blue makes my head hurt too. You know what is so much better than Williamsburg blue? Beach by Eddie Bauer. that's better! No more wonky shelves and random cabinets.

Check out the awesome storage solution for...wait for it...$30! You, too, can have some of that frugal awesomeness from IKEA. And with the weird and random door painted the same as the wall, it almost disappears behind the shelf! Sa-weet!

Then I re-purposed a few existing baskets I had on hand (I had to steal Homey's toy basket from under the coffee table...she wasn't impressed.) I picked up the pretty yellow baskets on clearance at Michael's.

Then I got a fabulous idea....

Scandalous! I took pages out of a pin up calendar I got Mr. B for Christmas. I picked ones that "described" the contents of each bin, so they could act as labels. Cute, no?!

See, this pretty lady holds all my makeup!

Here's the other wall...

Tracy B. convinced me to paint the vanity out in the wall color. Love. It. She's so smart, that Tracy!

We left the window open...those nasty blinds really blocked a lot of great light that I didn't even realize we got back there! We opted to apply that privacy film to the window and not do any window treatments.

And I, obviously painted the weird mirror to the medicine cabinet. I just mixed up some different yellows of my acrylic paint and slopped it on there. It makes a huge difference!

Next wall!

A nice clean waffle weave shower curtain from the Pottery Barn outlet...It just calms that crazy room down, I think.

And check out that towel hangy thing! This bathroom had NO good place for a traditional towel bar...not that was convenient to the shower.

Enter IKEA (again):

It's perfect! It folds back flat and out of the way, but it can fold forward to be easily accessible from the shower. It also has extra rods so I can dry bathing suits and hand washed laundry there too! Isn't that handy?!

One final picture for ya:

The back door existing vintage travel poster from my office adds a pop of color and interest to an otherwise useless expanse of wall space.

Have I mentioned how I hate useless expanses of wall space? *Sigh*

So that's my quick and thrifty crazy bathroom re-do. Let's price it out (approximately):

Gallon of Eddie Bauer paint: $30
IKEA shelf: $30
IKEA towel bar: $7
Ventilated shelving: FREE (love hand me downs!)
Hardware for vanity : $4
Shower curtain: $20
Baskets: existing
Bins: $8 for both

Total: $99! Not too shabby for a room that needed a whole lot of love to be any kind of "normal". But ya know, "normal" is just a cycle on the washing machine, so I'm okay abnormal, too. Abnormal=Endearing.

Now that this bathroom is squared away (which is really funny, since NO walls in there are square. Or plumb. Whatever.), we will get to work on Homey's bathroom. Now that room will be quite the undertaking...not a quicky re-do. Stay tuned for that adventure. It makes my head hurt to think about it...

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Stuffed Cubanelles

I have a bad habit of turning a perfectly delicious and healthy fruit or vegetable into a calorie laden dish. I don't know why I can't leave well enough alone. I just feel the need to add fat and calories. So you can certainly choose to use these pretty little peppers any time you would use a bell pepper. Or you can make these bundles of tastiness for your next gathering, happy hour or random Thursday afternoon snack!

Here's what you need:5 or 6 cubanelle peppers, 4 ounces of cream cheese, roasted red peppers, and BACON! Delicious.

Now you can adjust these measurements for however many peppers you have on hand. I happened to get about 7 peppers out of my garden at the same time, and I needed to use them up. And I was hungry. Made since to make them into a snack right quick!

So, put your cream cheese into a saucepan over medium low heat. Add in about 3 or 4 slices of roasted red peppers (dice 'em up first!).

Let all that kind of melt together slowly.

In the meantime, preheat the oven to 375, and cut your peppers in half...discard the seeds and stuff.

Okay, two important things to notice here. Use a jelly roll pan or any cookie sheet with a rim around it. Flat is just not gonna work here. Also, you want to put a metal cooling rack on top of the pan. Remember...there's going to be bacon involved!

Now, your cream cheese mixture should be all soft and combined. Just spoon a little into each pepper.


Okay, the most crucial step! Cut a bacon slice in half and wrap around the stuffed pepper.
Lather, rinse, repeat as needed with the remaining peppers.

Pop in the oven for...oh, about 30 minutes. You have to let that bacon get good and crispy. If you are serving this for a party, I would probably stick a toothpick in the pepper to keep the bacon neatly in place. But I couldn't be bothered with all that. I'm just out to add fat and calories to perfectly good homegrown vegetables.

I tend to be a very bad influence, so feel free to ignore my unhealthy recipes. You can ignore when I show you how to fry pickles, too. I'll completely understand.

But it's delicious...just sayin':

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Tomato Pie

Something's got to give when your tomato plants go berserk like mine have. Don't get me wrong, I am thrilled to have such beautiful, delicious tomatoes every day, but seriously...Homey just brought in 16 today. Sixteen! Grand total of 19 on my counter. Let's figure out how to use 'em up, for cryin' out loud!

I know tomato pie sounds weird, but honestly, it's not much different than a tomato sandwich...if you like tomato, cheese, and mayonnaise, you'll like this pie. Unless your name is Homey. This is the second year in a row that she has decided she's not a fan of tomato pie. Which is shocking since her favorite food (since babyhood!) is tomato. But I make it anyway, it doesn't last long around here. Serve it as a side next to a delicious steak or eat it with a green salad for lunch. Eat it while it piping hot, or enjoy it cold the next day. Oooh, serve it hot or cold with fried chicken! That's it. I need some fried chicken....

But first, here's the recipe:
You'll need a pie crust (we'll discuss that later), mayo (Duke's. It has to be Duke's!), 4 or 5 tomatoes, salt/pepper, basil (optional), shredded cheddar.

First of all, peel and slice your tomatoes. Now, technically, you should get rid of the pulp inside the tomato. Your pie won't be soggy and pulp-laden. But to me, that's the best part. And I have no problem with soggy, so I leave all that in there. You may also prefer to dice your tomatoes instead of slicing. However you decided to slice them, let the tomatoes sit in a colander. Sprinkle some salt on them. Salt is a tomatoes best friend:

In the meantime, work on your pie crust. Pie crusts are ticking me off lately. But I am determined to make my own (at least on occasion, for Pete's sake). So this was the second crust from the Pioneer Woman perfect pie crust recipe. It started out fine...roll it out with Homey's rolling pin since I can't find mine. Must be with my keys...

I roll crusts out on parchment because at least I know that I'm not going to be mad that it stuck to the countertop.

Make sure the crust is going to fit in your pie dish. still looks hopeful!

Turn it over and fit it in the dish:
See, feeling even more hopeful! It's not perfectly pretty, but it's in there!

Prick the bottom with a fork. We need to bake this a little before we tomato it up. So pop it in a 375 oven for about 8 to 10 minutes. Then gasp when this is what you pull out....

Wha'?!?! Are you even kidding me?? How could this possibly happen? Ree?! What am I doing to your pie crust to make this happen? (Still waiting on her reply on Facebook!)

Anyway, back to the rest of the recipe. While you are somehow destroying a perfect pie crust, chop up your basil and grate your cheese. Have I ever mentioned that I'm not a fan of grating cheese? Really not a fan...

And this is the point where you can be creative...add onion, more herbs, crumbled bacon, whatever you think sounds good. I just wanted to keep this one simple.

Take the shredded cheese (probably about 2 cups will do). Add in the mayo. I admit, I did not measure. I'm horrible about measuring (except I did for the pie crust, I promise!!). I used two big dollops on my pretty orange spatula. I'd say between 1/2 and 3/4 cup of mayonnaise:

Then we just start layering! Tomatoes, basil (or other ingredients you're adding)...

Layer until you've used all the tomatoes, adding salt and pepper along the way. See how I tried to make the pie crust climb back up the sides? Better than it was, I suppose.

Add the cheese mayo as the top layer.

Bake at 375 for about 30 minutes or until the cheese layer is melty and golden.

My goodness...deliciousness. Ugly crust and all!

Make it...and let me know what I'm doing wrong on this crust shenanigan. Other than the fact that I'm not buying Pillsbury :)

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Key West Shrimp

Man, this is one of those recipes that is ridiculously easy. It's a perfect way to use up your fresh shrimp this time of year. And there's always the buy one, get one specials on frozen shrimp...perfect for that too! Here's what you need (again...ridiculously easy...)

A pound of shrimp (with shells), a bottle of Wishbone Italian dressing (I don't know why it has to be's just the rule), cracked black pepper, a lemon. (These measurements will feed about 4 people for dinner).

Grab a casserole dish, and toss in your shrimp. Add the whole bottle of dressing. Don't be scared! Add a generous smattering (how's that for detailed instructions!) of cracked black pepper. To me, the more the better!

I ended up only using half of my lemon because it was freakish large. Normally, you would cut a lemon in half and squeeze each half over the shrimp. Toss the rest of the lemon in for good measure.Add butter! I'd say use about 4 tablespoons of butter to dot the top of the shrimp.

Then bake at 375 for about 25 minutes. Check it after 15 minutes, and give it all a good stir.

That's it! Check, check it:

Seriously...who knew something this delicious could be so easy!

Serve with a green salad, corn, and crusty bread. You must serve with a good crusty loaf of else would you possibly sop up all that delicious sauce?!

A note on the corn: Tonight was chili lime corn. You can make this as easy or as complicated as you like. Since we were cooking inside, I just cooked the corn on the stove, added butter, chili powder and served it with a slice of lime. If you're grilling anyway, just throw the corn on the grill, and serve with some sort of fancy lime butter or aioli and a sprinking of chili powder. Delicious no matter which way you make it!

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Oatmeal Cream Pies

This is a recipe out of Cottage Living magazine. Did you ever get a Cottage Living? I loved Cottage Living. *Sigh*. Due to the Great Recession, it is no longer published. Such a sad, sad story. I simply adored that Glossy Paged Publication. I have a real issue with GPPs. A slight addiction. And when I find a favorite, it's a real blow to have it jerked from my hands with absolutely no warning! WHY?!

I'm getting a little overly dramatic here (not to say that I didn't really feel this way). But this recipe is from one of the first (if not the first) issues of the fabulous publication (sniff sniff!).

JMom started making these almost immediately, and they are the most wonderful cookie ever! The funny thing is that I'm not a Little Debbie fan. I do like a Swiss Cake Roll, but past that, move over Debbie. Just not a fan of overly processed sweets. So this cookie, to me, is perfection. Make. It. Immediately.

Thank you for your cooperation.

Get any Homeys you have's easy!For the cookie: 1 1/4 cup butter (softened), 1 cup brown sugar (firmly usual), 1/2 cup white sugar, 1 egg, 2 tsp vanilla extract, 1 1/2 cups plain ol' flour, 1 tsp baking soda, 1/2 tsp salt, 1/4 tsp cinnamon, 3 cups quick cooking oats.

Before you get ticked at me at the end of the recipe for not reminding you , preheat the oven to 375.

Cream the butter and both sugars at medium speed until, well, creamy. Duh.

Add the egg and vanilla, continue beating.

Mix the dry ingredients together in a bowl, mix well. Gradually add to the butter/sugar deliciousness.It is delicious!

When it's well combined, drop by (you know the drill) rounded tablespoon onto baking sheets. (Make sure you go grab the parchment paper first! Homey knows where it is!)

That's the place Tiny Purple Person! (Don't look at my pantry! No judging!)

Yep, that's it, Homey! We in business.

So, drop 'em, about 12ish to a cookie sheet and bake them for 8-10 minutes.


Now let's make the best part!

More butter! (a stick, softened). More sugar! (2 cups powdered sugar). More vanilla! (a teaspoon), and of course...whipping cream (1-2 tablespoons--I used 2, may depend on humidity, and I may have used too much. I had to throw them in the fridge to firm up. Icing was dripping everywhere! Welcome to baking in South Carolina in July!)

Put it all in a bowl! Beat it! Beat the heck out of it til it's fluffy.

Then slather that awesome icing on the "cooled" cookies. (Quotes are because I can't wait that long, but it's recommended. Maybe that's why my icing was dripping to and fro...whatever.)

Then, of course, top it with another cookie! Voila! Place on a pretty plate and pour a glass of milk. (Or have it with your coffee in the morning...again, whatever. That's pretty much how I roll...)Thing 1 and Thing 2 loved them:

Though it did feed their maniacal tendencies...

We tried to let them run it off outside, but we ended up just wondering why someone wasn't stopping by to pick up our children. They're precious. They're smart. They're engaging. Why doesn't someone come over to play with them or take them for a sleepover?! It's beyond us, at this point. I even looked to the skies for a rosy cheeked chick floating down with an umbrella. Didn't happen...another *sigh*

As for the yield on this recipe, I'm gonna go with 18. Here's the 24 hour take on the plate o' cookies:

So go ahead and double it. And don't give many to your children unless you're in with Mary Poppins. If you are...tell her I love her, and to please stop by to chill with these Beasts for a while!

Oh, and make your icing differently, and I think I like yours better than the recipe's. Can I put you on the spot to comment and tell me how you do yours? I have forgotten! That why I call you all the time. Because you know things, and I really don't. Thanks, JMom! As per facebook and my other online venue, we all know JMom rocks!