Wednesday, December 26, 2012

A Quiet Christmas

Christmas this year was simple, just the way I wanted it. I did not travel for the holidays and while part of me was sad that I wasn’t with immediate family members, it was time for me to take a break from holiday travel and enjoy just being in Green Bay.

We kicked off the holiday on Sunday at the Packers vs. Titans football game. My good friends Mary and Brian from Washington, DC were back in Wisconsin to celebrate the holidays with their family. I am so happy that they met Pete, we caught up after several months of not seeing each other, and most importantly, that we celebrated a Packer’s win!

I spent my Christmas holiday with Pete, Sam (four years old) and Maggie (two years old). We celebrated the holiday with Sam and Maggie on Christmas Eve morning since their mom had them on Christmas Day. It was so much fun watching two little girls open gifts, as well as how different their personalities are in a task as simple as opening gifts! Sam was the first one awake and she couldn’t wait for Maggie to get out of bed so that they could start unwrapping gifts. Pete finally realized Sam wouldn’t stop asking to get Maggie out of bed, so they ran upstairs to tell Maggie that Santa left lots of gifts!

Poor little sleepy head. Maggie looked so tired when daddy carried her down the stairs, but when she sat on the couch, her eyes lit up as she saw the five foot brown teddy bear leaning against the television stand. She jumped off the couch and started inspecting all the presents with her sister. Sam couldn’t wait to open her next present while Maggie wanted to open and play with everything she unwrapped right at that moment. The girls were blessed with gifts from Santa and their family members far away. Daddy made a breakfast of chocolate chip pancakes and turkey bacon before they began all of their other family celebrations. Sam asked when Christmas is coming again…a question that I’m sure will be asked for several years! :)

While eating breakfast the girls surprised me with a beautiful and very colorful cat that they painted at a pottery shop. Kitty now lives on my desk at work.


Pete and I had a wonderful and very quiet Christmas. We enjoyed The Hobbit on Christmas Eve followed by a lasagna dinner and evening of opening gifts at his house. Christmas morning we enjoyed sleeping in, a late breakfast, and we saw the movie This is 40 at the theatre. Since we rarely get time alone together during a weekend or weekday, we decided to take advantage and enjoy a couple of movies at the theatre.

Christmas dinner was my favorite salt, garlic, and rosemary encrusted roast beef with cooked carrots and a spinach and mushroom salad for dinner. It was a great Christmas!

Lindsay’s Crockpot Lasagna
Layer the lasagna in the Crockpot, just as you would a baking dish. It really doesn’t matter what order you layer this lasagna, just make sure the noodles have sauce over the top of them.

Do not cook this for more than five hours as the noodles will become mushy.

- 1 lb. Mild Italian Sausage
- 24 oz jar of Spaghetti Sauce
- 15 oz tub of Ricotta Cheese
- 1.5 cups of Mozzarella Cheese
- 1.5 cups of Parmesan Cheese
- 2 TBS minced garlic
- Uncooked Lasagna Noodles
- Salt, Pepper to taste (be careful on the amount of salt as spaghetti sauce and cheeses can be salty)
- Oregano and Parsley (I use dried, but you could use fresh if you have it)
- ½ cup water

Brown the Mild Italian Sausage in a skillet on the stove top. Meanwhile, mix together all the cheeses and garlic in a bowl.

In the bottom of the Crockpot, mix 1/3 of spaghetti sauce with ½ cup of water. Place uncooked lasagna noodles over the sauce, breaking lasagna noodles as needed to fill in the gaps. Top with half of the Italian Sausage and 1/3 of the cheese mixture. Sprinkle the top of the cheese mixture with salt, pepper, and a little bit of oregano and parsley.

Second layer: Place noodles on top of the cheese mixture, top with 1/3 of the spaghetti sauce, the remainder of the meat, 1/3 of the cheese mixture, and sprinkle the top of the cheese mixture with a little bit of oregano and parsley.

Final layer: Place noodles on top of the cheese mixture, top with remaining spaghetti sauce covering all the noodles, the remainder of the cheese mixture, and sprinkle the top of the cheese mixture with a little bit of salt, pepper, oregano and parsley.

Cook on low for 4-5 hours. Do not cook on high and do not cook for more than five hours.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Edamame Feta Dip

Edamame is such a tasty treat! I love to purchase edamame in the shell, sit in front of the television, and pull the beans out of the shell with my teeth. They are good cold or hot, in a salad, or served as a side dish. I recently attended an event with Pete's multisport team and someone made an edamame, feta, and quinoa dip. It was something different, but was healthy and different than a boring crudite or unhealthy cheesy dip.

We were invited to a friend's home for a playdate with the kids and to watch a Packers Game. I decided to recreate something similar. Since edamame is green, it was the perfect appetizer for the Packers; if only the feta cheese was gold!

Edamame Feta Dip
Adapted from Cooking Light Community

Ingredients
- 2 cups frozen shelled edamame (fresh soybeans)
- 3 cloves garlic, peeled (not chopped or minced, leave whole)
- 1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese
- 2.5 TBS fresh lemon juice
- 2 TBS extra-virgin olive oil
- 1/4 tsp salt or to taste
- 1/4 tsp pepper or to taste
Bring a large saucepan of lightly salted water to a boil. Add edamame and garlic; return to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer until edamame are tender, about 5 minutes. Drain, reserving 1/2 cup cooking liquid.

Place the edamame, garlic, 1/4 cup of the cooking liquid, lemon juice, oil, salt and pepper in a food processor or blender. Puree, scraping down the sides as needed, until completely smooth. Transfer to a serving bowl. Top with feta cheese.

If you'd prefer, you can blend or process the feta cheese in with the edamame, but I wanted to make sure my dish was green!

Great served with pita or bagel chips or tortilla chips.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Spinich & Cheese Quiche

I am not a huge egg person, but I have fallen in love with quiche. It is a very easy dish. Just purchase a frozen pie crust, throw whatever veggies and meats (cooked) in the shell with cheese and about 4-8 eggs. Bake for an hour. While making a quiche is easy, I always follow recipes because there are so many tasty quiche recipes out there. Following a recipe makes me try certain ingredients in a quiche that I wouldn't always think to cook together.

You can bake this and keep it in the fridge for a few days. I reheat each slice in the microwave, but if you're going to make it ahead, I would reheat the entire quiche in the oven.

Try out this quiche next time you have overnight guests, the morning of a holiday, or as an easy-to-go breakfast when you're on the run.

Spinich and Cheese Quiche
Courtesy My Recipes

Ingredients
- 1 TBS unsalted butter
- 1/2 onion, finely chopped
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 1 10-oz. package frozen chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed dry
- 1 1/2 cups grated Gruyère (I just use swiss)
- 1 9-inch unbaked pie shell (can be frozen)
- 3 large eggs, lightly beaten
- 1.5 cups milk
- Salt and pepper, to taste
- Pinch of ground nutmeg

Preheat oven to 375. In a small skillet over medium heat, melt butter. Add onion and sauté until translucent, about 5 minutes. Add garlic and cook for 1 minute longer, stirring. Transfer to a small bowl and let cool.

Sprinkle onion mixture, spinach and Gruyère over bottom of pie shell. Beat eggs and milk together, season with salt, pepper and a pinch of nutmeg. Gently pour into crust.

Bake quiche for 50-60 minutes, until set and nicely browned. Remove from oven and let rest for 10 minutes.

NOTE: If the crust starts to brown, , place foil over the top.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Thanksgiving 2012

There is nothing better than walking into your home on Thanksgiving and smelling all the delicious goodies baking in the oven. I love the smell of a turkey roasting with all its seasonings, the smell of pumpkin pie and allspice, and simple dishes like mashed potatoes loaded with butter and heavy cream and green beans floating in cream of mushroom soup.

Cooking is one of my few hobbies and I jump at every chance to make a big meal for friends and family. It’s not a chore and when I feel stressed and overwhelmed, that is the time I choose to conquer a difficult recipe. If I conquer a complicated recipe, it helps me conquer the hard times in life. 

I am not a creative or artistic person and cooking is one outlet that I have to be both. I will follow a recipe once or twice, but after that, I let creativity take over.  I prefer to cook and not bake because it’s imperative to follow recipes when baking due to the formula of ingredients. As much as I follow rules in life, I don’t like following them in the kitchen.

For Thanksgiving this year, I entertained Pete, Sam, Maggie, my mom, her husband Joel, and my grandparents. I moved into my new home (my friend Sara’s house) the week before Thanksgiving so that I could host everyone there since she has a nice sized kitchen. It was a busy day, but I just loved cooking dinner for my family.

Below are two new recipes that I made for Thanksgiving, as well as the electric roaster details that I used for the turkey. Everything was wonderful. Besides the recipes below, I also made gravy, a basic bread stuffing, green bean casserole, and my grandparents provided an apple raisin stuffing and pecan pie. When my grandparents showed up with the apple raisin stuffing, my grandfather clearly neglected to realize that more than two people would be eating dinner, so mom added apples, raisins, and half a loaf of bread to ensure there was enough!

Turkey
For the first time, I cooked the turkey in an electric roaster and it was such a success that I don’t think I’ll ever cook a turkey in an oven again. When I move out of Sara’s house, an electric roaster will be one of my first purchases. The thirteen pound turkey was moist and cooked to perfection in exactly two hours. All I did was stick pats of butter under the skin, I used olive oil all over the skin and sprinkled the outside and cavity of the bird with salt, pepper, and poultry seasoning. I put about one cup of water in the bottom of the roaster to ensure I would have juices to make gravy. I heated the electric roaster to its highest setting for 15 minutes (450 degrees) and put the bird in for 20 minutes. I then dropped it 325 degrees for the remaining amount of time. The most important thing to note is that you cannot take the lid off the top of the roaster while the bird is cooking. Just trust the process!



Turkey, Crescent Rolls and other Goodies

Homemade Cranberry Sauce
Courtesy of Cooking Channel

Ingredients
- 2/3 cup sugar
- 1/2 cup orange juice (no sugar added or freshly squeezed)
- 1/4 tsp. ground cinnamon
- 1/8 tsp. kosher salt
- One 12-ounce bag cranberries

Combine the sugar, orange juice, 1/2 cup water, the cinnamon, salt and cranberries in a medium saucepan. Bring up to a simmer over medium heat and cook for 15 minutes. Let cool completely before serving. I made this two days before Thanksgiving and it was perfect the day of.


Homemade Cranberry Sauce

Sweet Potato Casserole
Courtesy of Food Network

I used yams for this recipe because that was what my grocery store had. I don’t eat this dish, but Pete said it was fabulous. He ate all the leftovers, so they must have been good.

Ingredients
- 2.5 pounds sweet potatoes (about 3 large), scrubbed
- 2 large eggs, lightly beaten with a fork
- 3 TBS unsalted butter, melted plus more for the preparing the pan
- 2 TBS packed dark brown sugar
- 1 tsp. kosher salt
- 1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
- 1/2 tsp. ground ginger
- Pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 1/4 cup coarsely chopped pecans

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Put the sweet potatoes on a baking sheet and pierce each one 2 or 3 times with a fork. Bake for 45 to 60 minutes or until tender. Set aside to cool.

Turn the oven down to 350 degrees F. Scoop the sweet potato out of their skins and into a medium bowl. Discard the skins. Mash the potatoes until smooth. Add the eggs, butter, brown sugar, salt, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, and pepper to taste. Whisk the mixture until smooth.

Butter an 8 by 8-inch casserole. Pour the sweet potato mixture into the pan and sprinkle the top with the pecans. Bake for 30 to 40 minutes until a bit puffy. Serve immediately.

Sweet Yam Casserole and Green Bean Casserole

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Potluck Group and German Beef Stew

When I lived in Washington, DC, I was part of a potluck group that met every month for several years. We were six ladies who would try new recipes or make our favorite recipes for each other. Each month someone would host potluck at their home or very small apartment. The hostess would make the main dish and everyone else would bring a dish - appetizer, side dishes, soups, salads, and desserts.

I met many of these wonderful ladies on an adult kickball league in my early twenties. I didn't know many people in the DC when I heard about the kickball league, so my coworker Daniela and I decided to join a team. Because of that decision, we made friends with so many incredible people and women who I learned a lot from. We were like kids one night every week during the summer months out on fields playing the game from our youth and we had a great time getting to know each other. We would play kickball and then go to the bars in Adams Morgan to have a few drinks and play flip cup. I'm convinced we all joined the kickball team to be able to go out and drink with friends; most of us didn't care about the game.

After getting to know several of the women in the group, we decided to form a potluck group with six of us. I don't remember how the conversation started, but I'm so glad that someone mentioned the idea. For many years, Daniela, Allison, Nancy, Elizabeth, Rachel, and I (and then Jacey once Allison moved out of the area) would get together to try new foods. In 2005, Nancy put together a cookbook with many of the recipes that we made. Since 2005, I have moved several times and my cookbook was lost somewhere between Washington, DC and Green Bay. Recently, I was reminiscing about our potluck group and thinking about all of the wonderful food and friendships that were made!

I sent a Facebook post out to the group and get a copy of the book and Nancy emailed it the next day (always so efficient!! :)) I read all the recipes and laughed about how some recipes got their names and thinking about conversations that we had over great food. I am thankful that I was part of this potluck group. Many of us have moved away from Washington, DC but we all find ways to stay up-to-date with each other (thank you Facebook and blogs) and I hope like me, all of the other ladies have great memories of our food and friendship.

One of my favorite recipes is a German Beef Stew that Daniela made. I make this stew several times during the winter and it always gets a thumbs up from people. And for some strange reason I email or Facebook Daniela every time I make this recipe. I'm not sure where she got the recipe, but I'm happy to share it with you all today!

German Beef Stew
- 2 Tbs vegetable oil
- 1 Clove garlic, crushed
- 8.5 cups Beef broth or water
- 1/2 cup White vinegar
- 2 tsp salt
- 1.5 lbs Potatoes, peeled, cut into large chunks (4 cups)
- 1 cup Sliced onion
- 3 lbs Stew beef, cut 1" cubes
- 1 Tbs Sugar
- 1 Bay leaf
- 2 cups Carrots, sliced
- 1 tsp Dill weed, crushed
- 1/4 cup Water
- 1 TBS Flour

Heat oil in large saucepan. Add onion and garlic, saute until tender, about 5 minutes. Remove with slotted spoon. Add beef, saute until browned on all sides. Return onion to pot. Stir in broth, vinegar, sugar, salt and bay leaf. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer covered about 1.5 hours. or until tender. Add potatoes, carrots and dill. Simmer covered until meat and vegetables are tender, about 20 minutes.

If you're eating the stew the evening you're making it: Mix flour and 1/4 cup water. Stir in stew, mix well. Cook and stir about 2 minutes until thickened. Eat and enjoy. (My stew never seems to thicken, so I just leave it more as a soup.)

If you're eating it the next day: Refrigerate overnight. Remove layer of fat. Simmer, stirring frequently, until heated through. Mix flour and 1/4 cup water. Stir in stew, mix well. Cook and stir about 2 minutes until thickened. Eat and enjoy.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Quick Overnight in the Dells

Pete and I are so bad about having our photo taken together. We either forget to bring a camera OR we have a camera and forget that we have it with us.

On a very rare weekend in August, Pete had a Saturday night without the girls so we decided to enjoy an evening at a bed and breakfast and a nice dinner in the Wisconsin Dells.

Obviously I am biased, but I think this is an amazing, awesome, and fantastic photo! It makes me realize that we need to remember more often that we have a camera!



This photo was taken at The Fields, which is where we enjoyed a beverage before going to the Del-Bar for dinner. The Fields is an upper scale restaurant in the Dells, but I can't say that their decorations are up-to-date. I'm not sure if they were going for the old 1970s Vegas look, but that's what you get! Although the place has questionable decor, the service is impeccable! I look forward to eating there someday.

Dinner at the Del-Bar was amazing. I enjoyed half a dozen of oysters from Prince Edward Island, which are oysters that are hard to come by in smaller Wisconsin cities. I highly recommend it for a romantic dinner or even a dinner with the kids!

And if you're looking for a romantic place to stay besides a huge Dells resort with lots of kiddos running around, I recommend the B&B Antiques and Lace. It is 12 miles east of the Dells and in the middle of nowhere. Pete said it reminded him of the movie Children of the Corn! Thank goodness I haven't seen that movie otherwise I wouldn't have slept! 

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

A Pirate & The Terminator

Unfortunately work and personal life has been hectic for the past several weeks and I haven't had a chance to post anything on the blog.

Below is a photo from a costume party that my friends Sandi and Steve host every July. Their costume party has a different theme each year and this year's theme was to dress as your favorite actor, actress, or hollywood character.

Making an appearance in Green Bay at this year's party was Elizabeth Swann from Pirates of the Caribbean and The Terminator!

Friday, August 10, 2012

Chicago Weekend Fun

I recently enjoyed a fun weekend in downtown Chicago with my friends Karen and Erica. Karen is one of my best friends from high school and she lives in Chicago and invited us to stay with her for a weekend of fun. Erica had not been to Chicago for more than just a wedding and shopping on Michigan Avenue, so I was excited to show her the city that I love!

We arrived on Friday evening and went to a cookout at one of Karen's friends homes and boy could that girl cook! The food and the company were amazing and we even met a couple of Packer's fans. Not only were they Packer's fans, but they pretty much got married on a Packer's bet. If the Packer's won the Superbowl, then they would get married. Pretty funny!

Saturday we DID A LOT! We did so much that we just ordered in Italian food for dinner and watched the Olympics that evening; we were pooped out! In the morning, we enjoyed a couple of hours at the Shedd Aquarium, which I have fond memories of from growing up. It was fun to see all the animals and sea life, as well as the jellyfish exhibit that they have. That afternoon we took a Chicago River and Lake Michigan cruise to see the city and all the sites. After the cruise, I took the girls to Pops For Champagne, which is an awesome bar (with a lot of champagne) that my dad and I found several years ago. I love champagne and it was funny to see Erica's face checking out the big city drink prices - you're not in Green Bay anymore!! It was a great weekend!

Karen - we missed getting a photo with you!!

Enjoying the beautiful views of Lake Michigan
(and of course, the famous Chicago wind blowing my hair everywhere!)

Beluga Whale - I love these whales, they always look like they are smiling

Fun penguins!

Jellies

Jellies

Jellies and Lindsay

Weird upside down jellies

Monday, August 6, 2012

Carrot Ginger Soup

This past week, I enjoyed Taste on Broadway with Pete, the girls, and several friends. It was a fun time! Taste on Broadway is similar to the Taste of Chicago and any other 'Taste ofs' that happen in a lot of cities. You eat, drink, listen to music and start again...eat, drink, and listen to music. The event was great and it wasn't overwhelmingly crowded, or at least the amount of people didn't annoy me.

One of the best recipes that I tried was a Carrot Ginger soup, which reminded me of a similar soup that I had in a cooking class. I cannot remember what cooking class this is from; therefore, there is no credit listed, but it is not my recipe!

Carrot Ginger Soup
- Olive Oil, one turn of the pan
- 1.5 lbs. of peeled carrots, chopped
- 1 small onion, chopped
- 1 rib of celery, chopped
- 1 medium-sized knob of fresh ginger, peeled and minced (it if difficult to put a measurement on this!)
- 1 cup of uncooked white rice
- 6 cups of chicken broth
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 tsp marjoram
- Salt & Pepper to taste

In a dutch oven over medium heat, add olive oil, carrots, onion, celery, and uncooked rice. Once veggies are tender, add in chicken stock. Add ginger, bay leaf, and marjoram and simmer covered until rice is cooked; about 20-25 minutes. Stir occasionally. Remove bay leaves.

Puree soup in a blender or with an immersion blend. Note: If you are not already aware, you cannot just dump hot soup in a blender and blend. You have to do a little bit of soup at a time (maybe 2-3 cups) and hold down the top of the blender lid with a kitchen towel. The combination of heat and blending creates a lot of pressure and the lid can fly off, which will turn your kitchen a lovely shade of carrot orange. 

Add salt and pepper to taste and serve.

Recipe Alterations
- You can reduce one cup of cream until it coats the back of a spoon and top the soup with the cream.
- You can top the soup with cream or plain yogurt.
- You can top the soup with fresh herbs - maybe some parsley and chives.
- You can add a pinch of curry into the soup for some added flavor.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

My First Trip to New England

In early July, I enjoyed a weeklong trip with Pete and his girls (Sam and Maggie) to visit his family in New England. It was the first time I met his family (except for his mom who I've met a couple of times) and the first time I was traveling with little kids who are two and four years old. The kids were so fantastic on the trip and traveling was not difficult with them at all. Pete has it down to a science!

We flew in and out of Boston, but his parents home is in North Hampton, New Hampshire, which is about an hour north of Boston...and beautiful! Their home is about a mile from the beach, so it was easy to head to the beach for a couple of hours with the girls and head home.

On Sunday, Pete, Maggie and I (Sam stayed home a lot to play with Grandma) went to Portsmouth, NH for lunch. It was such a cute little town with very old homes. There are very old homes all over New England and it is fascinating to see the dates from when some of these homes were built in the1600s, 1700s, and 1800s. We enjoyed lunch on the water at The Oar House. I wouldn't say it was the best meal I've ever eaten, but the scenery on the water was great! That afternoon, Pete's brother Dave came to visit with his wife Kelly and daughters, three year old Tatum and six month old Eva. I also spent a bit of time with Pete's youngest brother James since he lives with his parents.

Enjoying lunch at The Oar House
We enjoyed a lot of time at the beach while we were there. The girls absolutely had a blast at the beach and jumping around in the very cold water! The scenery in New England is beautiful, but the water is cold! There are a lot of rocks along many areas of the coast and bluffs - just beautiful!



On Tuesday we enjoyed a day out on the Christensen's boat and went for a boat ride and enjoyed a couple of hours at Wingaersheek Beach, which has white sands, pretty clear water, and huge rocks in the water. That evening, Pete and I enjoyed dinner at an awesome restaurant called Black Cow in Newburyport, MA. I loved this town; it was really cute, had a lot of sailboats, good food, and beautiful sunsets.

Wingaersheek Beach


Newburyport, MA

Newburyport, MA

On Wednesday we enjoyed another day at the beach and that afternoon and evening, I joined Pete's mom Dee out on her sailboat. She is part of a women's sailing club in Manchester, MA and I went out for a lovely evening sail, as well as enjoyed a few cocktails with the ladies after sailing. The homes in Manchester are AMAZING! It is such a beautiful area.

On Thursday, Pete and I enjoyed a day in Boston. Because we only had one day in downtown Boston, it was valuable to have a car and Pete to be my guide. We spent most of the morning driving around. He drove me past Boston College (where he attended college), Harvard, MIT, along the river, and through many areas of downtown Boston. Before lunch, we enjoyed a short ride on the famous Swan Boats.


Swan Boats

Awwwww, my cute beau!
After the boat ride, we had a mouth-watering lunch at Legal Seafoods, which is a chain restaurant that I enjoyed when I lived in Washington, D.C. as well. I love their crab cakes! The food was fantastic and Pete's high school and college buddy Brendan was able to join us for lunch. That afternoon, we enjoyed a walk up to Bunker Hill - yes, we did all 294 steps to the top! And of course, forgot the camera!! The views from the top were amazing!

After our hike up the monument, we drove over to the North End for the rest of our Boston day. We enjoyed a drink on the water, Faneuil Hall shopping area, and had dinner at Lucca's in the Italian district. Lucca's food was incredible and I highly recommend the Caprese salad because they make their burrata cheese in house. MMMMMM!!

North End in Boston

North Church In Boston, built in 1723
At Tia's enjoying a drink on the waterfront
Friday we enjoyed more beach time and had a little birthday party for all the girls. Sam will be four in August, Tatum (Pete's niece) turned three while we were there, and Maggie will turn two in August.


Saturday morning before flying home

Fun trip!

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Tastiest Baked Chicken I've Ever Made

This baked chicken with onion and leeks recipe is BY FAR the tastiest baked chicken that I've ever made. I know it was good based on the several "Oh my gosh" and "this is great" comments from Pete. The flavor was good, the chicken wasn't dried out, and it was something different. It was very easy to make. I would imagine that people who are scared of overcooking or under cooking chicken might fear this recipe. If you aren't comfortable using a thermometer to determine if your chicken is done, just take the chicken out of the oven and cut into it. I know chefs frown upon this, but I am under no assumptions that there are any chefs reading my blog. I found the Baked Chicken recipe on delish.com.



Tasty Baked Chicken on a bed of onions and leeks and topped with a mustard mixture

My only issue with this recipe was that I just couldn't wait to for cooler weather to try this recipe; therefore, having the oven on for an hour made for a steamy apartment in the middle of summer!

I was apparently in a cooking mood last night because I cooked two new dishes! Along with the chicken, I  made an Asparagus & Mushroom Succotash from The Washington Post Food Section and the succotash was also incredibly tasty! I did cut out the red pepper flakes and hot sauce because I don't like my dishes spicy and it still had a great amount of flavor.


A few ingredients for the Asparagus & Mushroom Succotash

Baked Chicken with Onion & Leeks
Courtesy Eatingwell.com and delish.com

- 2 cups thinly sliced onions
- 1 cup thinly sliced leeks (washed, use white and light green part only)
- 4 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
- 3 TBS olive oil, divided
- 2 tsp fresh thyme leaves
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 2.5 lbs. bone-in chicken pieces (thighs, drumsticks, and/or breasts), skin removed, trimmed
- 1/4 cup Dijon mustard
- 2 tsp minced shallot
- 1.5 tsp chopped fresh rosemary
- 1 tsp soy sauce
- 3/4 tsp freshly ground pepper

Preheat oven to 400ºF. Toss onions, leek, garlic, 2 tablespoons oil, thyme, and salt in a large bowl until the vegetables are well coated. Spread the mixture in a 9x13-inch baking dish. Place the chicken pieces on the vegetables. Bake for 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, whisk mustard, shallot, rosemary, soy sauce, and pepper in a small bowl; gradually whisk in the remaining 1 tablespoon oil.
After 10 minutes, brush the chicken with the mustard glaze. Continue baking until an instant-read thermometer inserted into the thickest part of a leg or breast (without touching bone) registers 165°F, 30 to 45 minutes more. Serve the chicken with the vegetables.

Friday, July 6, 2012

Hot Beef Dip Appetizer

My best friend Amy makes this beef dip appetizer for special occasions - or at times where you just don't care what you're eating! I highly recommend this for an appetizer at your next party or file it away for an upcoming party during football season because it is a great cool weather appetizer!


Ignore the quiches and just stare at the tasty beef dip!!

Beef Dip
2 large packages of cream cheese, softened
2 small jars of Armour Star Dried Beef, cut fine (near the Spam in the grocery store)
1 cup sour cream
1/2 cup green pepper, cut fine
1/4 cup onion flakes
1/4 cup milk
1/2 tsp pepper
1/2 garlic salt (optional)
 
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Mix all ingredients (or process in a food processor) and bake for 20-25 minutes until it is warm throughout the dish. Serve warm with Frito's.
 
Fat-free ingredients are NOT recommended because it is not nearly as tasty. Makes sense...I mean, if you're going to eat something with cream cheese, just do it right and eat full fat!

Mom's Veggie Pizza

My mom makes a killer cold veggie pizza. I remember eating this pizza at various parties growing up. It reminds me of my childhood...and it is so good and tasty! I've never had anything like it living in the South or on the East Coast, so to me, it is a Midwest dish. Because I've eaten this pizza so many times and by so many different people who've made it, I know there there are many variations in regards to spices and vegetables, but the recipe below is my mom's variation.



Veggie pizza is a beautiful appetizer to have at your parties

This dish is best made the day you serve it because it gets too soggy overnight.

Mom's Veggie Pizza Recipe
- 2 pkg crescent rolls
- 1-8oz package or tub of plain cream cheese (you may or may not use all of this), softened
- 1-2 TBS Light Mayo
- All Spice
- Dill (fresh or dried)
- Any variety of veggies you'd like. Suggestions - broccoli, red and yellow peppers, zucchini, chives or mild onions, mushrooms, celery, carrots, cucumber, cauliflower, etc. Cut all veggies into small pieces.
Lay crescent rolls flat on a jelly roll pan and bake as instructed but watch them to make sure they don't burn; usually 8-10 minutes is long enough. Let the baked dough cool completely and take a pizza cutter to cut squares for the pizza. Mix together soft cream cheese (maybe about 6 oz to start) and a little bit of light mayo (start with 1 TBS) to make it spreadable. Spread the mixture on your baked dough. Sprinkle All Spice and dill over the entire pizza. Note: Dill is strong so it is best to not sprinkle as much of this as the All Spice. Top with cold vegetables that are cut in small pieces. You can top with alfalfa sprouts if you'd like.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Babies, Babies, Babies

Yes, there are babies all around...and many soon-to-be babies among many of my friends.

Recently, I had the honor of throwing a baby shower for my best friend Amy in Knoxville, TN. I wanted to have a fun and casual baby shower without tacky games.



Decorating Onesies
Something I highly recommend for a baby shower is decorating onesies. I bought onesies for almost all of the guests to decorate and it was a fairly cheap activity, fun for the guests, and it builds the supply of onesies for the parents-to-be. I bought a variety of sizes (short and long sleeve) and a couple of colors other than white. To paint the onesies, I bought two sets of fabric paint markers from Michaels and it was just that easy! Don't forget to put wax paper, cardboard, or a box between the onesie so that the paint doesn't stain through to the back side. The fabric markers dry quickly, which allows guests to paint both sides. Note: I recommend getting a couple of old boxes and cut them to be able to gently stretch out the onesies - this will help with drawing and painting.


Decorated onesies doubled as decoration for the shower and new clothes for baby girl

Baby Shower Games that Aren't Too Tacky
I hate tacky shower games at all showers, but I wanted to do something as an ice breaker and to get people giggling a little bit. Below were the two games that we played and they were a success. For the winner of each game, I purchased a small plant as the prize. I thought this was something a little different and the winner could plant it outside or in a planter and enjoy this summer.

Baby Babble Word Scramble

Nursery Rhyme Fill in the Blanks - You think you know your nursery rhymes until you have to fill in the blanks. There were some funny answers, such as my sister trying to rhyme a word and coming up with crap! I explained that I don't think they'd put the word crap in a nursery rhyme. There are a variety of these games online here and here.

Food
And of course, we had food. I hosted the baby shower from 2:00 p.m. - 4:00 p.m. so that we wouldn't have to offer a full meal. Amy loves Red Velvet Cake so we did Red Velvet Cupcakes that I ordered from a bakery and they were so tasty (and one less thing to make!)

Guests enjoyed:
- Homemade Bruschetta
- Fruit Kabobs (Recommend buying a catalope and cutting it in half to stick the kabobs in)
- My mom's veggie pizza
- Amy's beef dip (which is so fatty and yummy)
- Mini Quiches
- Chips and salsa

Tasty food for the baby shower

Red Velvet cupcakes with cream cheese frosting from The Cup

Monday, June 18, 2012

Summer "Salad"

Sometimes I feel like I develop the weirdest salads because I make them based on what I'm craving at the time. I have gotten into non-lettuce "salads" recently based on some great dips that I've had at parties or gatherings. Why can't I just eat dip and call it a meal? :) 

Last night I realized that I needed something for lunches this week at work. Since I haven't had a chance to go grocery shopping in a week, I went straight to the pantry. Ahhhhh, a can of artichoke hearts. I am seriously addicted to artichoke hearts lately and I can come up with anything if I have a can of these tasty treats!

Lindsay's Everything "Salad"
- 1 can artichoke hearts, drained
- 1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
- 1 can corn, drained and rinsed
- 1 small can black olives, drained

I mixed them all together! Yes, people, it's just that easy!

I did not dress the salad with anything so that I could put a different dressing on it each day. Last night I placed some of the salad on heated leftover rice with soy sauce. Today, I had the salad for lunch with Trader Joe's Caesar dressing. TASTY! You could easily turn this into a dip for a party - add some onion, tomato, and jalapeno and you instantly have a Texas-style caviar!

Note: If you use a can or jar of marinated artichoke hearts, you do not need to drain the can/jar. You can simply put the juices from the marinated hearts in your salad and it creates an instant dressing. Again, it's just that easy!!

Friday, June 15, 2012

First Motorcycle Trip

The weekend of June 9th I experienced my first motorcycle trip and it was FUN! Pete didn't have the girls so we decided to take advantage of a free weekend together and go somewhere. Knowing that he loves being on the motorcycle, I mentioned that we should do an overnight somewhere with my dad, who is also an avid motorcyclist. I was also excited to experience being on a motorcycle for more than two hours.



Pete, my dad, and I, along with our friends Doug and Renea (who we met here in Green Bay) had an amazing weekend covering about 550 miles of Wisconsin. The four of us (minus my dad because he was coming up from Chicago) left Green Bay on Saturday morning about 8:00 a.m. and rode south through Kettle Moraine. That is a beautiful area of Wisconsin that I'll have to explore some more.

We then headed West, although I have no idea what route we took, and met my dad in Beaver Dam and stopped awhile after that for lunch in Baraboo. I was in awe of how beautiful Wisconsin is West of Baraboo. Not to say that the rest of Wisconsin isn't beautiful, but I prefer rolling hills and small mountains and that is what we were able to see. The photos below were taken at Wildcat Mountain State Park, which was awesome!


Lindsay & Pete

Lindsay & Dad (Paul)
We hit the Mississippi River and headed south to spend the night in Prairie du Chien. The five of us enjoyed dinner in McGregor, Iowa at Old Man River Restaurant. The food and beverages were tasty after a long day on the bike. If you head to Prairie du Chien and spend the night at the Best Western Bluffview, Hatesh will talk your ear off, but he is very nice!

On Sunday, we headed out early and road along the Wisconsin River and into Baraboo so my dad could head south back to Chicago. We enjoyed a leisurely ride back to Green Bay, at which point my sore butt was ready for a break from the ride. I think I did really well my first trip on the bike and can't wait to do it again!

Lindsay's Top 10 Novice Motorcycle Trip Thoughts
1. Lesson #1: Keep cameras VERY TIGHTLY on the bike. I learned a very expensive lesson (note the lack of photos above). Purchasing a new camera will be on my list this year.
2. During hot days, one can get dehydrated quickly on a motorcycle. It isn't easy to just grab a bottle of water, nor do you want to have to stop to go to the bathroom all the time.
3. Extra padding on a motorcycle seat only goes so far for your butt! Aleve is my new best friend.
4. Wearing boots with a heel on a motorcycle sucks; I will be purchasing new boots before another trip!
5. When you get too close to the driver, your helmets smack together. It gets annoying for both people after several times.
6. Leave valuables and hair products at home. Really...there is no need to wear jewelry or do anything with your hair when it will be under a helmet or windblown.
7. I'm glad that I am a light packer and having a limited amount of room makes you realize what you can live without for a couple of days.
8. The sink turns black every time you wash your hands...you have no idea how dirty you get on a motorcycle until you've done a trip like this.
9. I had no idea my dad smokes so many cigars!
10. I will always take the opportunity to visit the West side of Wisconsin. What a beautiful part of the state!

Monday, June 4, 2012

My Beau is an Inspiration

Pete is an incredible athlete! He was clearly born an athlete and he enjoys a very active lifestyle. I admire it, I'm inspired by it, and I'm starting to "drink the kool-aid". He grew up an avid skier, cyclist, sailor, swimmer, etc. By "drink the kool-aid," I mean that I want to be more active and set goals for myself, but I don't want to do a sprint triathlon!

This past weekend, Pete participated in the Green Bay Sprint Triathlon, which consists of a 400m swim, 15 mile bike, and a 3.1 mile run. It was his goal to place in the top three of his age group.

Since Pete's mom is in town and she offered to watch the girls, I had the opportunity to watch and cheer him on, which was fantastic. I just hope that he appreciated my cheering (aka, screaming) at him during every transition! :) I knew he was doing really well in the race when he entered the bike to run transition area and he was arriving between groups of people that started several waves ahead of him at the beginning of the race.


Swim to Bike

Leaving for 15 mile bike ride
Leaving for 3.1 mile run

He is a fast cyclist and I was in awe at how fast he rode the 15 miles. I don't think the run is his favorite part, but he ran quickly through three miles. I was counting many of the sprint triathlon participants coming through the finish and I knew he finished high overall.


DONE!!

Congrats to Pete for finishing first in his age group and 14th overall.

1,500 Mile Road Trip

Several months ago, my good friend Sara mentioned that she really wanted to take a trip somewhere. I mentioned that I would be in for a road trip and suggested we do something over Memorial Day weekend. Luckily, she thought it was a great idea.

Now that it is over, I can honestly say that it was a great idea! 1,500 miles in four days! We are rocking women! We were very fortunate in our travels; we only had about 45 minutes or so of traffic around Chicago and other than that, we didn't run into any traffic or accidents. I was glad to see that in 1,500 miles, there were no accidents! We saw a lot of police while we were heading south, but barely any heading back north.

Coming back from Nashville, we took I-24 to I-57 in Illinois. I HIGHLY recommend this route going north and south. There was almost no road construction on I-57 and hardly any cops or semi-trucks. There weren't any big towns, which I assume cut down on cops and trucks. However, it was A LOT of farmland!

Yeah, who would have guessed?? Farmland through the Midwest!

We left on Thursday and quickly (but safely) drove south. We spent the first night a little south of Louisville. Next time I'll have to spend some time in Louisville; it looked like a great city with a lot to offer. We woke up Friday morning and hit the road to the Kentucky Bourbon Trail. I would love to say that we had a great time tasting bourbon and causing a ruckus, but we didn't. We were good and didn't even taste the bourbon...in our defense, it was 10:00 a.m.! We enjoyed visiting Jim Beam and Maker's Mark.

Maker's Mark is extremely beautiful. It is tucked away and takes you off the beaten path. My GPS decided to really take us off the beaten path. It took us through several farm and country roads that we probably should not have been on. But, we made it (again safely)!

Sara at Jim Beam




After we bought some bourbon, we headed south again, this time with the directions from Maker's Mark to I-65 so we avoided scary roads that seemed to lead to nowhere! We arrived at Mammoth Caves and on our way there, Sara realized that the time zone shifted from EST to CST and we were two hours early! So, we took advantage of the break and sat under some shade and read for a little bit.

Then we got our two hour break from the 96-degree temperatures! We enjoyed the underground cave tour in 55-degree temperatures - I've never been so happy to feel cold! Unfortunately neither of our cameras could do the place justice, so there are just a couple of photos below.
 


The camera was picking up the dust - those circles are not ghosts!
Although, there are a couple of people buried in the cave!

That is just deep!!

This was a great area! You had to squeeze through very tiny spaces!

After the cave tour on Friday, we headed south (again!) and spent the night in Bowling Green, KY. We found a hotel with an outside pool so that we could read and relax a little bit - as well as give our fannies a break from driving! I'd also like to mention that Sara and I were both well into Fifty Shades of Grey so we had to have time to read.

Friday morning we hit the road (South!!) and crossed the Tennessee border about 10:15 a.m. We were excited to see a winery right off the highway - how convenient! Oh dear, what are two ladies supposed to do? TASTE WINE! And we enjoyed a little time behind the bar as well!

I believe this is one of the few photos of both of us!
After our wine tasting, we headed to Nashville. We stopped at the Opryland Hotel because I told Sara that she had to see the beautiful lobby area. Upon entering the parking lot and discovering it was $18 to park (but your first twenty minutes were free) I told Sara to get her running shoes ready! We made it out with a few minutes to spare!

I don't know why this photo is giving me an attitude, but it won't rotate normally like all the other photos.
So, here is a beautiful sculpture in the Opryland Hotel lobby.

Opryland Hotel

Opryland Hotel
After the hotel, we headed over to the Grand Old Opry just to check out their gift shop. Can we say expensive?? By this time we were starving and realized that we were next to an outlet mall. We ate lunch at the very tasty Claim Jumper restaurant and did a little shopping. We (once again) needed  a break from the 95+ degree temperatures.

After some shopping, we headed downtown to Broadway and 2nd Streets where all the honkey tonks exist. These are bars (mostly country bars) that have live music almost all day long. It was great to honkey tonk bar hop and check out the cheap, tacky gift shops too. I think we spent about four hours listening to music and it was great. We had a wonderful time!



Drink and ride around Nashville. Interesting!

A little Honkey Tonk country music!


My friend Jennifer from college was nice enough to invite us to stay with her in Nashville, but it was a very quick visit! We left Nashville about 8:00 a.m. on Sunday morning and had all intentions of stopping along the way to see stuff, but there really wasn't much to take in, so by the time we hit Chicago around 5:00 p.m., we decided to just head straight home. That was a long day in the car!! It was a great trip with a great friend...and we discovered that we travel well together, which is always a bonus.