Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Summer Garden Pasta Salad

Pasta salads seem to be getting the cold shoulder from anything that doesn't resemble a party. It just doesn't seem fair! The only time I ever see one of the nice, cool and refreshing salads is at a potluck, family reunion, or other get together. I never saw that in the cooking rule book and I think it's time to bring the dish back to every day life.

I made a pasta salad the other day for lunch. Yes, lunch. There was nothing fancy going on that day, and it was a pretty normal Monday, but I just had the urge to make one and eat one. It was a little creamy, a tad crunchy, and after only four bites, I was full. Was it good? Yep. Was it that filling? You betcha!

My Mongolian Meal

Chinese food might be my 2 year old's favorite type of food. In fact, he would probably eat orange chicken every day if I let him! My husband and I also love it but ordering take out is pretty expensive. I like to make my own versions every once in while because it really cuts down on cost and it's much healthier. Since it's no secret that Chinese food is loaded with salt, cooking meals at home allows me to control the salt content a little bit. Most restaurants also fry the meat used in their dishes so I use minimal amounts of oil to saute the meat rather than have it soaked with oil.

My version is pretty basic but has all the flavor. It has just the right amount of sweetness without being overwhelming and it's a meal you can feel good about giving to your whole family.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Freezing Summer Berries

It's sad, but berry season will be ending soon. This is about the time that I buy a couple pounds when they're on sale and freeze them for a later use. Frozen berries can be used in so many things (sauces, drinks, desserts, etc.) so it's worth it to stock up before the prices go up.

Freezing berries is pretty easy to do. If it isn't done properly though, the berries will all mash together and it's virtually impossible to separate a few berries at a time if it's all one big, frozen lump.

Here'a a simple step by step guide for freezing berries. A lot of tip sites will have you freezing berries individually on a baking sheet before storing them, but this isn't doable in my house. I have a side by side fridge/freezer so I've devised my own little technique...

Time For A Drink: Banaberry Colada

I usually post meals and such that are friendly for the whole family but I'm changing things up a bit today. Sometimes it's nice to have a something - perhaps a drink - that's just for grown ups.

One of my favorite drinks is a Pina Colada. I love 'em! I'm sure it has nothing to do with the fact that I believe coconut is one of the best flavors ever, right? (If I could make everything in the world taste like coconut, I would in a heartbeat.)

Friday, August 26, 2011

A Little Cup of BBQ-y Goodness

Finger food is the best. There's just something about being able to pick up the food you're eating with your bare hands and just go at it. It's fun, it's primal, it somehow makes food taste better.

I came across a recipe for these little BBQ meat cups many years ago. I think it was from a fundraising cookbook that I bought at one point but I couldn't tell you where it is now. They seemed pretty interesting at the time so I thought I'd give 'em a shot. They turned out to be really good and super fun to eat. I make them a couple times a year to add a little variation to the everyday menu. I keep talking about changing up the ingredients to make a pizza version and an Italian version, so keep an eye out for those sometime in the future.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Fantastically Fun Finger Paint

I made my very first batch of homemade finger paint this morning. It was pretty easy to make and it was even more fun to use! I first got the idea of making my own from a friend who makes her own for her 1 year old to use. It's easy on the budget and you don't have to worry about your kid having a little taste because it's all natural ingredients that are non-toxic and used in everyday cooking.

Before I planned on cooking up the mixture, I did a little research and looked at some recipes on some sites throughout the web. They were pretty standard with some calling for cornstarch and water while others called for flour and water. I wasn't keen on the mixtures that just had cornstarch and water because it seemed like it would be way too clear when all was finished. The flour/water combination, on the other hand, seemed like it would have too much of a glue consistency and be too opaque. I decided to come up with my own recipe using cornstarch AND flour so I could have the best of both worlds.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Simple Homemade Applesauce

When I was little, my grandma would babysit me along with my sister and cousins. She was probably the best cook I've ever known and I can safely say that I'm biased because everyone thinks their own grandma is the best cook. Well, I have one up on them because not only was (and still is) my grandma the best person, but she's Polish which, by default, makes the food that much better. Ok, enough of my favoritism...

One of the many dishes that my grandma would make on a regular basis was applesauce. I remember helping her peel and cut apples after school and being her taste-tester when the batch was just about done. She would make these giant pots full of applesauce and then can them for giving out to the entire family. She was cool like that. I haven't hit that canning stage yet so I tend to make my applesauce in batches that serve only a few. It's so easy to make that I'd rather eat it fresh every time.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Some Good, Old-Fashioned Pizza

Everyone loves pizza, right? Well, let me rephrase that a bit. Everyone loves good pizza, right? I always used to say that any pizza was good pizza and it was hard to find one out there that didn't taste good. But then I grew up and discovered a world that was filled with grease and cardboard. Whenever you order a pizza from the standard joint around the corner, you're pretty much guaranteed to get that nasty, greasy pizza with paper stuck to the top. If you pop in a frozen pizza, you get a result that tastes more like a box than a yummy treat. My husband and son would probably disagree with that statement, but I'm just not a fan.

In my efforts to have a healthier household, I whipped up my own homemade pizza the other day. I don't usually have yeast in my house so I used what I had on hand to create a tasty pizza crust using just a few ingredients and very little time. It was easy to put together and I found comfort in knowing what ingredients went into making it and what greasy concoctions didn't make the cut.

Friday, August 12, 2011

A Little Break From Technology

It's been a rough few days over here. There was a huge AT&T phone outage in our area and we lost our internet service Tuesday night. You may be thinking that this is really no big deal, but when you come to rely on something every day, it's hard to be without. This is especially true in my line of work. I work from home and spend about 75% of my day online for work. I've also been finishing up developing two websites and updating another so it was pretty much impossible for me to get anything done. I know I should have embraced this opportunity and taken some 'me' time to relax, but the stress of not having the internet made that very difficult.

What was a girl to do? Well, this girl had to improvise. Wednesday was spent in meetings and running around so it was an off-site work day. Yesterday, I tried that whole 'I can't work so I might as well take a vacation day' thing. I spent a lot of time hanging out with my son and I'm glad I did. I want to have that quality time before he grows up and wants nothing to do with me. There were moments of frustration and anxiety over not being able to meet deadlines, but I survived and had a pretty good day. We went to the park, played with trains, put together a puzzle, and went to visit his aunt and my parents. Today was a little different though. I couldn't go another day without getting some work done so I had to relocate to another location that did have internet. Back to the folks it was. Thank goodness they live nearby so I could mooch off their network! By the time I got home around 5, our internet was up and running again. I was able to finish up some things tonight and I think I'll be able to breathe and relax over the weekend now.

This whole outage fiasco got me thinking. I'm going to try to limit my time in front of and around technology. It will be hard because of work, but my son is only 2 and a half so I want to try to spend as much time with him as I can. When he's not with a sitter, I'll save most of my work and blogging for after he goes to bed. And I'll also try to take a night off here and there to spend some time with my husband. Yes, that might mean a movie night sometimes, but at least we'll be together without computers in front of our faces. And maybe we'll even whip out monopoly ever once in awhile. I think it's time to realize that life is too short to rely so much on the laptops and TVs of the world.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

A Fluffy Piece of Inspiration

As an artist and designer, I find inspiration everywhere I look. I can appreciate the artistry and hard work that goes into pretty much any form of art. The piece of art can be anything from macaroni noodles stuck to a piece of paper with glue to an elaborate painting hanging in the finest museum. It can also be a hand-crafted wooden table or even something as simple as a cupcake.

The popular tiny cake was the highlight today's adventure. I was at a bridal shower and the sister of the bride-to-be made some of the cutest (and tastiest) cupcakes I've ever seen.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Grilled Plum Pork

Pork Chops. They've always been a challenge for me because I could never get them right. I usually pan fry them and they end up slightly overdone and dried out. But that's only because I have this fear that they won't be done and well, under-cooked pork is not only unsafe, it's just plain gross.

I thought I'd try something different this time by grilling some boneless chops. I've never cooked them this way before and since it's grilling season, I felt it was time. I whipped up a marinade that would be sweet with a hint of spice and I'm glad I did because it made them really juicy. I think this is going to be my go-to pork chop recipe from now on.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Petite Pizza Party

Last night, I continued my search for more kid-friendly food and I'm happy to report that this one made the list. The fare of choice was fun to eat,  full of good for you ingredients and they tasted great. The latest kid-approved meal: pizza pockets and pizza balls. They were pretty easy to make, even though I may have gone a little overboard with the toppings. I filled some with chicken, some with spinach, and a couple with veggies. I'm not a fan of pepperoni but my son and my husband love it so I also had to fill a few with the ever-so-popular pizza topping.