Moving through life one recipe at a time

Moving through life one recipe at a time

Monday, January 26, 2015

Italian Chicken with Almond Rice

Happy New Year! My goal this year is to try 2-3 new recipes a month and to get back into the swing of writing. Ready? Here goes a new one! Italian Chicken with Almond Rice. This was adapted from SparkRecipes

I couldn't believe how easy this was and the chicken was very tender. Adding the nuts to the rice makes it similar to a rice pilaf. I will be making this again because I almost always have these ingredients in the fridge or pantry!

This time I cooked my rice according to my dad's rice instructions. Next time I would cook the rice in 1 3/4 cup broth + garlic powder + Italian dressing. Then use the remaining broth to cook the broccoli and deglaze the chicken pan. 

Italian Chicken with Almond Rice
2 very hungry grownups

2 boneless skinless chicken breasts (1 lb), cut into large chunks
1/4 cup Italian Dressing
1 can (10 fl oz) low sodium chicken broth
1/2 tsp. garlic powder
2 cups broccoli florets
1 cup white rice, cooked (under cooked by 5 minutes, when the rice has absorbed most of the water)
1/4 cup sliced almonds

Cook chicken in 2 tbsp. dressing in large nonstick skillet on medium heat about 4 minutes on each side or until evenly browned and cooked through. Remove chicken.

Pour in broth, garlic powder and remaining dressing; bring to boil. Add rice, broccoli, and nuts. Cook until rice absorbs most of the liquid and the broccoli is tender. 

Serve chicken over rice.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Pasta Sauce: Tomato + Onion + Butter

I started to eat then realized...wait! Picture! :)
I read about this pasta sauce recipe on Smitten Kitchen and since I have an onion lazing about on the counter... I decided this would be perfect for lunch!

I cracked open 2 cans of tomato sauce, chopped the onion in half, cut a hunk of butter and plopped it all into my pot. Let it simmer for 45 minutes and volia! Time to eat!

I will say that I was skeptical to make pasta sauce without any Italian seasoning or garlic...but I gave it ago! Next time I would add it just for the taste test opportunity.

This sauce was very very rich and very very good. I was very surprised at how much onion flavor came through and now I will never feel the need to chop up an onion for pasta sauce again!

Now what to do with the soft, sweetened, tomato sauce coated onion? I tried a nibble of the onion and it was quite tasty. One of the suggestions was to eat the onions on some warm bread.

Pasta Sauce: Tomatoes, Onion, and Butter
serves 3

2 cans tomato sauce (or diced tomatoes or whole peeled tomatoes, plus juice)
5 tablespoons butter (salted or unsalted)
1 medium-sized yellow onion, peeled and halved
Salt to taste

Put the tomatoes, onion and butter in a heavy saucepan over medium heat.
Bring the sauce to a simmer then lower the heat to keep the sauce at a slow, steady simmer for about 45 minutes.
Stir occasionally, crushing the tomatoes against the side of the pot with a wooden spoon.
Remove from heat and take out the onion.
Add salt to taste and keep warm while you prepare your pasta.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Shenandoah National Park

Shenandoah National Park

Skyline Drive - NPS Link. Wonderful drive! During nicer weather people will go for a nice motorcycle ride and many will bike it! There are scenic overlooks along the way. A few sections have bathrooms but be sure you plan ahead!

Baby Copperheads! Watch out!
Hiking

Old RagNPS Link
This is a great 10 mile car-door-to-car-door hike. Get there early to avoid crowds. We have done this hike several times. As we are faster hikers this takes us about 5 hours with a long break at the top. Bring LOTS of water. Also helpful to pack bug spray, sun screen, gloves for the rock scramble part and lunch/snacks. I don't wear my rings because I get nervous about losing a finger to a rock.

Park at the Ridge Trail Trail head. This is where you leave your park fee. Then it is about a mile to the actual trail. The first bit of the hike is steep switch backs under the treeline. Then it changes to rock scrambles and amazing views. To get back down there is the Weakly Hollow Fire Road trail and or you go back the way you came. Keep in mind that on busy days there can be quite a wait in some sections. Be patient and courteous! Oh, and pack out your trash! I always bring a grocery bag to collect folks trash along the way, but please don't litter!

If you are going to attempt this hike please do some research before on what to pack, what to wear, and how long you expect it to take. You don't want to get stuck on the mountain without a flashlight!

View from the Summit of Old Rag 9/2014
White Oak Canyon/Cedar Run Loop -
8-10 mile loop. There are some very pretty places to stop along streams and some great waterfalls. This is one of the more popular hikes so be prepared for crowds if you go during the summer and on weekends.

We parked at the trail head (Hawksbill Gap Parking) and it went down into the valley using the Cedar Run trail. Once you get almost to the edge of the park you hike back into the park using Cedar Run Link Trail to the White Oak Canyon trail. This will take you past the upper and lower falls. Be prepared to do LOTS of stairs. The trail is well maintained but it is rocky and a good portion of the trail is stone steps. From there you take the White Oak Fire Road that will take you back to the trail head.

This a great hike and one that I'd like to do again soon!
Giant Spider
Millipede
Upper Falls

Spider
Fluffy Caterpillar
Camping
**Cannot bring in outside wood due to the Emerald Ash Borer threat**

Mathews Arm Campground (mile 22)- This is one of our favorite campgrounds for car camping. The three times we have visited (July, August, and October) it has been relatively quiet and we have been able to pick a nice site without reservations. It has an of an outdoor/woodsy feel to it and is much smaller than Big Meadows. There are no showers. There are few hikes (Traces Trail) that are in the campground and a section of the Appalachian trail cuts next to this park as well.

Big Meadows Campground (mile 51) - We stayed at this campground once and have decided that this would be a great place for "intro" campers or for those with families. The bathrooms are close to the sites and well lit. The sites are also close together which would be fun for families or groups that want to hang out. The roads are not very busy and the kids can ride bikes around the streets.


Some of our other VA adventures here!

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Virginia Activities

Virginia

Mt Vernon - 6/2013 The home of George Washington! Beautiful gardens and a great view of the Potomac River. We spent a few hours there with the kids (2 kids elementary school age) one summers day. Bring lots of water and prepare for some lines going into the house tour. This is mainly an outdoor place with lots of outdoor exhibits that the kids can touch and explore. We spent most the morning there because we took a break to play on the lawns. No outside food or drinks (other than water) is permitted inside. Which was what caused our visit to be shortened. Review the What To See section on the site to determine how long you will want to visit. Prices are $9 for kids and $17 for adults.

Luray Caverns - 7/2013 What fun! This is located in the western part of VA just outside of Shenandoah National Park. We drove out early one day and spent the morning and early afternoon exploring. We did the tour which was very informative and the kids enjoyed. The caverns are pretty incredible and it is one of the larger caves on the east coast.This was a pricier activity at $26 for adults and $14 for kids but it was unique and interactive. Wear good shoes as the path underground can be a little slippery. There are stairs on the tour and some cramped walk ways. Would we go a second time? Maybe in a few years. There isn't much to do outside of the cavern tour and all the other activities that are offered on location are additional fees. After we finished our tour we drove part of the Skyline Drive at Shenandoah National Park.



Williamsburg - Check out my post from 7/2013 here.

Shenandoah National Park - 2013-2014 See other post here.
from the Summit of Old Rag at Shenandoah National Park

Monticello -  TBD

Natural Bridge -  TBD

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Chinese Rice Soup (Jook)

Oh the wonders of hindsight! This was my first Thanksgiving away from my family and Thanksgiving is not complete without some jook! I took the turkey bones from my fiance's family dinner and decided to make my first attempt!

Jook is Chinese porridge rice soup. In my family we serve it after dessert - around the time when lots of families are having some left over turkey sandwiches.

Once the turkey is served the bones are thrown into a pot withe some rice and cooked in that broth until thick. This is served with some green onions, crispy noodles, and some of the left over meat.

What I did:
Picked most of the meat off the turkey bones. Put the bones into the largest pot in the kitchen. Filled the pot with water until it was covered and then added in 3 cups of rice. This made a TON of soup. I ended having to take some out of that pot and starting a second pot. Once the rice was tended and mushy the soup was done. Carefully pick out all the bones and then we eat!

Next time:
I will make the broth first. Put bones in a large pot, cover with water, let simmer 30-40 minutes. Strain the broth with a sieve to catch all the bones, bone parts, and weird floating things. Pour the broth back into the pot and then add the rice to the broth (1 cup rice to 3 cups broth). Let it simmer until thick, approx 20-30 minutes. Then add the turkey meat and serve!

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Homemade Shake n' Bake Chicken

Need a dinner idea? This ended up being a crowd pleaser and I will make this again. I was going to purchase store brand Shake n' Bake or Oven Fry but both use High Fructose Corn Syrup. Since it was mostly breading I figured I would try and make it at home and I would also save some money!

I decided to use this recipe from The Black Peppercorn. I did make a few changes based on what was available in our house. I omitted the onion flakes, reduced the sugar to 1 tsp and reduced the black pepper to 1/2 tsp. Instead of a mix of parsley, basil, and oregano I used 2 tsp of Italian seasoning. I did use the 1/2 tsp cayenne but I would use 1/4 tsp or omit next time. It was ok, but the kids commented that there was a bit of spice (not that it stopped them from eating it).

Instead of shaking the chicken in a plastic bag I used a glass pie plate and dipped the chicken.

I used almost all of the seasoning on 6 flattened chicken breast so I estimate that the full amount of seasoning made below would coat 8 chicken breasts.

I served this with mashed potatoes and Oven Roasted Broccoli. I cooked the broccoli for about 15 minutes while the chicken was baking.

Homemade Shake n Bake Seasoning 
3 cups Panko bread crumbs
¼ cup vegetable oil
just under 1 tbsp salt
3 tsp paprika
1 tsp sugar
1 tsp garlic powder
½ tsp black pepper
¼ tsp cayenne pepper
2 tsp Italian seasoning

Mix all ingredients in a large bowl until evenly mixed and the bread crumbs are no longer 'clumpy' from the oil. Pour jar or plastic container and store in the freezer for 1-2 months.

Shake n Bake Chicken
  • Preheat oven to 400F. 
  • Pound chicken breast to about ¼- ½ inch thick. 
  • Rinse chicken in cold running water. Let excess water drain off.
  • Place chicken, one piece at a time, in the bag with a couple cups of the shake n bake.
  • Seal and shake the bag so that the chicken is totally coated in the breading.
  • Remove the chicken from the bag, shaking off excess breading.
  • Place on a cookie sheet lined with aluminum foil or on a silpat mat
  • Bake boneless chicken for 20-25 minutes.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Dinner Rolls

These rolls are easy and can be prepped ahead of time. I followed this recipe from The Kitchn. I made these to go with The North Carolina Pulled Pork. While great as regular dinner rolls, these would work smaller for sliders or larger for burger buns. 

from the fridge overnight 
1 hour from the fridge
cooked!
with the pulled pork
Dinner Rolls
Makes 12 rolls

Ingredients
1 tablespoon active-dry yeast
1/2 cup warm water
1/2 cup milk (I used almond milk)
1 large egg
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon salt
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon butter

Instructions
1. In a stand mixer: stir the yeast into the warm water and let it sit until dissolved.
2. In a separate bowl, whisk together the milk, egg, oil, sugar, and salt. Add this to the yeast mixture and stir until combined.
3. Add all the flour and stir until it forms a shaggy dough.
4. Knead the dough at low speed for 8-10 minutes, until smooth but slightly tacky. It should spring back when poked.
5. Cover the mixing bowl and let the dough rise in a warm spot until doubled in bulk, about an hour.
6. Dust your work surface with a little flour and turn the risen dough out on top. Divide the dough into 12 pieces. Roll the dough against the counter or between your palms until round.
7. Line a 9x13 pan with parchment and spray with nonstick coating. Arrange the rolls inside the pan spaced a little apart*.
8. Let the rolls rise until they fill the pan roughly 30-40 minutes. While the rolls are rising, pre-heat the oven to 375°F.
9. Brush the rolls with butter. Melt the butter and brush it over the risen dinner rolls. This helps the tops to brown and keeps the crust soft. (I forgot this step)
10. Bake the rolls until golden, 15-18 minutes.
11. Lift the rolls from the pan using the parchment and let the rolls cool on a wire rack until cool enough to handle.

*At this point you can also cover the rolls and put into the fridge to rise over night for dinner the next day. The next day let the rolls come to room temp (about 1 hour) prior to baking. Then continue with step 8.

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Homemade French Fries

"These taste like real french fries!!" The kids were pretty impressed that I was able to turn potatoes into french fries at home.

Super easy and a relatively healthy side dish. The silpat mat helps make the fries extra crispy.

Often these are served with Mr. Tom's Chicken and Oven Roasted Broccoli.


French Fries
1 potato = 1 to 2 people

Directions
Preheat oven to 400F. 
Peel raw potatoes. Slice them up. Thinner will cook faster.
Put sliced potatoes on silpat/foil/parchment lined cookie sheet.
Drizzle with olive oil and your choice of seasonings. I do a little garlic powder, salt, and pepper. Toss to coat all the potato pieces. If it was for adults I would add some cayanne or oregano.
Bake 25-45 minutes. The difference will be how thick the potatoes were cut and how crispy you want the fries. Fries are done when you pierce with a fork and the potato is tender.

Enjoy!


Saturday, October 11, 2014

Peanut Butter Cookies

Cookie time! I made this recipe with some homemade peanut butter. But other then that it is a very basic cookie dough and most people will have all the ingredients on hand.

I used a small cookie scoop so these cookies are all bite sized. I'm not sure why but I almost always make cookies that are small. But between the size and the sticky dough, the criss cross pattern was not meant to be. The recipe recommended rolling the cookies in granulated white sugar then doing the criss cross. If I did that, I would have reduced the white sugar in the cookies to 3/4 cup. But rolling the cookie in the sugar would have prevented the fork from sticking. Another thought that I think could have helped was if the cookies were larger and the fork was floured or buttered. 

Long story short, instead of making the fork prints - I gently pressed them flat with my fingers. That means I touched EVERY COOKIE! Touch it you take it, right?

Since I didn't want to wait 3 hours to chill the dough so I put it in the freezer for 30 minutes then popped it in the fridge for another 15 while I waited for the oven to free up. Yes, I would love to have double ovens in my kitchen!

What was interesting was the difference in the cookies with chilled batter vs not chilled batter. In this picture the top left is the 1st sheet from the fridge, top left is the 1st sheet without the criss-cross, bottom left is the 2nd round of cookies. Then I put the dough in the fridge between the 3rd and 4th cookie. Taste didn't change but the look certainly varied.

Regardless, these cookies didn't spread very much and I was able to fit 20 cookies on a regular sized cookie sheet.

The recipe said they would look kind of underdone when I take them off the sheet so I probably overcooked them, but we all thought they were great! I cooked them for 12 minutes.

The recipe below is adapted from Sally’s Baking Addiction. The site says that the cookies will store at room temperature for up to one week and that the baked cookies or dough will freeze for up to 3 months.

Peanut Butter Cookies
Makes 80 small cookies

1 cup unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
1 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup light brown sugar
2 large eggs, room temperature preferred
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup creamy peanut butter
3 cups + 2 tbsp all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt

Using a stand mixer with paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugars until smooth. Add the egg and mix on high until combined, about 1 minute. Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl as needed. Add the vanilla and peanut butter and mix on high until combined. Set aside.

In a separate bowl, toss the flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt together. Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and mix on low until combined. Dough will be thick, yet very sticky. Cover dough tightly and chill for at least 3 hours in the refrigerator.

Preheat oven to 350F degrees. Line two large baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone baking mats.

Press fork into the tops to create the criss-cross pattern. Bake for 12 minutes or until very lightly browned on the sides. The centers will look very soft and undone. The cookies will continue to "set" on the baking sheet during this time.

Dutch Oven Bread

I know bread is intimidating but this bread really was easy. I adapted it from The Lean Green Bean. It was very sticky dough so when you do take it out to knead make sure that your hands are well coated in flour. I let the dough rise next to the slow cooker while it was cooking this beef stew.

Oh my. This bread was so crusty and soft and chewy and just so easy. I will be making this recipe again. Ideas for future loaves include adding garlic, oregano, thyme, or rosemary to the dough.

When dealing with yeast I heat the water on the stove with a thermometer until it reaches 111F. Then I take it off the stove and pour it into a glass Pyrex. I figure 111F will be good because it may continue to get warmer in the pot and if the water is too hot it will kill the yeast. I add the yeast then and let is sit. You’ll know when it starts to activate as it will get a gloopy and start to have a scent.

It took about 10 minutes to get the dough combined then another 20 minutes of work with kneading it twice. There is about 5 hours worth of down time for errands, house cleaning, sports, and reading. Again, not a huge amount of time invested in this bread.

This is cooked the dough in this enamel cast iron casserole pan that has a cover. 
Dutch Oven Bread
Makes 6 large slices

1½ c warm water (110F-115F)
2¾ tsp active dry yeast
1 tsp sugar
3 c all-purpose flour
1 tsp salt

Heat water to 110-115F. Add yeast and pinch of sugar, let sit for 5 minutes.
Add salt and flour and stir until a shaggy ball of dough is formed.
Cover and let rise in a warm place for 4 hours.
Turn dough out onto a floured surface. With well floured hands, knead the dough 5-10 times.
Return dough to the bowl and let rise for another 30 minutes.
While dough is rising, place your dutch oven (uncovered) in the oven and preheat to 430F.
After 30 minutes, use floured hands to reshape dough into a ball and carefully drop into the dutch oven.
Cover and let bake for 30 minutes.
Uncover and let bake 10-15 minutes longer.
Remove loaf from dutch oven and let cool.

Beef Stew

Here is a yummy (and easy) slow cooker beef stew recipe! I found the recipe off All Recipes. I selected it based off the over 2000 reviews. Because this was a meal that included kids (and they will refuse to eat a meal based on seeing certain ingredients) I blitzed the onions and celery in the food processor so that there were no visuals. Keep the potatoes and the carrots in the larger chunk sizes so that way they aren't mush after cooking for so long.

I prepped and assembled the meal the night before and kept it in the fridge. I woke up on Saturday morning, plugged in the slow cooker, then we ran our errands and attended our sporting events. We came back to a delish and warm stew!

I also made a loaf this dutch oven bread.

My dad's tomato based beef stew recipe can be found here!

Slow Cooker Beef Stew
Serves 6-8

3 - 4 pounds beef stew meat, cut into 1 inch cubes
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ground black pepper
1 1/2 tsp oregano
1 heaping tsp paprika
1 heaping tsp garlic powder
2 bay leaf
2 tsp Worcestershire sauce
1 tsp of gravy master
1 onion, chopped
2 stalks celery, sliced
4 potatoes, large dice
4 carrots, sliced thick
2 cups beef broth
12 oz frozen peas

Put all the ingredients (minus broth and peas) in the slow cooker and stir together so everything is coated. Then add the beef broth and give another stir. Everything will be a soupy mess.
Cover and cook on low for 10-12 hours or on high for 4-6 hours.
About 20 minutes before serving add the bag of frozen peas.

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Chicken Rice Soup

While it is almost 90F… fall is coming! I swear it! So here is a quick and easy chicken soup recipe that you can quickly assemble for those cool evenings. The roux will create a creamer thicker broth for the soup.

If you are cooking for picky kids puree the onion, garlic, and celery in the food processor. You’ll get the flavor but none of the texture. Rice can be substituted for pasta. Left over chicken would work too. And any veggies that may be having a slow death in your crisper drawer could be included in this as well! Flavors that would be tasty would include a few slices of ginger in the broth while cooking (remove before serving) or lemon juice in the broth.

This soup freezes well, just omit the rice/pasta. When you are ready to eat make the pasta/rice when the soup is heating up and then combine. This prevents the rice/pasta from being gummy and mushy.

Chicken Rice Soup
Makes 4-6 servings

2 tbsp oil
Small Onion, diced
3 garlic cloves, minced
3 carrots, sliced
3 stalks of celery, sliced
4 tbsp flour
2 tbsp butter
1 tbsp seasoning (oregano, Italian seasoning, or parsley)
1 can of corn (optional)
4-5 cans of chicken broth (it seems like a lot of broth but it will absorb and thicken as then soup sits in the fridge)
3 chicken breasts (cooked)
1 cup brown rice (uncooked)
Salt and pepper

To Cook Chicken:
Preheat oven to 350F. Season chicken with salt and pepper. Cook for about 30 minutes. When it is done take it out and let it cool. Shred and put aside.

To Cook Rice:
1 cup rice in 1 ½ cups of liquid (I do a split between water and chicken both). Bring to a boil then reduce to a simmer. When liquid is mostly absorbed (after approx. 25 minutes) turn off the heat and put aside.

To Make Soup:
While the chicken and rice are cooking, start making the soup! Heat large pot. Add a little oil and add in the garlic, onion, carrots, and celery. Season with salt and pepper. Let it sauté 5 minutes. Add butter and stir into the veggies. When melted add in the flour. Stir to coat the veggies. Add in seasoning of your choice. Season with salt and pepper. Add ½ can of broth and stir so the broth doesn’t become lumpy. When broth is smooth add in rest of the broth. Add chicken and rice when they are done cooking.

Friday, September 5, 2014

Roasted Lemon Broccoli


Here is a recipe for a fast and easy dinner veggie! The broccoli shrinks a lot when it gets roasted so we can eat 3-4 broccoli crowns for 2 people.

Update 12/20 - Finally had some left over and remembered to take a picture. This is also tasty with a little Parmesan cheese sprinkled over the top!

Roasted Lemon Broccoli
serves 2-4

2+ Crowns of Broccoli
1 Lemon
2-3 tsp Olive Oil
1-2 tsp Garlic powder

Preheat oven to 400F or 450F. Line cookie sheet with foil or use a silpat mat.

Wash and cut broccoli. Squeeze the lemon for the juice, drizzle olive oil, and spring garlic powder, over the broccoli. Toss to combine. Spread over the broccoli across the cookie sheet

Roast for 10-15 minutes. Take out when tender and crisped to your preference.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Mr. Tom's Grilled Chicken

Mr. Tom (aka my dad) made this grilled chicken when we were on vacation in Hilton Head. Everyone loved it so much I've made it almost every week since then! It is moist, light, and flavorful. Best part? It is 2 ingredients.

This chicken has also been used as the base for taco meat (shred and add taco seasoning), sandwiches (grilled chicken and cheese panini!), and salads.

Mr. Tom's Grilled Chicken
One pound of meat = 2-4 servings

Chicken breast and Chicken thighs
Italian Vinaigrette Salad Dressing

Clean up the chicken (pick off any fatty pieces you don't want). Then pour the salad dressing over the chicken. It doesn't have to soak/be submerged, but the chicken should be coated. Let it marinade for 4-5 hours.

When it is dinner time...turn the grill up to medium high. It is about 5-6 minutes per side for the breast (they are super thick and I forget I wanted to thin them until after they are on the grill). And it is 3-4 minutes per side for the thighs.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

2014 Hilton Head, South Carolina


Hilton Head, South Carolina

Accommodations: Marriott’s Sea Pines Resorts
Hotel Activities: Beach, Pool
Outside Hilton Head: 2 Hour Kayaking Tour from Shelter Cove Marina
Restaurants: One Hot Mama’s Restaurant

What a great vacation! We had a wonderful week long trip to Hilton Head South Carolina. The 12 hour drive was a bit tiresome for the 4 of us, but we had scavenger hunts, the license plate game, bingo boards and some books on tape to entertain ourselves! 

I had spent a few hours putting together the 100 item scavenger hunt for the drive. This was good for both the 7 and 9 year old but the 9 year old was more interested in the license plate game than the 7 year old. I'll post a link for these files to this post. If you have younger kids you could do this with pictures instead of text and they could find the pictures. 

We also played word games such as picking a category and then listing items that start with the last letter of the previous word "a is for alligator, r is for rhino, o is for ostrich..." another game was listing out animals in alphabetical order.

Almost all of our time was spent relaxing at the beach, playing with our boogie boards and building sand castles. There are lots of sand dollars in the shallow part of the beach that you might step on and we found many pretty shells. The kids had never been to an ocean beach before and were very concerned about being in the water. This was an awesome first beach experience. The water was warm and there was no undertow. The beach was clean and had soft sand (aka I grew up with the Maine rocky beaches). 

There were 2 pools and a kid’s sprinkler pool. The hotel offers activities that families can join. There were cook outs, tie dye shirts, limbo, complimentary exercise classes, hammocks, corn hole, shuffle board, and more. We brought bikes because there are many bike trails but we were having too much fun at the beach to go exploring too far. They also have bike rentals for tandem bikes, kid attachment bikes, and the bike trailers.


The first day there were jellyfish in the water. But we think it may have been because there had been a rain storm. Jellyfish stings are treated with spray bottle of salt water and vinegar. If you do get stung, use a lot of the spray! The spray will neutralize the stings and any stingers that are left on the skin. 

Our one adventure off the resorts property was with Outside Hilton Head. We went on a 2 hour kayaking tour from Shelter Cove Marina. A bit pricey but well worth it. We saw dolphins, birds, and were able to learn about the salt marshes. The salt marshes flood and then drain with each tide. Cordgrass is one of the main plants in the area and it can survive in that diverse environment. The cordgrass creates shelter and food for the fish, oysters, clams, and crabs.  
Baby lizard!
After kayaking we decided to check out One Hot Mama’s restaurant. Between the four of us we were able to have a good sample of the menu: pasta and sauce, brisket chili, baby back rib tips, grilled chicken breast, homemade kettle chips, baked beans, mac and cheese, and The Big Daddy super sandwich (beef brisket, pulled pork, pepper jack cheese, chipotle mayo, coleslaw, onion rings, on a homemade roll). Would we come back? Maybe. The food was tasty but I think there are many other restaurants in the area we would want to try out before coming back.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Corn, Tomato, and Avocado Salsa

Quick, light, and easy summer salsa. I brought this for a work potluck and served with chips. I had the leftovers that night on tacos. I prepared the salsa the night before to let the flavors mingle. Other versions include cumin for some kick. Enjoy!

Corn, Tomato, and Avocado Salsa

1 ear roasted corn, off the cob
1 Red (or orange, yellow, or green) Pepper, diced
2 Roma Tomato, diced
1 cup Cilantro, chopped
1 can Chickpeas (or beans of your choice)
1 lime, juiced
Salt and pepper to taste
1 Avocado, sliced

Combine all the ingredients above except the avocado. Add the avocado right before serving. Keep refrigerated until ready to serve.

Monday, June 9, 2014

Chocolate Brownies

Late night craving for brownies! In less than 30 minutes I had fresh brownies to serve with a scoop of vanilla ice cream. These are more cakey and less fudgey than the Brooke's Bombshell Brownies from the Slutty Brownies (layers of brownie + chocolate chip cookie dough + Oreo's).

I started to half the recipe and then forgot I was doing that... so the recipe had half the amount of butter and chocolate and then the regular amounts for the rest of the ingredients. I just went with it rather than trying to adjust the butter once I read these Brownie Tips. This make the brownie more cake like than fudge like. I liked these better than the other brownies I've made in the past.

I baked these in muffin tins using the silicon muffin holder-things and the brownies don't stick very much to those.




Chocolate Brownies

¼ cup unsalted butter
4 - 8 ounces coarsely chopped quality semi-sweet chocolate (4 oz was plenty chocolate-y)
¾ cup granulated sugar
¼ cup light brown sugar
3 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
½ cup + 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 Tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
¼ teaspoon salt
½ cup semi-sweet chocolate chips (optional)
½ cup chopped nuts (optional)

Preheat oven to 350F degrees. Line the bottom and sides of a 9x9 inch square baking pan with aluminum foil, leaving an overhand on all sides. Set aside. (If using cupcake tin use cupcake papers or use non-stick spray, seriously, they will stick).

In a medium microwave safe bowl melt butter and chocolate, at 20 second increments, stirring after each, in the microwave. Remove from the heat, pour into a large mixing bowl, and allow to slightly cool for 10 minutes.

Whisk the granulated and brown sugars into the cooled chocolate/butter mixture. Add the eggs, one at a time, whisking until smooth after each addition. Whisk in the vanilla. Gently fold in the flour, cocoa powder, and salt. Once combined, fold in the chocolate chips and nuts.

Pour batter into the prepared baking pan and bake for 30-35. Mini-cupcakes take about 20 minutes, regular size cupcakes take about 30 minutes. A toothpick inserted in the center should come out with only a few moist crumbs when the brownies are done.

Let brownies to cool completely in the pan set on a wire rack. Once cooled, lift the foil out of the pan using the overhang on the sides and cut into squares. For neat squares, use a very sharp knife and wipe it clean with a paper towel after each cut.

The brownies will stay fresh in an airtight container at room temperature for 1 week.

Friday, May 30, 2014

Yellow Cake with Chocolate Frosting

Great moist cake and sugary sweet frosting! By the time I realized we should take pictures we had eaten most of the cake...out of the baking pan! Next time...

Yellow Cake
adapted from Allrecipes.com
makes one 8in cake

½ cup butter
¾ cups white sugar
3 eggs
1/2 cup milk
1 cup flour
1 tsp baking powder
¼ tsp salt

Preheat oven to 350F. Grease and flour 8 inch round pan or 9x9 baking pan. 

Combine flour, baking powder and salt. Set aside.

In a large bowl, cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in the egg yolks one at a time. Stir in flour mixture and milk, mixing just until incorporated. Pour batter into prepared pan.


Bake in the preheated oven for 25 to 30 minutes, or until tops spring back when lightly tapped. Cool 15 minutes before turning out onto cooling racks.

Chocolate Frosting
Adapted from Allrecipes
Makes about 2 cups of frosting

2 ¾ cups confectioners' sugar
6 tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder
6 tbsp butter
5 tbsp milk
1 tsp vanilla extract

Sift together the confectioners' sugar and cocoa, and set aside.

In a large bowl, cream butter until smooth, then gradually beat in sugar mixture and milk. 

Blend in vanilla. 

Beat until light and fluffy. If necessary, adjust consistency with more milk or sugar.

Friday, May 9, 2014

Fast Blueberry Muffins

Uh oh! I have breakfast duty for work tomorrow! What can I make without having to go to the store? I had some dried blueberries in the pantry, so muffins it is!

I hydrated 1/2 cup of the blueberries by soaking them in hot water for 30 minutes. While they were soaking I made the batter. Frozen blueberries would work as well. The original recipe had a yummy crumble on top, but that would require taking out the food processor which would then need to be washed...so I didn't add it, but I'm sure it would have been incredible! I did sprinkle a little sugar over the tops of the muffins before baking.

Blueberry Muffins
Adapted from All Recipes

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup white sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/3 cup vegetable oil + 1 egg + ? milk = 1 cup
1 cup fresh blueberries

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Grease muffin cups or line with muffin liners.

Combine flour, sugar, salt, and baking powder. Place vegetable oil into a 1 cup measuring cup; add the egg and enough milk to fill the cup. Mix this with flour mixture. Fold in blueberries. Fill muffin cups right to the top.

Bake for 20 to 25 minutes.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

2013-2014 D.C. Activities and Food

D.C. 
Here are some of the places I have visited in D.C.. Please let me know if you have any questions!

SMITHSONIAN MUSEUMS
Air and Space Museum - This is one of the most popular museums but I wasn't crazy about it. The Air and Space Museum has several examples of different airplanes, there is a space shuttle you can sit in, and there are several exhibits on flying and space. Because this is one of the most popular museums there are often lines to get into the museum and it can be crowded inside.

Air and Space Museum - Udvar-Hazy Center - Located in Chantilly, VA (near Dulles Airport). This has the space shuttle, blackbird, concord, Enola Gay, and lots of other airplanes and engines. There is a $15 fee for parking but the entrance is free.

American History Museum - Lots of random exhibits here, but something for everyone! Food history, military, American history, trains, or art, this museum has it all. The First Lady dress exhibit is here too. Depending on how interested you are in the exhibits you could take 20 minutes to a full day here.

Museum of Natural History - So much fun! This is home of the Hope Diamond, Dinosaur Fossils, Geology exhibits and more. Lots of things to touch for the kids and interesting things to read for the more grown up. Depending on the patience/interest of kids and grown ups this could take about 1 hour to a full day.Take the metro in and you'll be right near the National Mall for some outdoor walking and the monuments.

National Zoo - Free, open year round. Maps, strollers, and food are available onsite for a fee. There are picnic tables if you bring your own food. Very limited parking, for example late April on a Saturday the parking lots were full by 10:30am. Street parking in the neighborhoods is available and it is a short walk from a metro stop. Can easily spend a whole day there. If you go in the winter many of the animals will be inside so you won't be able to see much. There are a few inside exhibits like the Pandas, Reptiles, and Elephants so you can see a few animals in bad/cold weather.

Portrait Gallery - This museum is a toss up. If you like art you could be here for several hours checking out all the pictures and info cards. If you are only looking for a specific exhibit you could be in and out in less then 30 minutes.

NATIONAL MALL
National Mall - Bring a history buff and you'll have a lot better understanding of why these monuments were built and why they are so important. If you can't bring anyone, get a really good guide book and this will really change your view. The National Mall has lots of places to sit and enjoy the views of the Tidal Basin, Reflecting Pool, and different water fountains as well.

Cherry Blossom Festival -  Everyone goes. Be prepared for lots of crowds, think Times Square crowds and tourist groups. Everyone is taking lots of pictures, no one is walking at the same pace, and traffic is all sorts of hectic. Plan for and expect those conditions and you'll be fine. If you want a leisurely view of the blossoms you may want to try during the week when everyone is at work or a weekend ahead of the peak blossoms. I've never done it but there are lots of boat cruises along the Potomac during this time and you can rent a paddle boat in the Tidal Basin.

OTHER
Botanic Gardens - Indoor exhibit, it is open year round. The gardens are broken out into different rooms based on climate but there are also a couple areas for endangered plants and a specific orchid exhibit. There are some gardens outside but this is seasonal. Expect to spend 30-90 minutes here.

International Spy Museum - There is an entrance fee. While a lot of the museum is focused on the James Bond exhibit there is quite a bit of history regarding spy tools and the history of spying in the US. Interactive museum where you first select a spy and have to remember their information during the exhibits and there are many gadgets to test out and explore so it isn't just reading.

Marine Silent Drill Team and Marine Drum and Bugle Corp Practice at the Iwo Jima Memorial - Tuesday evenings during the spring/summer months. This Marine tradition,the Silent Drill team does not have any verbal commands during the entirely synchronized routine. The Drum and Bugle Corp is one of the elite military bands. I've never seen anything like this before and it was a great free experience that if you are in the area you shouldn't miss!

FOOD
Baked and Wired - Great bakery and coffee shop located in Georgetown. Check this place out!

Brasserie Beck - Fancy place with lots of seafood options. It was very tasty but since it was mainly seafood dishes I don't think I'd go back.

Chop't Salad - Salad chain that prepares salads to order. Great healthy lunch option that isn't too pricey when you are out and about in the city!

Daily Grill - A slightly upscale restaurant. We went for Mother's Day and the food was great! I had the pasta primavera which was a very small portion and not what I was expecting...but everyone else's food was big portions and tasted great! Between the 8 of us we had fish, crab, rice, pasta, veggies, and more. Try their fresh strawberry lemonade it was fantastic!

Founding Farmers - Wonderful food with a seasonal menu. Almost everything is made in house or sourced from certain farms. Highly recommend the green goddess and bread platter or some of their fresh made pasta. Make reservations in advance.

Matchbox - Specialty pizza restaurant that serves other incredible salads, sandwiches, and has a huge drink menu. Make reservations because there is almost always a wait outside during main dining hours.

Poets and Busboys - A fun forward thinking quirky restaurant/book store. They have a selection of book sto browse from in the front while waiting for your table. They offer vegetarian, vegan, and gluten free options. Another unique aspect is they have events in the evenings for local talent. They don't take reservations.

Sweetgreen - Home of my favorite tangy frozen yogurt! They make delish salads to order using local ingredients. There is even a blackboard that says where all the ingredients came from. Check this place out!

Tonic - Great bar food and sandwich shop with a class spin. Many beer tap options and drink options.

Z Pizza - Chain restaurant with specialty pizza shop for not super expensive. They offer salads, gluten free/vegan/vegetarian options as well.