Thursday, May 31, 2012

Must Try Pasta Salad

I have never been a huge fan of pasta salad, but Breanna, my sister-in-law, makes pasta salad I really like.  Our friend Danielle also makes a pasta salad from the box that is really good.  I took inspiration from both of them to create a filling pasta salad that I could take to lunch.  I have been needing new lunch ideas that can stay cold.  For my pasta salad I put lots of veggies, chicken, pasta and cheese.  The key to this pasta salad is grilled vegetables
 We started with vegetable kebobs that we bought from Kroger, our grocery store.  I sprayed them with cooking spray and then sprinkled Tony's Creole seasoning
 Then Cliff grilled them.
 Cliff also grilled chicken.  Cliff made BBQ chicken for Memorial Day, so I had him throw on an extra chicken breast with salt, pepper and olive oil for my pasta salad
 Cliff is really good at grilling!
 These were so good, and easy.  It would be fun to make your own, but it is a really easy to buy them made.
 This was our Memorial Day meal
After we ate I got to work in the kitchen.  I am going to call it pasta salad from the grill and you have to try it.  First start to boil your noodles, I chose tri-color rotini.
 While the pasta is cooking, cut up your veggies (from one vegetable kebob), and chicken (I cooked my chicken in a little white wine because it was a little undercooked, and I think it added a lot of flavor).  Set that aside and check your noodles.
 When they are done, drain your noodles and add chicken-veggie mixture, olive oil, italian dressing seasoning, balsamic vinegar, red pepper flakes, salt and pepper
 You can taste it at this point to see if you need more seasoning
 Last, add cubed up mozzarella and baby tomatoes.  Give it all a good stir and let it sit overnight.  This pasta salad was amazing and easy.
Pasta Salad From the Grill
1 large chicken breast, grilled (optional: if you leave it a little pink you can dice it and finish cooking it in a little white wine)
1 vegetable kebob, grilled
1 1/2 cups pasta
3 Tbsp. Olive Oil
2 tsp. Balsamic Vinegar
1 packet Italian Dressing Seasoning packet
S & P & Red pepper flakes
6 oz mozzarella cheese, cubed
2/3 cup baby tomatoes (doesn't have to be exact)

Cook pasta according to package.  Cut up your grilled chicken and veggies.  Drain pasta and add chicken-veggie mixture.  Add olive oil, balsamic and seasonings.  Stir to combine and add more seasoning to taste.  Add tomatoes and mozzarella, stir and let sit overnight.  This makes about 4 servings as a meal, and more if you are only having it on the side.  I took it for lunches two days this week and it is a great way to get veggie, protein, dairy and grains into one meal.  Enjoy!

 In other news, I had to share this yummy dessert idea with you.  While we were in Austin, Joyce had a massive container of chocolate chip cookies.  Obviously we had ice cream around and we made these awesome ice cream sandwiches.  Just scoop ice cream of your choice onto a cookie of your choice and top it with another cookie.  Wrap in saran wrap and re-freeze for at least of couple of hours so it can harden back up and stay together while you devour it.
This was not staged, but isn't it awesome.  His aunt was reading Shape (and dodged the picture), and Cliff is stuffing his face with ice cream.  He told me not to take the picture, can you tell?
I have had another busy week.  Looks like that is the new norm for a while.  I will be blogging when I get time and coming up with new recipes each week.  Hope everyone has enjoyed the short week and is ready for the weekend. 

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Hanging With Family

We made it to Austin to spend time with Cliff's family.  We are having a good time so far.  There have been a few setbacks-me getting sick and Cliff's parents going home early, but we are making the most of it!  We went downtown yesterday to check out the farmer's market.  There were a lot of cool things there.  This being one of my favorites
I have never seen hair like this on a dog!
Cliff's mom also bought this vegan oatmeal sandwich cookie that was amazing.  Sorry I didn't take a picture of it but I am going to try and re-create it for sure.
We left Friday afternoon and this was my road trip food!
 If you ever need to pack a cold lunch, this is my new favorite!  Hummus, raw zucchini, turkey, cheese and crackers or french bread.  I also had some sweet potato chips on the side.
 When we got to Austin we went to The River City Grille that is right on the river.
 It was a fun place
 His aunt got this massive green chile potato chip crusted chicken breast.  It was the biggest piece of chicken I have ever seen
 Cliff and me split a cheeseburger and loaded green chile potato nachos
 They were spicy and delicious
I made Overnight Breakfast Quiche for breakfast and his aunt had already cut up some awesome fruit.  A great way to start your morning.  I hope everyone is enjoying the weekend.  I'm not sure what else we have on the list today but I'm sure we will find something fun to do.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Exciting News

Cliff got me an amazing new camera which means I get to take amazing pictures now!  I have wanted a camera for a while...but not bad enough to spend the money on it.  Our three year anniversary is coming up and he surprised me with the best camera.  He is so good at technology stuff and he got one that is really good quality, but simple enough for my behind the times technology mind!  I didn't get to play with it as much as I would have liked because I have been so busy.  But it did give me the motivation I needed to blog.  Sorry I have been missing in action.  It has been a very tiring week.  I am so excited because Cliff and me are going on a little weekend trip to see family.  I guess my energy levels are up in anticipation for that (not to mention eating Gigi's cupcakes after dinner).
 Mississippi Mud Cupcake
 My Aunt brought these bad boys over for dessert tonight
 She ate the wedding cake one, Cliff and I shared the peanut butter chocolate and the Mississippi mud!
I ended up finishing Cliff's Mississippi mud cupcake because he said they were too sweet.  They are too sweet when you eat more than one (which may be the reason I am still up)!  The frosting is so good.
I did not get the chance to cook a lot this week.  I made Pizza Pasta tonight.  My favorite meal of the week was the night Cliff made bacon wrapped burgers on the grill.
 He just patted out hamburger patties and wrapped uncooked bacon around the meat (secure it with a toothpick).  Then grill to perfection.  With some typical Lauren sides.  By the way, Cliff only had meat and potatoes and I think that made him pretty happy!  More green beans for me.
 Here are some cute graduation cards I made for my boss!
 I did not make many interesting meals this week but I'm sure we will this weekend.  I will get to take lots of pictures with my new camera and maybe I can get back to normal blogging next week.  Hope everyone has had a great week.
In the morning, Lord, you hear my voice;
    in the morning I lay my requests before you
    and wait expectantly. 
Psalm 5:3

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Enjoying the Weekend

Let's start with the new recipe I tried today.  Banana Biscoff Smoothie-need I say more.  Many of you are probably thinking, "What is Biscoff?"  It is high time you learned because it is so good I just want to drink it out of the jar.  It is not healthy in any way whatsoever, so don't get that idea, but it is a delicious treat.  Basically it is cookies that are blended with oil to make this beautiful, creamy, spreadable cookie.  My favorite way to eat it so far is on fruit, but it is also good in oatmeal.  They should pay me to sell this stuff (but they don't!).  It is kind of pricy, but I got lucky and found it at our Wal-Mart for $4.  Okay, on to the smoothie.
 I should have done a close-up, but here it is with our lunch of English Mufffin melts.
In the mix for 2:
1 cup milk
1/4 cup vanilla yogurt
1/2 cup plain yogurt
9 ice cubes
1 large frozen banana
a sprinkle of cinnamon
2-3 Tbsp. of Biscoff
Blend until smooth and enjoy because it pretty much tastes like a milkshake!
 I made Whole Wheat Buttermilk pancakes for breakfast before church this morning.  This is my all-time favorite recipe.  You have got to try this recipe, it is very simple and easy
 I have posted the recipe before as a link but I think it will be easier if I just write it out so you have my variation!  We devoured them:)
Whole Wheat Buttermilk Pancakes
1 cup whole wheat flour (sometimes I put a little bran mixed with the flour)
1 Tbsp. brown sugar
1 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. salt
1 beaten egg
1 cup buttermilk (or 1Tbsp vinegar mixed into 1c milk)
2 Tbsp. cooking oil (I usually use a little less-like 1.5 Tbsp.)
Chocolate chips (optional)

Combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt (sometimes I do a sprinkle of cinnamon if I am in the mood).  Make a well in the center of the flour mixture and set aside.  Combine the egg, buttermilk, and oil.  Add egg mixture all at once to the flour mixture.  Stir just until moistened (batter should be a little lumpy).
Lightly grease a griddle or skillet and let it get hot.  I cook mine on med heat.  Use 1/4 cup to scoop out the batter into about 3-4 inch pancakes.  Add chocolate chips now if you are going to!  Flip when the little bubbles start to disappear or you see the edges starting to set.  Enjoy with peanut butter, butter and syrup!
*Recipe from Better Homes and Gardens Cookbook

In other news, we gave away our old bikes today.  It is a little sad because we rode these bikes all over our college town Portales, NM.  Cliff's is a road bike and mine is a very rusty old mountain bike (Wal-Mart special about 8 years ago).  It was kind of sad to let them go
Goodbye Ol' Faithful!
Cliff made breakfast sandwiches Saturday morning!  They were amazing-bacon, egg and cheddar
I made tater tot casserole again.  Love this stuff, especially with a side of green beans
I pulled these amazing peanut butter chocolate rice crispy treats out of the freezer.  There is only one left which means I will be making them again soon
I am off to make calzone!  Hope everyone is having a good weekend.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Cheeseburger Pizza

Glad it is Friday!  I saw something awesome and hilarious today as I was leaving Walmart.  To understand you need to know that we have police on horses here and they patrol shopping areas/parking lots.  For some reason it always cracks Cliff and me up.  One time we saw one of the police officers bagging a massive amount poop that his horse let out on the sidewalk (yikes that guy was mad).  Today I looked up and saw a horse-police man at the drive up window of Popeyes.  As I'm hurrying to get my camera phone the thought does cross my mind that I don't want to get caught...would it make him mad?  I took the picture anyways but sadly it is really hard to see because I don't have zoom.  I will show you anyways and you can humor me and find it somewhat amusing please!
Not only was this funny, he made a lap around the building and then returned to the window-that is why I got a little closer in the safety of my car!
 First time made:  Cheeseburger Pizza
 Our friend made this a few weeks ago at build your own pizza night and I have been craving it ever since
Ketchup and mustard sauce topped with hamburger (you can put it on your dough raw-sounds nasty but cooks beautifully), bell pepper, tomatoes, cheddar and provolone.  It was super good.
I used my Modified Dough Recipe and it was as amazing again.  I cooked it at 450 for about 18 minutes.  Cliff said it tasted like a double cheeseburger (which is one of his all time favorites) so I say this is a major success.  I wish there were more leftovers.  Tonight we went to Ranchero for our amazing potato nachos.  We sat out on our back patio when we got back and ate extremely delicious ice cream cake.  I am stuffed and ready for bed.  Have a great weekend everybody.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Oven Baked Tostadas

Here is an easy healthy meal.  It is really affordable too:)  I didn't realize how easy it is to bake your own tostada shells (even tasted better than deep frying them which I tried over the weekend).  We ate tostadas a lot growing up but I have a better appreciation for them now that I like things like veggies and beans! 
 Topped with refried black beans, fajita chicken, cheese, lettuce, tomato, salsa and avocado.
 For the shells all you do is rub oil on corn tortillas.  Put them in the oven at 400 for 15 minutes, flipping halfway through.  It may take less time than that so keep an eye on them.  Top them with your favorite toppings.
On an exciting note we found racoons on our work site.
 Cute little baby racoons.  I just love them
 Okay, one of them was actually kind of mean
 Help!!  Get me out of this place.  The electricians were picking them up and petting them but all I could think about is the diseases I might get if I touched them.  I am probably paranoid.  It was fun to look at them though
 I wanted a simple meal to cook tonight so I planned to make baked fish (beer battered freezer section fish).  Served with shells and cheese and green beans.  This meal reminds me of home and that makes me smile.  We did enjoy some ice cream cake for dessert which was AWESOME.  Gotta get some stuff done for dinner tomorrow.  Have a great night

Monday, May 14, 2012

Hollandaise Steak Bruschetta

Happy Monday everyone.  It has been a good day-I got off work in time to go to a kick boxing class.  It was a lot of fun and the instructor was hilarious.  I came home hungry and ready to start some dinner.  A while back Cliff went to a place that served steak bruschetta and he has been talking about it for two weeks.  Since we had a little leftover steak from Friday night I decided to re-create it. 
I love this meal.
 I broiled slices of baguette and then flipped them and topped them with caramelized onion and a steak tomato mixture I had made.
 Put these on a plate and drizzle them with hollandaise
Devour and I'm pretty sure you will want more.  These would make a good appetizer for friends and I really liked having them as a meal
Since the brownies I made for the cake were a new recipe for me (and I had a couple leftover), Cliff and me each had one to see how we liked the recipe.  I believe it is my new go-to recipe for homemade brownies.  They were dark, rich and the texture was awesome.

Hollandaise Steak Bruschetta
1 onion, sliced
1 Tbsp butter
S&P and a touch of sugar for the onion
1 french baguette, cut into 1/3 inch slices
Leftover steak sliced thin (the portion I used was probably the size of 2 decks of cards)
10 baby tomatoes
Hollandaise sauce (I use Knorr's Hollandaise powder to make my sauce)

First caramelize you onion by melting your butter in a skillet over med-low heat.  Add onion slices and stir.  Cover for about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.  As they start to brown and soften, add a little sugar and salt and pepper.  Stir frequently and leave the lid off for about 5-10 more minutes.  Place the onions onto a plate and turn the heat up on the onion pan.  Leave the onion crust on the pan and add your steak and water to scrape the bottom of the pan to get the onion flavor incorporated into the meat (it's called de-glazing your pan).  Add your tomatoes and let them cook for 1 minute.  Take off the heat and place that mixture on a plate.  Spray a cookie sheet with pam and then lay your baguette pieces flat.  Broil for 1-2 minutes and then take them out to flip.  Once you have flipped them, top them with caramelized onion and your steak tomato mixture.  Put them back in the oven and broil for 1-2 minutes more.  Place the bruschetta on a plate and drizzle it with hollandaise.  Enjoy

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Amazingly Overboard

Last night at our friends graduation party she had an ice cream dessert instead of cake.  It was basically a crushed oreo crust topped with ice cream and re-frozen.  It was so good that I wanted to come home and make one for our freezer.  Cliff and I were talking on our way home from church and I said we should go get oreos and he laughed and said why...."So I can make that amazing ice cream dessert."  To which he said, "I think you should just make a giant brownie crust instead."  Oh, okay, maybe I will take it one step farther and make an ice cream cake topped with homemade brownies!  Cliff helped me come up with the overall idea and he said he wanted it to be his Valentine dessert (I gave him a coupon for a dessert of his choosing for part of his V-day gift).  He REDEEMED his dessert today!!!
 Extreme Peanut Butter Ice Cream Cake
 A mouth watering bottom layer of peanut butter chocolate chip cake
 Homemade chewy fudge brownies for the top
 These are the brownies pre-oven but thought they needed a pic side by side.  I baked them while the cake was cooling
 When the cake is almost cool, you take your favorite ice cream and scoop it on top of the cake.
 A beautiful layer of ice cream
 As the ice cream sits you can smooth it out and then put it back in the freezer.
 When your brownies are almost cool, cut them up and crumble them over the top.  I needed some pretty contrasting color so I went ahead and drizzled some white chocolate over the top!

Served with a cup of coffee and a movie.  I think Cliff was pleased with his Valentine Dessert.  May I also say we like to call this a Mother's Day Cake.  Even though we didn't get to see our Mom's today we did talk to them and send them a picture of this beauty because we would have loved to share with them.

Lauren's Extreme Peanut Butter Ice Cream Cake

Layers Include:  Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cake, Ice Cream of your choosing, Homemade Chewy Cocoa Brownies and a drizzle of white chocolate.  Check out the recipes I used.  Then read how I assembled it all at the end

Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cake
1 cup sugar
2/3 cup flour
1/3 cup oat flour (oats blended in blender, can use normal flour instead)
1 egg
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 cup sour cream
1/3 cup creamy peanut butter
1/2 cup butter (1 stick)
1/2 cup water
splash vanilla
1/2 cup chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 375.  In a large bowl combine the sugar and flour.  In another bowl beat egg, baking soda and sour cream until combined.  Set aside.  In a small saucepan melt butter, peanut butter and water over medium heat.  Bring to a boil stirring constantly and take off heat right after it boils, stir in a splash of vanilla.  Pour hot peanut butter mixture into the flour mixture and stir well.  Add the sour cream mixture and beat until well combined.  Pour into a lightly greased round baking pan (I used a large spring form pan for the purposes of the ice cream cake).  Or for a thinner cake you can bake it in a 13x9in cake pan.  Top with chocolate chips and bake for 15-20 minutes.  Toothpick inserted into the center should come out clean.
*Recipe from Mels Kitchen Cafe.  I halved her recipe and changed it slightly.  If you want to double my recipe above (or check out here recipe) you can bake in in a 15x10in jelly roll pan.  She also had a great frosting if you were just making the cake.  If I was not using it the base of my ice cream cake I would frost it with chocolate frosting for sure.

Chewy Cocoa Brownies
I followed this Nestle recipe exactly and then added some chopped Hershey bars before putting it in the oven.

Ice Cream of your choice
My choice was  a 1/2 gallon of Blue Bell Dessert Trio which is vanilla ice cream with chocolate chip cookies, pecan brownies, chocolate coated cake and a swirl of chocolate sauce.  I know I know you can wipe up your drool now!

White Chocolate Drizzle
Place 1/2 cup white chocolate chips in a small bowl and place in microwave.  Heat 45 seconds at 70% heat and stir.  Keep heating in 15 second increments at 70% heat until soft.  Place in a ziplock bag and cut the tip of the bag.  Drizzle the white chocolate onto your cake.

 Important Ice Cream Cake Instructions:

Make and bake Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip cake in a large spring-form pan.  While that is in the oven start your brownies (box brownies would be fine if you wanted to make this a simpler process).  When your cake comes out of the oven put it on a cooling rack and then put your brownies in the oven.  Start cleaning your mess because it is a big one!  When your cake is cool to the touch and the pan is still a little warm, top with ice cream.  As your ice cream melts a little, start to smooth it out.  Place that in the freezer and let your brownies cool as that starts to harden.  When your brownies are almost cooled, cut them up and place them on top of your ice cream.  Put it back in the freezer and you can melt your white chocolate.  When you are ready to drizzle take your cake out one more time and drizzle your chocolate over the top.  Let it re-freeze for at least 2 hours and then you are ready to serve.  Enjoy this highly indulgent cake.

I am headed to bed but had to share this before I started my busy week.  Have a Happy Monday and a great week.  See you soon for more new recipes!