31 December, 2010

Happy 19th

For our 19th anniversary my oldest son gave us a gift certificate for Flemings. What a sweet and thoughtful kid. :) Flemings is a wonderful steakhouse and wine bar here in Nashville.  They have restaurants all over the country including Omaha and Denver if any of you midwesterners are interested.  Our experience was superior, from the delicious Caesar salad with anchovy laced dressing to the perfectly cooked filet mignon to the chocolate molten lava cake, it was a terrific meal with fantastic service and one we'd like to repeat again soon.
Here is my filet mignon cooked perfectly medium.  We had sauteed mushrooms in butter and garlic and Fleming's potatoes which were their house specialty with cream, jalapeƱos and cheddar cheese.
This was the delicious chocolate lava cake with a molten middle.  They served it with Chantilly cream.  The ice cream and pistachio cookie was also wonderful.  Even their coffee was superb!

Happy Anniversary to my hunk- hunka DLP.  Love you so much.
Happy New Year everyone!!!

My new favorite Pinot Noir

I forgot to mention we discovered a wine we loved too.  We ordered a bottle of pinot noir with our dinner.  The bottle was one of the least expensive on the menu (I'm married to an accountant btw).
It was called Hahn-Monterey, and here's a picture ~
This is a terrific, smooth, and full bodied wine. It runs around $15 at the wine store.

29 December, 2010

Dwell Studio Rugs

Honestly, I just love pretty much anything Cynthia Rowley designs, and most anything that comes out of Dwell Studio (even the Target version) I am a fan of, so I wasn't surprised when I found my new favorite rugs there.
Here's a couple of my favorites:  


And if you happen to be in the market for some new bedding-
feast your eyes on the beautiful duvets below.
That window shade below is probably my favorite thing ever. 

27 December, 2010

Matzo ball soup

I've always wanted to make matzo ball soup.  Today, I finally did.  The matzo balls are like nothing I've ever tasted.  They are kind of a cross between a dumpling and a meatball (no meat tho').  My middle son enjoyed this and my husband actually ate 4 matzo balls.  That could have been because he was under the impression there was chicken in the "meat"balls.  As he was eating and grabbing himself two more matzo balls I had to mask my smile (almost a laugh) with a mouthful of soup or he would have been suspicious.   I enjoyed this soup very much.  By the way, this recipe, I've been told, is not kosher.  That doesn't matter to me one way or the other but I thought I'd mention it.  Have a wonderful evening. :)

  • 1/2 c. matzo meal
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 3 eggs
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 3 tablespoons minced fresh parsley
  • 1 onion, minced
  • more matzo meal as needed
  • 96 ounces chicken broth (I use low sodium)

  • Melt butter in a large skillet over medium heat and stir in matzo meal.  Stir until mixture is dry and slightly brown. Remove from heat and stir in eggs, salt and pepper to taste, parsley, and onions.  Mix iin more matzo meal to make mixture hold together. Make them into balls rolling them in your hand.  In a large saucepan, bring chicken broth to a slow boil over medium heat; drip the balls in the broth. When they rise to the top they're ready or you can let them stay in longer to soak up more chicken broth flavor. I like to take them out when they're done.  Serve soup as the balls rise to the top of the broth.  Enjoy.

Forward thinking

Do any of these young girls so eager to tat up their bodies stop to think of how cute that tattoo will be in, say, 10-15 years? After having a baby, or two, or more?  Just curious.

26 December, 2010

We had a beautiful white Christmas in Mt. Juliet 2010!  This is serious snow for TN folks.  :) The only Bradford Pear left in our yard.  We've lost 3 in the past 7 1/2 years due to wind and lightning.

Our old house in Spring Hill.

Wow...I can't imagine the effort it takes to get all this Christmas stuff put up, not to mention the light bill.  I don't know who lives here but it was a very pretty home and display.  I was just experimenting with my camera and taking pictures of the lights and snow.

23 December, 2010

Spicy Chicken Stir-fry

With Christmas upon us it's so nice to have the family together these last few days.  My oldest son is working part time but for the most part our family is spending some quality time together which I love.  I love cooking for everyone and being able to have dinner together which we rarely accomplish during our busy regular schedules.  Wow, do things ever change as your children grow!  
  If you haven't gathered by now my family loves Thai and Asian cuisine (especially stir fry). I love to cook in my wok and they most always love it (really they do!!). :)
If you have a wok or even a large frying pan, and a few staple Asian ingredients you are well on your way to a simple, healthy meal that you can get ready in no time.
Tonight I used chicken thighs (DLP and my boys love dark meat) with yellow and orange bell peppers.  You could use any meat and any vegetables you had on hand.
Low sodium Kikkoman soy sauce, fresh ginger, fresh garlic, sesame oil, and brown sugar are staples I always have in my pantry.
So here's how I did it:
3 1/3 lbs. of boneless, skinless chicken thighs, cut up in pieces
2 large bell peppers, sliced in strips (I used orange and yellow)
1/2 c. Kikkoman low sodium soy sauce
2 T. fresh chopped ginger
4-5 garlic cloves, chopped
                                                             3-4 Thai peppers, chopped, optional if you like heat. you may want to use gloves to chop as they are VERY HOT!!! Make sure you don't touch your eyes or any other sensitive areas after chopping if you know what I mean. :)  Yep. I just said that.
4 T. brown sugar
1 T. canola oil (more as needed)
1 t. sesame oil (more as needed)
Jasmine rice
Take a large bowl and pour in your soy sauce.  Add your chopped garlic, ginger, brown sugar, and  Thai peppers and stir to combine.  After you've chopped your chicken thighs put them in the soy sauce marinade.  Let it sit there soaking up the marinade while you prepare your wok/frying pan.  Let your wok heat over medium high heat a couple minutes before adding canola and sesame oil. After it gets nice and hot put in your meat (let most of the marinade stay in the bowl so it cooks/browns faster).  Since I cooked 3.3 lbs. of meat I did it in 3 batches.  Let the chicken cook quickly and remove to a separate dish when cooked through.  You may want to add more canola and sesame oil if cooking multiple batches. 
After all your meat is cooked and removed to a separate dish add the peppers and quickly stir fry.  We like our peppers with a bit of crunch so it doesn't take long.  After they're done you can add your cooked chicken back in.  You can pour the rest of the marinade over, stir and heat until good and hot.  My kids love the extra marinade at the bottom of the wok over their rice..

                                  ***THAI PEPPERS***  These little firecrackers are available at your local Asian or International Market.  Ask for Thai peppers.  If you don't like heat, leave 'em out because they are very hot.  A little bit goes a long way!!!
 I've talked before about rice cookers.  If you make Asian food with any frequency you must have one.  The difference in rice made in an actual rice cooker and a pot on the stove is HUGE!!!  They are not expensive and totally worth the extra effort to get delicious, authentic jasmine rice.  Just like the Asian restaurants serve.
Jasmine rice is a favorite of our family.  You can find huge bags in the Asian markets at great prices.  Give it a try, I bet you don't go back to regular rice.
I hope you try this.  If you do I'd love to hear about it--- Please comment.

20 December, 2010

Peanut butter balls

Here is another yummy candy you can whip up super quick for the holidays. My mom used to make these at Christmas time. You know how sometimes you think of a certain someone/thing when you eat a certain food??? Maybe you have no idea what I'm talking about.  Anyway for those of you who understand what I'm talking about, for some reason I associate these peanut butter balls with Scott Baio.  Hilarious.  I must have been watching an episode of Joni loves Chachi while I was eating one way back when  :) These are so much better than a store bought peanut butter cup.
Peanut Butter Balls:
1 c. peanut butter (I use crunchy)
6 t. butter, softened
2 c. powdered sugar
1 pkg. chocolate candy quick, Almond Bark,
 etc..whatever it's called in your part of the country.
1-2 t. milk, if needed
Mix peanut butter, butter, and powdered sugar.  
form into small balls.  This is where you can add some milk (a teeny bit at a time) so it will come together easier.  Make the balls and set aside.  I put mine in the fridge while I melt the candy quick.  Now roll the balls into the candy quick and set on wax paper or foil. Let them harden.

19 December, 2010

Amazing Grace by Philosophy

The next  fragrance I've chosen is Philosophy's Amazing Grace.  I love a clean and simple fragrance. It's a perfect counterpart to my Flowerbomb.  It's not like I've sprayed on fragrance, but like I'm freshly showered and clean.  I am going to layer it with body wash, lotion and then the fragrance.  This one I will wear all day everyday.  Top notes on this are mandarin orange, grapefruit and bergamot; middle notes are freesia, jasmine and rose; base notes are and musk. **Amazing Grace and Flowerbomb are my Christmas scents this year.


I know it's been awhile since I've done a "scent search" post.  Life is busy ya know.  
I have found not one but TWO scents I'm getting for my Christmas scent(s).  I'm the fragrance wearer that is very particular about what I buy and wear.  I have allergies and a very sensitive nose so I need to be very careful in choosing a scent.  I don't know about you but I sure don't want to spend good money on a fragrance I'm not able to wear and enjoy it.  I have to try a fragrance for a period of time before I buy it.  
I'd seen Flowerbomb from time to time but I hadn't tried it despite it being introduced in 2005.  Last weekend while perusing the fragrance counter I noticed it and gave it a try. I stood and smelled...and smelled... and smelled.  I told the perfume chic I'd have to test it out a while before buying, but I thought it was a winner.  After leaving with a sample on my wrist I found myself back at the counter a few hours later (about 6 shopping bags later).  I still liked it after all that time passed.  That says a lot since scents don't usually make it past an hour before making my nose itch, giving me a headache, or fading too quickly for me to even remember the name. ** Top notes shiver with fresh and sweet accords of bergamot and green tea. A heart is floral and opulent with intensive, sweet and pure Sambac jasmine, seductive Centifolia rose, freesia and Cattleya orchid. Musk and patchouli in a base wrap us with an oriental scent, while its milky and powdery notes gently fondle the skin.  Very nice.  I am inclined to wear it for an evening scent primarily, but I could be persuaded to wear it more frequently.

17 December, 2010

little b-ball man

My 9 yr. old (he's in yellow) is playing basketball for the first time this year.  He's attending a camp right now before they make teams and start the season.  He's so cute out there on the court and doing really well.

09 December, 2010

Christmas goodies

Do you give goodies away for the holidays?  I have a few friends and neighbors I like to give to (including our kind mailman).  My husband gives to a couple people who work for him.  I enjoy doing it if I have time and I had an extra couple hours today so it worked out well.
Pay Day bars are easy and so delicious.  They are packed with peanuts so they aren't all bad and give you a bit of a protein punch too.  You will love them and so will everyone else. 

      Pay Day Bars:

1 box yellow cake mix
1/3 c. butter
1 egg
3 c. miniature marshmallows
2/3 c. white corn syrup
1 (12 oz.) peanut butter chips
1/4 c. butter
2 tsp. vanilla
2 c. salted peanuts
2 c. Rice Krispies

Mix cake mix, egg, butter. Press into 9x13 pan. Bake 350 degrees for 12 to 18 minutes. Spread marshmallows and return to oven for three to five minutes until melted. Cool completely.In heavy saucepan, mix peanut butter chips, syrup, butter and vanilla; heat and stir until smooth. Add peanuts and Rice Krispies. Spread over marshmallows. Cool for at least an hour and cut.
                                                       Sippy's Super Easy Toffee
This piece hasn't been broken up yet.  This toffee turned out a little thick today.  But it's toffee so that's surely not a bad thing (well maybe for my thighs it is).  I found a recipe similar to this many years ago.  I tweaked it a little bit.  Everywhere I take it I get asked for the recipe over and over again. It literally takes 15 minutes to prepare.  Read the recipe before you begin so you have your timer ready.
Here ya go...
Sippy's Super Easy Toffee
1 c. chopped pecans
3/4 c. brown sugar
1/2 c. butter DO NOT substitute!  If anyone still uses margarine we need a serious talk.
1/4 c. semi sweet chocolate chips

Take a 8 inch cake pan and cover the bottom with your chopped pecans.  Now take a small saute/frying pan over LOW to MED heat and put in your brown sugar and butter.  Stir it together and when you see the little bubbles begin... start a timer for 7 minutes. Stir and bubble for 7 minutes only!!  Now remove from the heat and pour on evenly over the top of the pecans.  Now take your chocolate chips and sprinkle them over it.  Let the heat from the toffee melt the chocolate and gently spread the chocolate in a thin layer over the toffee.  Let this cool (I put in in the fridge for an hour or more)  When it's cool break into pieces.  Ta Da!  Delicious and easy toffee!  

06 December, 2010

lunch on a cold day

Yes, we can all make fancier versions with umpteen ingredients, but weekdays when I'm fixing 3 meals a day for my kids + homeschooling I need quick and easy. No, it's definitely not gourmet, but it's warm, satisfying, and it reminds me of being 10.  Just don't mess with it. Grilled cheese (made with Velveeta) and Campbell's canned tomato soup (made with whole milk) for lunch.  Yum.

03 December, 2010

Biscuits n gravy

Gravy isn't evil.  Real gravy is all made the same way   So, as long as you're not eating it on a regular basis and only occasionally, gravy is a very good thing.  My favorite type of gravy is made from bacon drippings.  I rarely make it because my husband prefers sausage gravy with sausage in it.  I on the other hand like plain white gravy.  And since I had a couple pieces of bacon left from my greens last night, and left over biscuits, it was only logical to make some bacon gravy.
2 slices bacon fried in pan or use a microwaveable bacon tray.  You need 2 T. of bacon drippings.
2 T. flour
2 c. milk
salt and black pepper
buttermilk biscuits

Place the bacon drippings in a skillet on medium heat.  Once it's warmed up sprinkle in the 2 T. of flour.  Begin to whisk the flour into the drippings until you get a thick paste.  I like to try and brown it a little so it doesn't taste "flour-ey".  Now slowly pour in your 2 c. of milk while continuing to whisk.  Stir until thickened.  Add salt to your taste and lots of black pepper.  Pour over your biscuits and sprinkle a little bacon on top if you like.

02 December, 2010

southern supper & sweet roses

What's better than some fried chicken, collard greens, biscuits, and banana pudding?  
That's a classic southern meal to me.  
That was my dinner tonight.  I got help from Mary B. with the biscuits, but all else I made from scratch:
Southern collard greens is one of my husband's favorite things.  He had a wonderful Kentuckian grandmother (bless her soul) who could fry chicken like nobody's business.  I've never had chicken that good since.  She's in heaven now.  I just wish I would have actually watched her fry it so I could know her secret.  
She would say "It's just chicken, flour, salt and pepper."  
Well, that's how I usually make it and.....it must be the Grandma love she put in it.
One thing I can do well tho' is collard greens.  I'm going to share my recipe.  If you've never had them they are a little like cabbage except a bit bitter.  We give them a long bath in bacon, drippings, and seasonings and the result is just plain deliciousness.  

                                               Start by frying up 6 pieces of bacon good and brown set aside bacon fat and all

                                           Fill a large pot with water and bring to a boil. Add your greens (I use 1 1/2 bags of the bagged kind already washed and cut), 1/3 c. vinegar, salt, and pepper to taste and a generous sprinkling of cayenne (if you enjoy heat)  Now add your bacon and all the drippings from the pan.


                                          Then you're going to let them cook for about an hour.  Adjust seasonings to make sure you've added enough salt.  A great side dish for fried chicken or just a big bowl all by themselves.  (that's what I'll have).

                                       Banana Pudding is to the south as cheesesteaks
                                      are to Philly.  When we first moved to the south many years ago there was a little restaurant in Corinth, Mississippi we loved to frequent called Truitt's. They put out a wonderful southern spread of fried chicken, greens, black eyed peas, bacon studded green beans, biscuits, cornbread and banana pudding.  To this day I believe that is still the best banana pudding I've ever tasted.  This recipe is an easy one but still quite good.  I do double the custard.                                                                

Southern Banana Pudding
1/2 c. sugar
1/4 tsp. salt
4-6 bananas
2 tbsp. flour
2 c. cold milk (i use whole)
10 oz. box vanilla wafers
1 tsp. vanilla
3 eggs, separated

6 tbsp. sugar
3 egg whites                                                                                        

In saucepan or top of double boiler make a custard by combining sugar, flour and salt. Slightly beat the egg yolks and add to milk. Cook over medium heat while pouring into sugar-flour mixture. Stir continually until consistency of custard. Let cool while lining dish with vanilla wafers, then layer the custard, layer sliced bananas (cut lengthwise) another layer of wafers and so on. Make your meringue by beating your egg whites and gradually adding sugar until stiff peaks form.  Spread over pudding layers. Put in oven at 400 degrees just until meringue is lightly browned.

                                          Just out of the oven...

                                 Here's my chicken frying.  It's just chicken rolled in flour, salt, and pepper.  I use a cast iron skillet.  It's good but it can't touch Grandmas.  

My youngest son is a duct tape expert.  He makes wallets, rings, wrist bands, and these beautiful roses!  It is a joy to watch him create new things.  He loves to please people with his creations.  Of all my boys he is the creative one.  He is my little artist.  Love that kid.

21 November, 2010

Turning 9

 My Thanksgiving baby.  Is he a cutie pie or what? He was born the day after Thanksgiving, 2001.  For their birthdays my boys get to choose what kind of cake they like,  what type of frosting, and frosting color.  Chocolate cake with red frosting and sprinkles was my 9 year olds request and he loves to help.  The chocolate cake on the back of the Hershey's cocoa can is a pretty good one, but I decided to search a little.  This cake is wonderfully moist and rich, almost fudgey.  It's very decadent and special enough for company or something as special as your baby turning 9!!

I was in a hurry in preparing it and didn't read it used three cake pans.  I only used two.  Yes, the cake took an extra 30 minutes but the moistness was not effected in the least.

  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened at room temperature
  • 3 cups light brown sugar, packed
  • 4 eggs
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 tablespoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3 cups sifted cake flour (I used all-purpose and sifted it)
  • 1 1/3 cups sour cream
  • 1 1/2 cups hot coffee


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Butter and flour 3 (9-inch) cake pans. Cut 3 circles of waxed paper or parchment paper to fit the bottoms of the pans, then press them in.
In a mixer fitted with a whisk attachment (or using a hand mixer), cream the butter until smooth. Add the sugar and eggs and mix until fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add the vanilla, cocoa, baking soda and salt and mix. Add 1/2 of the flour, then 1/2 of the sour creamand mix. Repeat with the remaining flour and sour cream. Drizzle in the hot coffee and mix until smooth. The batter will be thin. Pour into the prepared pans and bake until the tops are firm to the touch and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean (a few crumbs are okay), about 35 minutes. Halfway through the baking, quickly rotate the pans in the oven to ensure even baking, but otherwise try not to open the oven. Let cool in the pan 10 minutes. Turn out onto wire racks and let cool completely before frosting.

The recipe suggests cream cheese frosting. Per my son's request I used buttercream.  Here is the recipe I use:
3 c. powdered sugar
1/2 c. butter
1 t. pure vanilla extract
2-3 T. heavy cream
Cream butter and add sugar, vanilla and cream.  Beat until smooth and use more cream if needed to get the right consistency.

17 November, 2010

Chili and mashed potatoes?

I peeled my last 6 potatoes with the intention of making Shepherd's pie for dinner.  Like I do so often I opened my lazy susan to discover I had no canned green beans.  I'd used them last week for Boola Boola (a great recipe of my dad's that I'll share later).  So...I had to go to plan B.  Plan B was chili.  So I had potatoes already peeled so I boiled them up while I made the chili.  Both mashed potatoes and chili are great comfort foods and so wonderful on a cold fall night.  I had never had chili over mashed potatoes before.  My mom in law loves chili with rice, restaurants makes chili cheese fries so I thought why not the chili over mashed potatoes?  Once I tasted this I wondered why I'd never done it before.  Delicious overload.
Yes, it's rich, but what comfort food isn't? A small portion is quite satisfying.  It's quite good let me just tell you.
So next time you're in the mood for some serious comfort food--mashed potatoes and chili.

14 November, 2010

Thai Basil Chicken Fried Rice

Thai is probably my favorite type of food to eat (and make)  I love to shop the International Market for my ingredients.  It's easy to pick up what you need there.  That would be the Fish sauce, Thai chili peppers and Thai basil.  The rest of the ingredients are more than likely available at your local Kroger.
1 lb. boneless skinless chicken breasts, sliced thin
1-4 (depending on your heat level) Thai chili peppers, chopped fine
4 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 c. vegetable oil
1 T. sugar
3 T. oyster sauce
2 T. fish sauce
4 c. day old Jasmine rice
one sliced red pepper
1 c. Thai basil
Preheat your wok.  Add 1/4 c. vegetable oil.  When oil is hot add chicken, garlic, and Thai peppers.
Stir fry until chicken starts to brown and gets about half way cooked.  Add fish sauce, sugar, and oyster sauce.  Continue to stir.  Now add your rice and toss everything all together.  Add your red pepper and Thai basil.  continue to stir until basil is wilted making sure chicken is cooked completely.
Plate and serve right away.  

13 November, 2010

Brined BBQ chicken and potato skins

Do you know how delicious and juicy poultry is when you use a brine?  During Thanksgiving time you will hear a lot about brining turkey.  If only brine fresh turkey or chickens.  If you were to buy a Butterball turkey those are already brined before you buy them.  Homemade brines are definitely superior if you have the time. 
Last night I made a big Friday night dinner since sickness has invaded our home nobody was in the mood to do our usual family night out.
Try this brine next time you're making chicken:
8 c. water
1/4 c. sea salt
1/4 c. brown sugar
3/4 c. white vinegar
1 T. BBQ dry rub seasoning  (You can use any dry rub recipe you like.  There are a lot of them out there) 
Mix this together in a covered container.  Take your chicken breasts (bone in or boneless-skinless) and submerge in in the brine.  Cover and let it stay in there for at least 2 hours but NO MORE THAN 4!  When done brining take it out of the brine and pat dry.  Bake it, broil it or grill it.  The result is deliciously flavorful and juicy chicken.  It's no more trouble than a marinade and really worth the time.  

10 November, 2010

Ode to Joy by Carrason

Carrason has been taking piano lessons for 2 1/2 months!

08 November, 2010

Favorite scents

I haven't had a chance to review any scents in the last couple weeks.  I will soon tho' as I've got to figure out what my Christmas scent will be.  So, I thought I would share a couple of my personal favorites I wear on a continual basis.
First is L'Artisan's Vanilia. I first found this scent 4-5 years ago.  I heard Michelle Pfeiffer talk about how good it was and it made me want to try it.  Unfortunately this scent has been discontinued.  Don't even get me started on the senselessness of that.  Without going into a complaint novel, I'll just say...it's a tragedy of epic proportions.  L'Artisan's Vanilia is the king of vanilla.  Don't think of a sweet candy coated vanilla.  This is a smokey vanilla that's all grown up. Ylang-ylang, nutmeg, clove, vanilla, & sandalwood are among the top notes.  A really delicious scent that you can still find in a few places online if you're really interested. 

06 November, 2010

game day dip

                   No, it's not a new recipe but it's so good on a game day.
1 lb. Velveeta cubed
1 can cream of mushroom soup
1 can hot Rotel
1 lb. cooked and drained ground beef
Put all ingredients in the crock pot or in a saucepan on the stove over very low heat.
Serve with tortilla chips.

Saturday odds and ends

Better late than never.

                                                           Carrs and daddy 
                                                   Connor helping remove filter

                                                    Daddy working hard
                                                     the pool cover
                                                    Until next year...

Table talk
 Here lies our kitchen table.  Every scratch and stain made in the 8 years we've owned it are reminiscent of some event or time in our lives.  This is wear and tear with love.  Thousands of meals (literally), many hundreds of homeschool days, and many good friends entertained.   So...the point of the photo is I wanted to show you these cute Dwell Studio place mats I found on clearance at Target yesterday.  They are cork on the bottom, easy to clean, and cover a lot of our unashamed wear and tear if we need them to.
Cute huh?

gobble gobble:
 I have a flag for every season and most holidays.  I've had the same Thanksgiving flag for about 7 yrs.  I was excited to find a new flag yesterday (again at Target) for $2.50!!  It's still a little wrinkled but a great little flag for the price.