Friday, January 30, 2015

Breaded Baked Fish

I went to one of my friend's houses for dinner (thanks Angela!) and she made this yummy baked fish! It seemed so easy that I asked for the recipe so I could try it. I've never really made fish before so this was an experiment. Other than the fish, I almost always have these ingredients in the house.

I purchased frozen boneless Tilapia fillets. They seemed forgiving and not as scary as other fish. I defrosted 2 fillets in the fridge for dinner the next night. I will be honest, I ate both of them and did not make any sides or veggies or anything

It took me 5 minutes to prepare and then 15 minutes to cook, so it in 25 minutes (to allow for a bit of cooling) you can have dinner ready!

Checking for flaking

Breaded Baked Fish
2 fish fillets (tilapia, defrosted)
1/2 tbsp of butter, melted
1/4-1/2 c bread crumbs
2 tsp Italian seasoning
2 tbsp Parmesan cheese
salt & pepper

Preheat oven to 400F. Prepare a baking dish or cookie sheet with tinfoil and grease it.
Open fish package and put the fish on the prepared pan.
Drizzle a tad bit of melted butter over the top of each fillet.
In a small bowl combine salt, pepper, breadcrumbs, Italian seasoning, and Parmesan cheese.
Sprinkle mix over the fish.
Bake 15 minutes. Fish is done when it flakes.

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!

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
Upper Falls

Fluffy Caterpillar
**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


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.

05/2015 - Our 2nd visit to the caves! We enjoyed the views and the details just as much! The only complaint was that we went during a holiday weekend so there was no official tours - just at your own pace. We (including the kids, now age 10 and 8) felt that we missed out on a lot of information that was provided last time.

Outlanders River Campground - 05/2015 - This campground was great! It was along the river and you can go tubing or fishing right near your camp site! Each site has a fire ring and a picnic table. 

There are several sections of campsites. The top section is for RVs, the top near the woods where has tent sites and you can park your car there, the middle which is for tents and has a very short walk from your car, and water front (primitive) which is for tents and you have to walk down many steps/long ramp. The top is also where the bathrooms and utility sink are located. There is 1 port-a-potty located in the waterfront area. 

We stayed at Primitive sites P4 and P5. These were awesome because no one walks thru your site, you can hear the river, and it was very peaceful. If you were at P6 or P7 you walk along a small walkway which would be difficult to maneuver your gear and supplies. It would also be a pain any time you needed to leave. Others didn't think these sites were that great because of the walking so when you store food in your car you do have to take a few trips. 

You have to purchase wood at the campground. There are several areas that you can drive to for a longer tubing experience that you can go for free. The showers were ok and the water was warm. It was a pretty standard muggy water logged communal bathroom. Would we stay here again? Maybe, if we were doing things outside of the park but we do like the campgrounds at Shenandoah National Park better. This is a couple minutes away from stores (Walmart, McDonalds, etc) and from Luray Caverns.

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