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