Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Creamy Artichoke Soup

This recipe has been adapted from a recipe by Giada De Laurentiis (this one here)...let's face it she is amazing!  I feel a little guilty tweaking this one so much, since I know it is good just the way it is.  Surely, there have been slight variations among the other times I have made it BUT this time I decided to switch it up and get fancy!  I definitely can say I like my version better, however the original is still really good and just a few less steps, and ingredients.  

You will need:
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 leeks, white part only, washed well and chopped
1/2 onion chopped
3 clove garlic, minced
3 small potatoes, peeled and chopped
1/2 cup of white wine
1 Tbsp of lemon juice
1 (8-ounce) package frozen artichoke hearts, thawed
1 15 oz. can of quartered artichoke hearts 
(You can use 2 packages of frozen artichokes OR 2 cans...this is just what I had on hand)
6 cups of chicken broth
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup mascarpone cheese 
1/4 cup of parmesan cheese
2 tablespoons chopped scallions, for garnish

(Makes about 4 servings)

Directions:
Heat olive oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add the leeks, onions, garlic and stir. Add the potatoes and cook for 5 minutes, stirring often.  Add the wine, and lemon juice.  Keep stirring until liquid reduces a bit and it starts to thicken.  Add the artichokes, broth (I started with 5 cups and then added the 6th later when I felt confident it wasn't going to be too thin), salt, and pepper and cook until the vegetables are tender, about 20 minutes.

Using a handheld immersion blender, or in a blender in batches (be careful...it's hot), puree the soup. Add the mascarpone, and parmesan and blend again to combine.

When you serve it, top with scallions....and serve with some toasty bread.  You will love this...unless you are Bobby D. and hate artichokes (what a shame)!

Yum...it's so good, AND I have leftovers for lunch!  Enjoy!

Sunday, November 25, 2012

What's cooking this week?

It really has been quite an eventful week for me in the blogging world.  I finally decided to give in, and make a Facebook page.  Thanks so much to everyone who "liked" it already...it's not even a day old!  You are all rockstars!  And if you didn't get a chance to "like" it yet:
Today is my last day of vacation.  It has truly been a great week off, spent a lot of quality time with some amazing people.  Enjoyed every minute!  Turns out I am coaching cross country starting tomorrow (Coach "Sko"...I like how that sounds)...I'm pretty excited about this!  It will be a good way to try and work off this "gravy baby".  HA!

Obviously I am moving SUPER slow today.  Finally threw a grocery list together - hopefully I'm not missing anything!

Tonight - Tilapia with Tomatoes, Kalamata Olives, and Cannellini beans with spinach rice (going to have to shorten the name of this somehow if I'm going to share it on here)
Monday - leftover White House Turkey Lasagna and salad
Tuesday - Steak for hubby and Creamy Artichoke Soup
Wednesday - Parmesan Crusted Chicken Caesar Salad  (Can't wait to try this Ashlee!)
Thursday - Black bean burgers and sweet potato fries

We will be spending the rest of the day watching more Christmas movies.  We've already watched Elf, Christmas Vacation, and When Harry Met Sally (I know it's not REALLY a Christmas movie, but it is to me).  The tree, and the lights are up.  We just have a few more decorations to put out and we are READY!  This is really one of the best times of year....I'm getting into it!  It's crazy that this is our FOURTH Christmas in Florida...and our first as hubby and wife!  Isn't our little tree lovely?
We think so too!  Enjoy the rest of your Sunday!  

Friday, November 23, 2012

Antipast(a?)(i?)(o?)

I have no idea what the proper name for this salad is...I've done a little internet research and it seems like either "anitpasti" or "antipasto" are the way to go.  However, in MY family we have always called it "antipasta" or just "antipast" when we are trying to sound more Italian.  This is not the type of salad that you eat often...it is just for special occasions.  Usually once Thanksgiving, and Christmas time rolls around - we all know it is "antipasta season"!!!  This is always a HUGE hit at our family gatherings, and obviously depending on who makes it....it comes out a little different.  The recipe I am about to share is how my mother makes it.  This is word for word, exactly how she does it...but obviously feel free to make whatever adjustments you would like!  
Please realize this is for a GIANT portion (I'd say at least 20 people?)....it feeds a LARGE group.  You can try to cut the recipe in half for a smaller gathering, but that is just not as fun.  Even if you have a ton left over - it usually tastes even better the longer it sits.  You can have it for breakfast like my cousin Kristen and I like to do!  Haha!

You will need:

Meat...
*chop into half inch cubes
(get salami from the deli counter....ask them to cut it in one or two large chunks)
-1/2 lb. of genoa salami
-1/2 lb. of hard salami  
-1 large link of pepperoni (or 2 small links of pepperoni) ***Make sure you peel off the casing

Cheese...
*chop into half inch cubes
-Wedge of sharp provolone
-Wedge of soft/mild provolone
-Large block of mozzarella (part skim)
-Large block of cheddar

Produce...
-3-4 chopped leaves of romaine lettuce (just a tiny bit for the bottom of the bowl)
-4-6 stalks of celery (slice in half then chop)
-2 carrots (slice in half then chop)

Cans/jars....
-3 cans of extra large black olives (drain....slice in 3)
-2 jars of small green olives (drain...slice in half)
-2 jars of marinated artichoke hearts (slice them if they aren't already quartered) ***USE THE JUICE
-2 cans of regular artichoke hearts (quartered) - DRAINED
-2 small jars of sliced marinated mushrooms ***USE THE JUICE
-2 cans of regular (non-marinated) mushrooms (sliced) - DRAINED
-2 jars of DRAINED sliced pimentos

Also...
-olive oil
-red wine vinegar
-Italian bread

*Sorry to get all "shouty" about the draining, and non-draining of liquids - but this is VERY important!  (There I go again.)

SO....you put everything together, starting with the little bit of lettuce, meats, cheeses, veggies...and very carefully the canned/jarred ingredients (paying close attention to what gets drained, and what doesn't).  

The dressing is obviously made up of the juices from the marinated artichoke hearts and mushrooms + olive oil and red wine vinegar (to taste).  My mom doesn't add any extra seasoning...she keeps the dressing simple.  

Toss it all together, let it sit in the fridge for about 30 minutes before serving with bread.  
I cut the meats and cheeses the night before.
About to break these bad boys open!
Apparently I need a bigger bowl!!!
SO GOOD, always a crowd pleaser, and worth all the effort!!!  Enjoy!!!

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Thankful Thursday #3 - Happy Thanksgiving!

Happy Thanksgiving!!!  Right now I am getting an early start, doing some last minute preps on my contribution to the Thanksgiving feast.  I have been taking the last few weeks to reflect on all of the things I am thankful for, but I feel like today needs to be extra special.  I think this says it all...
I am beyond grateful that we do in fact have friends that have turned into family which we will be spending the day with.  The best part is that thanks to Facetime (another thing in which I am thankful for), I won't feel that removed from the family up in NY!  
Mom posing for a pic since she Facetimed me last week during a photo "sesh" with a panini
Better get back to my productive morning, and the parade starts in 5 minutes!  I hope you all have a wonderful Thanksgiving!

(Thank you Jessie for hosting this link-up!)

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

*NEW* Design, 500th Post, AND a Liebster!

There are a lot of things going on right now, so let's just start with the obvious....how do you like the new design?!?  Thanks a bunch to Kate at 17th Avenue Designs!  She has just been awesome to work with!  It is still a little bit of a work in progress, but it looks a lot better than the "under construction" nightmare it was about 3 hours ago!!!  I am by no means an HTML pro...but sometimes I surprise myself.  Maybe I missed my calling?

Next...

This is my 500th POST!!!  Can you believe it?  What a journey it has been!  The good news is that at this point I feel like I'm going stronger than ever.  I have some big plans up my sleeves, so you will just have to keep checking back! :)

And last but certainly not least....

I have been nominated for a Liebster Award  by my blogger friend Kristin at w/ milk & sugar.  "Liebster" means darling or beloved person in German...just so happens I think Kristin and her blog are just darling!  Thanks lady!  :)
The rules are as follow:

1. List 11 facts about yourself.
2. Answer the 11 questions given to you.
3. Create 11 new questions for the bloggers you nominate for the award.
4. Choose 11 bloggers with 200 or less followers to nominate.
5. Go to each bloggers page and let them know about the award.

11 Facts:
1.  I took dance lessons for 15 years....I still dance everyday in my apartment :)
2.  I have a current obsession with anything neon, and pretty much any shade of yellow
3.  I'm not a fan of desserts, but I don't mind making them for other people
4.  I own the whole series of Friends on DVD... and I watch all of the seasonal episodes during that time of year (ex. right now I am cranking through all of the Thanksgiving episodes)
5.  I think sponges are pretty much the grossest things EVER (besides eyeballs)
6.  I am a wannabe runner
7.  There is usually at least one night during the week that I am too lazy to cook what I had planned - so we get chinese food or Subway (shhhhh....don't tell)
8.  Bio-dome is one of my all time favorite movies 
9.  I think my husband looks like Joel McHale - and I'm quite alright with that ;)
10.  I love olives
11.  I like to pretend I can knit.  Proof...
Not gonna lie-this has been a work in progress for a few months now

Kristin's Questions:
1. What is your favorite holiday food?
Antipasta!!!!  The recipe just happens to be coming soon too!  :)
2. What would your dream house/apartment/condo look like?
I just want a standard 4 bedroom one level house with a SWEEEEEET kitchen...maybe something like this...
3. If you could live a day in the life of another person (any time, place, etc) 
who would it be and why?
I would like to be Zooey Deschanel...she is pretty much my hero.  I would love to hang out on the set of The New Girl!
4. What is your favorite childhood memory?
Going to Grandma and Grandpa's house on Sunday's.  
5. Salty, sweet or savory?  
Salty and Savory...sweetness can take a hike.
6. How would you describe yourself in 3 words?
Funny, Thoughtful, Caring...these questions are always so hard!
Maybe I should go with what my friend Jen suggested...
Long. Island. Princess. 
:)
7. What places are on your travel bucket list? (Places you just have to see someday)  
I just have to get to Italy at some point!
8. What is your funniest cooking story? 
(pizza box catching on fire, putting ½ cup oregano instead of ½ tablespoon, etc)
This isn't exactly a "cooking" story, but I did (somewhat recently) put salt in hubby's cofee....fail.
9. Do you have/want children? If so how many?
Yes, two or three!
10. What is your all-time favorite movie?
Bio-dome, but I already said that one so I'm going to also say Breakfast at Tiffany's
11. What is something you didn't like at first, but now love?
Sushi!!!

My questions:
1.  What was your first car?
2.  Do you have any tattoos?  What and where?
3.  What is the first thing you ever learned to cook?
4.  What is your guilty pleasure?
5.  If you could have a superpower, what would it be and why?
6.  What famous person do people say you resemble?
7.  Would you rather talk on the phone or via text?
8.  What was your most recent "impulse buy"?
9.  What is the strangest thing you have ever eaten?
10.  What is your favorite song at the moment?
11.  What is the last movie you saw in the theater?

Here are my nominations:

Well that was fun!!!

Monday, November 19, 2012

Celery Revitalization

Have no fear...you CAN bring soggy celery back from the dead!  This is a tip I wish I would have had known sooner.  Ugh, HATE wasting food!  I can't even tell you how much celery I have probably thrown away unnecessarily.  This little trick came in handy the other night when I wanted to throw some celery into a salad.  It is so disappointing when you go to take celery out of the fridge and it is all soggy and rubbery.  Gross!  All I did was cut about 1/4 inch off the bottom of the celery and stick it in a cup of ice cold water for about a half hour.  When I was ready to slice it up it was just as good as new.  I did a little more research, you can also submerge the whole stalk...I bet that would work faster.  I'll give it a try next time.  Anyway, enjoy bringing your celery back to life!

Sunday, November 18, 2012

What's cooking this week?

I'm on vacation this entire week!  I'm not sure I can convey exactly how excited I am, but trust me it's extreme excitement over here!!!  Stephen and I will be spending Thanksgiving with the Davenports, it is going to be great!  I'm sure there will be plenty of Facetime/Skype sessions with the family throughout the day.  I will be making a very special dish for Thanksgiving AND sharing the recipe...check back soon, you will not be disappointed.  This week is obviously shortened due to the holiday, but I'm going ALL out since I'll be home!

Tonight - Chicken Noodle Soup
MondayChicken Enchilada's with Salsa Verde (using leftover shredded chicken from the chicken soup)
TuesdayWhite House Turkey Lasagna
Wednesday - Butternut Squash Soup, Havarti Grilled Cheese with Baby Spinach and Roasted Red Peppers

As usual, it is so nice to have a chance to relax...but now that the meal planning/grocery list is complete, I think I should get up and get this day started!  Happy Sunday!
YES - I had my husband reluctantly take this pic of my normal Sunday morning routine!

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Thankful Thursday #2

Is it Thankful Thursday again already?!?  Ok, here it goes...
I'm thankful for... the fact that this week FLEW by incredibly fast & after I make it through just one more day, I have and ENTIRE week off.  Now I am all about living in the moment, and not letting life rush me by...  however, this school year has been rough and we are all VERY ready for a break.  I promise to cherish every moment I have off, and get some relaxation time in!  Although a big part of me is sad that we won't be going up north for Thanksgiving, another part of me is excited to have some time to myself.  This is the first break in a long time that we don't have to travel somewhere.  I am determined to make the most of it!

I'm thankful for... my co-workers!  If it weren't for them, I might literally go insane.  They help me find humor, even on the most stressful days.  Sometimes all it takes is a look, and I know we are all on the same page (or surfing on the same wave)!  :)
I'm thankful for... our apartment.  Sometimes (okay pretty often), I may complain that we are still apartment dwellers.  In actuality I really appreciate the fact that we have a roof over our heads, and a cozy apartment to call home.  It kind of goes back to being grateful for what we have in the moment, and not rushing onto the next step.  I know we will have a beautiful HOUSE in the very near future.  I'm okay with sticking around here.  We just renewed our lease for another 8 months...I know it will fly by.  In the meantime I am going to enjoy our poolside view, not having to pay extra for a gym membership, and living so close to such a beautiful "Village".  :)

I'm thankful for... being able to live in a vacation spot!  Three words....DISNEY SEASON PASSES!  Yes, I am thankful for those too!  We are currently on our third round of being pass holders...don't think for a second that it ever gets old.   Disney is extra special to us, because this is where Stephen "popped the question"!
I'm thankful for...morning texts!  Every morning when I leave for work, I text both my parents.  It has been a ritual since we moved here.  It brightens my day!
I'm sure I can think of a bunch more...I guess I'll save it for next week!  Thank you to Jessie at Jessie Loves To Run for this link-up!  Goodnight!  :)

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Crock-Pot Pasta Fagioli

Last week, I tried this Olive Garden "copycat" Pasta Fagioli recipe.  It was so close to the one at Olive Garden it surprised me (I had my doubts).  I think the fact that I used leftover Sunday sauce instead of a jar of sauce really helped a lot too...it was flavored with hot Italian sausage.  I used matchstick carrots instead of diced carrots.  If I remember correctly that is what they use at the Olive Garden.  There is nothing better than coming home after a long day of work, to a crock pot full of this delicious and hearty soup.  There were also a bunch of leftovers.  It was a nice trade up from the hot pockets I have been living off of for about two weeks now!
My mom made it too, just the other night.  She cooked it on the stovetop, sauteed the onion, celery, and carrot first...cooked it for an hour and a half and put the pasta in for the last 15 minutes.  Both of my parents LOVED it.  My brother found it later in the fridge and liked it although he thought it was some weird kind of chili with macaroni in it...LoL!
Mom served it with some of Uncle John, and the LaRusso's famous marinated olives...they make them every year!  I hope one of these jars are for me!!!!  YUMMMMM!

Monday, November 12, 2012

What's cooking this week?

Happy Veterans Day (officially yesterday)!!!  Stephen and I are both off today, I am recouping after a weekend in St. Pete with a few of my favorites.  There is nothing too interesting planned.  I am going to clean out my closet (told ya) to make room for the new sweaters I bought this weekend.  Yes...sweaters!  It gets cold here (mostly just in the mornings).  It was 37 degrees one morning, my wardrobe is never ready for this.  I'm not complaining though trust me...in fact after I clean out the closet, I will probably be down by the pool.  Today is GORGEOUS!  Ok, enough small talk...let's get to the point!

Tonight - Sunday Pot Roast with Mushroom Gravy (I'm aware it is not Sunday but it feels like one) with mashed potatoes, and salad
Tuesday - Grandpa's Marinara with salad
Wednesday - Pot Roast and Arugula Paninis (using the leftovers from tonight)
Thursday - Blackened Tilapia Baja Tacos

I'm keeping it short this week, I don't have any specific plans for next weekend...but a trip to McLeod just MIGHT be in order for Friday.  It would probably be the most apropos way to kick off Thanksgiving break.  A whole WEEK....I don't think I have ever looked forward to a break more than this one!

Don't have many pictures from this weekend, but had to share this one from right before our night out on the town.  It's funny how all three of us have completely different styles, yet there are certain items we all have the same (or similar) of.  Can you tell which one is me?  My mom says it is obvious.  :)

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Thankful Thursday #1

Two posts in one night?!?!  What is this?  2009???

Thanks a bunch to Kristin from w/ milk & sugar, for educating me about "link-ups".  After years of doing the blog thing, I feel like a newbie!  I came home and did the usual post-work dose of blog stalking...when I discovered Thankful Thursdays hosted by Jessie.  I'm so in.  Here it goes...
I'm thankful for...my husband

Where do I begin?  I'll make it short and sweet...
Stephen is the perfect husband, and I do not forget for a second how lucky I am to be married to him.  Every day is an adventure, and the best part is that our journey has only just begun.  Love him! 

I'm thankful for...our family

These people have been there through it ALL...we literally could not have made it this far without them.  I wish we didn't all live so far away, think about and miss them always.  We love you guys!!!

I'm thankful for...our friends
These guys ROCK!  The other day, I was thinking about how not only have we made a life down here...we have also met such an awesome group of friends.  They make the fact that our family lives so far a little easier!

Ok...I'm done with the mushy stuff.

I have time to share one more thing I am thankful for...

Enough said.

Egg Yolk Water Bottle...Secret???

When I saw this trick in an e-mail a little while back (thank you Mr. Benson), I was stunned.  How have I gone through 27 years in this world and NEVER seen this done?!?  It is simply genius...I had to try it out for myself / make a video...of course.  Turns out, it isn't exactly a secret (apparently it's a "thing")...but I like to think that there are other people out there that can now share in my excitement that we're in the inner circle of egg yolk separation!  Just squeeze an empty water bottle (you know you have at least one laying around), and suck up the yolks.  Brilliant.


Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Honey Lime Chicken

Since I have been in full on "blogger mode" these past few days (reading other peoples, not so much writing my own)...I stumbled upon this recipe for Honey-Lime Baked Chicken.  Just tried it tonight, and I couldn't wait to share it.

I honestly didn't change much from the recipe at all. I used 4 tbsp of honey because I wanted it extra sweet, and in the relish I used lemon juice AND lime juice. I also put the chicken under the broiler for the last few minutes, because I wanted the chicken to brown a little more.

The photo above isn't the greatest, the lighting is horrible and it is a little fuzzy. Regardless, I try to work with what I have (crappy apartment overhead lighting, and an iPhone 4s camera) to "make it pretty". Usually I eat the dish I prepare for the photo-opp since it is on a smaller plate, and then throw Stephen's meal together. This is because after cooking a meal, plating it, and taking pics, I am STARVING. Poor hubby's meals usually end up looking something like this...



Still just as delicious!

Sunday, November 4, 2012

What's cooking this week?

I'm really appreciating the extra hour we have gained this morning!  I'm still lounging in bed, watching Breakfast at Tiffany's, and just finished planning the grocery list to get us through this upcoming week. I love lazy Sunday's!

Tonight - Sunday Sauce
Monday - Steak (for my hubs), and Potato Soup (didn't quite get to this one last week)
Tuesday - Taco Tuesday
Wednesday - Honey Lime Baked Chicken with brown rice
Thursday - Crock Pot Pasta Fagioli 

In addition to appreciating the extra hour, I am also feeling extra appreciative for all of those "little things" we tend to take for granted every day!  Stephen and I are very grateful that all of our friends and family were safe throughout Superstorm Sandy!  Obviously many people weren't so fortunate, and our hearts go out to all of those who have lost their homes, and even worse...their loved ones.  It was a little strange this past week going about our normal day to day routines, while so many people we knew were experiencing the aftermath of Sandy.  Luckily after talking to everyone, it seems like bit by bit their lives are going back to normal.  If you are wondering what you can do to help....

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