Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Dee...

It's been a very long time, but she sang for a 50th anniversary party this weekend...


Friday, June 24, 2011

The Scone Experience...

I have learned only only in the last year or two that there are two different kinds of scones.  In England, a scone is more of a cakey or American biscuit texture... it could be plain, it could have fruit mixed in to the batter, it's not overly sweet but it's melt in your mouth delicious and in my opinion, it is absolutely best when served with clotted cream and jam.  It might look something like this...


or now-a-days they can be cut into triangle shapes like this...


But here in Utah, they also have "scones" that look like this...


I'm not sure if this is a Utah thing or if they call them this around the country, but I've only heard of these being referred to as scones since living here... I have always known this more as "fry bread" and they are served with butter and honey or sprinkled with powdered sugar.

Now don't get me wrong... both are extremely yummy.  You just crave different things at different times you know?  And a couple of nights ago, I was seriously craving the more traditional English scones and I did NOT want to try and make any.  So I was telling Dee what I wanted, and she got to wanting something fruity too, so she popped over to Walmart to get something to try and satisfy our cravings, (like a turnover, maybe).  However, while she was there in the bakery department, she called me to tell me that she found a little box of mini cranberry & orange scones.  Yay!  I was so excited! 

So she brought them home and I bit in and it was pretty good... not home-baked yummy of course, or made-in-England yummy, but it was good enough to satisfy my craving and I was happy.

Dee says she wants to try one.  She has never had a scone before.  (I know, what a horrible English mother I am to have never made them for my kids.)  So she grabs one and bites in to it but then hands it back to me immediately with a horrid look on her face.

"Ew... that tastes like paint!" she says.

Um... PAINT???  What the heck?  Who even knows what paint tastes like???  And if you did, I'm pretty sure it wouldn't taste like SCONES!

So now I'm totally bothered that this was her first scone experience and she thinks they are gross and taste like paint.  Consequently, I'm on a mission.  This weekend I am going to try and make something like THESE from scratch... 

And she IS going to try them... and I will continue to make them until we find one that she likes... don't worry, I'll keep you posted! :)

Friday, June 17, 2011

My New Favorite...

I am in loooooooooove... with my new piece of furniture!  Cari from Homemaker Is Not A Dirty Word did a giveaway, and what an incredible giveaway it was!  If you won you got to pick from three beautiful pieces of furniture and she finished it for you how you wanted it.  I know right????  I didn't really think I had a chance, but I had to enter and try and I was soooooooooooo ecstatic to hear that I won! 

I wasn't sure how I wanted my piece finished... all I knew was that I wanted it black or antique white so that it would match anywhere I put it, so I left it up to Cari and her creative genius.  Well Cari brought it over Saturday night and can I tell you... it is the most amazing piece of furniture in my house.  I am absolutely 100% in love with this hutch.  It feels like Cari looked in to my head and created this perfect little piece of heaven for my home. 

I am not the only person in my house that loves it either.  I didn't even have to think about where to put this piece because my 14 year old son loved it so much that he threw my entryway table up the stairs and replaced it with the hutch himself. 

I'll be changing the stuff he put in and on it, but just so you can see how stinkin' cute it is... here is a pic. 


If you want to see more, better pics... you can go over and check out the ones Cari took on her blog. And be sure to follow her.  She has the coolest ideas and is VERY talented.  THANK YOU CARI!!!!!!! :)

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

We Like-a The Greek...

I have been to Greece twice in my life and it is my absolute favorite country that I have ever visited (other than England of course).  I have clear memories of visiting the Acropolis in Athens where we walked around the ruins of the Parthenon and down the many steps of the Theatre of Dionysus.  I remember my little sister Jenna and I racing on the track where the first Olympics were held in Olympia and getting on boats and buses to visit other amazing parts of the Greek islands with my Mum and Dad.

It may not surprise you to hear though, that my most vivid memories are of the food!  I remember seeing spits of lamb being roasted vertically and eating meat that was freshly carved off of it... and eating Greek Salad with lettuce, tomatoes, olives and feta cheese at the Greek Tavern with grapes hanging down all around from the garden arches. Oh, the flavors... dolmathes, spanakopita, moussaka, gyros, souvlaki, baklava... my mouth waters just thinking about it all... was it any wonder that one of the first things I made for my hubby when we got married was authentic Greek moussaka?  I thought he would just HAVE to love it. It took me two hours to make that dinner... and he wouldn't even try it!!!!

Ah well, he has broadened his culinary horizons since then quite a lot and he likes Greek food too thanks to our two favorite Greek restaurants from back east... Chef Theo's and Greek Village.  These restaurants were owned and run by Greeks so they served served authentic Greek cuisine.  No Americanized chain restaurant food served here!  One of our favorites has always been the gyro's or souvlaki served on Mediterranean flat bread. 

So this week we decided to try and re-create the Greek flavors I crave and attempt our own Souvlaki here at home.  I looked at many different recipes for a Greek marinade and tzatziki but ultimately I decided to try the ones from Our Best Bites, because I always love their recipes AND I absolutely adore the photographs... the food always looks so perfectly good.  So I whipped up a batch of their Greek Dressing/Marinade.  I knew this was going to be a good choice because it had freshly squeezed lemon juice, oil, parmesan cheese, cracked black pepper and minced garlic... all the key flavors for me.  Once the marinade was together, I cubed up boneless pork loin, poured half the marinade over it, (reserve the other half for drizzling later), and let it sit for at least 30 minutes to an hour.


While that was marinating, I threw together the tzatziki.  You can't have souvlaki without tzatziki.  I'm pretty sure it is illegal. ;)  I prefer the English cucumbers over the regular ones for this recipe, because they aren't covered in wax, so you don't have to peel them if you don't want to, and there are a LOT less seeds... so you don't have to seed them if you don't want to... but that's my preference...


Once the meat is good and marinated, throw it on the skewers and grill it about 3-4 minutes on each side... till it looks kind of like this...


Now make sure you picked up some gooooooooooood flat bread... Regular pita pockets just don't cut it.  I personally like these...


...but any flat bread will do. Brush the bread lightly with olive oil and grill them for just 30 seconds or so on each side... till they are warm and just starting to crisp.  Now place a flat bread on a plate and drizzle it with a little of the left over dressing/marinade.  Top it with the pork off of one of the skewers then add shredded romaine lettuce, chopped onion, halved grape tomatoes, kalamata or black olives and tzatziki.  Then drizzle a little more dressing and sprinkle feta cheese over the top. 


I'm not gonna lie... this is pretty heavenly... It's gonna make you want to smash your plate on the floor and shout "OPA!!!!" when you are done. :)

Monday, June 6, 2011

The Black Thumb Of Death...

I am a TERRIBLE gardener.  I have never been able to get anything to grow nicely.  Anyone who knows me will tell you that I can't even keep plants in my house alive.  I have the black thumb of death. :(  Last year I thought I might succeed when I bought just three simple bushes and some marigolds to plant outside the front of the house, however, around the same time one of our neighbors dug up their yard and we got voles.  Those little nasties ate every stinkin' bush and plant right down to the roots leaving only the tags that I had left on the bushes!

Well, we got rid of the vole problem and this year I decided to try one more time... I decided that I would plant rose bushes and daisies... because I love them both and they looked to be pretty low maintenance and should continue to bloom year after year.

I wasn't expecting to see any actual roses on the bushes this year, so when I counted 8 buds between the three bushes the other day, I was pretty dang excited.  Then this morning I found this...


And in between the rose bushes, we have these...




Now I just have to hope and pray that the kids in the neighborhood who did this to my tulips a month ago...




...will leave my Roses and Daisies alone! :(

Friday, June 3, 2011

Oooo La La Mac & Cheese...

Actually, I don't know if you can technically call this "MAC & Cheese".  I have always preferred penne or rigatoni noodles to macaroni noodles because they are bigger... so the cheese melts all around and inside of them... and when you bite in to it, the cheese squirts out in your mouth and for that moment you think you have died and gone to heaven...  So NO little macaroni noodles in this house!

Warning, this recipe is not really Weight Watchers friendly, (this big pan I put at 12 servings and each serving is 13 points), but I have to indulge my fam every now and then and this is my kids absolute favorite meal that I have been making since they were little.  I'm not a fabulous cook in any measure of the word, but when I make this for dinner you would think that I had served them a gourmet four course meal.  Hearing them "oooooh" and "mmmmm" for the 15 minutes we are eating makes me one happy mama.  :)

So here is the catch... I have been making this for SOOOOOOOOOOO long and I don't use a recipe and I don't measure anything.  So here are the ingredients and my best guesstimation for the amounts... (And by the way, this makes a TON!)

24 oz rigatoni or penne pasta (or one 12oz box of each)
1/2 stick butter or marg (4 Tbsp)
2-3 Tbsp cornstarch
4 cups milk
16oz SHARP cheddar cheese (I just use the bags of pre-shredded)
1 Tbsp spicy brown mustard (IMHO, this is the key to any good mac & cheese, so don't leave it out)
Dash of salt & fresh ground pepper to taste
8-12oz shredded three cheese blend

Cook your pasta in lightly salted boiling water for aprox 8-10 minutes... you don't want it all the way cooked because it is going to continue to cook in the oven. 

While your pasta is cooking you start by making a basic white bechamel sauce... (If you have never heard of this, it is a french white sauce that can be used as is or as the base for many sauces depending on what you add to it... I use it as the base for cheese sauce, alfredo sauce, sausage gravy... you name it!)

Make a roux, (pronounced "roo"), by melting the butter in a large saucepan till frothy and then stirring in the corn starch.  (It will look like a thick yellow paste.)  Let it cook for a couple of minutes then whisk in the milk, (four cups or enough to fill the saucepan 1/3 to 1/2 the way full), salt and pepper.  Keep whisking until the sauce starts to thicken.  (For basic bechamel you would just add a pinch of nutmeg here, but for this cheese sauce I leave that out.)

When you feel the sauce start to thicken, add the 16oz of shredded sharp cheddar and the mustard and whisk until it's all melted and smooth.  By now your pasta should be cooked.  Drain it and return it to the big pot and pour the heavenly melted cheesiness all over it.  Try not to just eat the noodles out of the pan at this point because it smells soooooooooooo good and you will practically be drooling.

I like to use one of the disposable lasagna pans for this dish, because it is slightly bigger than a 13x9 and this fits in there perfectly.  (Plus they are 2/$1 at the dollar store and you can just toss it when you are done.)  Spray it with pam and pour HALF the pasta mixture into the pan.  Now here is the secret... sprinkle that half of the pasta mixture with half of the three cheese blend, then pour the remaining pasta mixture over the top and repeat with the other half of the three cheese blend.

VoilĂ !  Now how easy was that???  Your dinner will look like this before you bake it...



My kids are usually begging to steal noodles out of it by this point, but tell them no!  Now throw it in a 425 degree oven for 20-25 mins.  You want it bubbly and golden on the top and just starting to crisp on the edges... like this...

 

Hmmm... I couldn't decide which pic I liked better... they both make my mouth drool... so you get another one... 



Now dish it up and be the hero.  You deserve it! :)


Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Spontaneity...

We spent Sunday night out and about visiting family and friends so by the time we got home at 10:45pm we were absolutely starving!  You should have seen the initial looks I got when I suggested that we grill some burgers, but since we didn't have school or work on Monday the fam quickly agreed that it might be fun.  By the time we got to bed it was way past midnight but we had a blast sneaking outside and trying to be quiet as mice so we wouldn't wake our neighbors.  We then pulled out anything out of the fridge that might be considered a burger topping and munched down while watching Everybody Loves Raymond.  It really is the little things that beautiful memories are made of. :)