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When Recipes Fail: A Commentary on Sucking in the Kitchen and Stumbling in Life

20130704-134110.jpgOver the past 24 hours, I have sucked in the kitchen! There is no fairy magic here. I have just plain sucked. It started yesterday when I botched a double batch of Trix Crispy Treats. I had to bring a dessert to my daughters’ swim team banquet for 180 people. Clearly, these would be the perfect choice, and it was all well and fine, until 5 minutes before we had to leave, I attempted to pop them out of the pan and slice them in to neat rectangles. I was eager to pile them artfully on my fancy cake plate and present the perfect fairy-style wonder.

Only, it was not very magical. The treats stuck to the pan (which I greased) and the marshmallow never solidified! Not to worry. I figured I’d just pop these suckers in to the fridge and firm them up real quick!

UUUHHH…NO!

They remained gooey, but we had to leave, so I hacked off the presentable parts, wrapped the hopelessly gooey ones up and off we went. Well, the car was very warm; it was EXTREMELY HOT & HUMID outside, so by the time they were placed on the table, even the good ones had morphed into a rainbow glob resembling a pile of unicorn poop!

Excuses were plentiful. This had to be the result of the weather, or the cheap generic brand marshmallows that my husband got “a great deal on”. Or maybe it was the lack of sleep over the past two nights. Night #1 was consumed by an over-excited, sleepless 8 year old who just couldn’t wait for the Taylor Swift concert, and night # 2 was consumed by the concert itself. Add on very early morning swimming championships, and no wonder these were not a huge success.

OK, move on, not a big deal. There is more to life than Trix Treats.

Yup, there’s plenty more to life, like horrible chicken.

Onto failed recipe # 2. This afternoon, I was perusing the handy dandy internet when I stumbled across a recipe for the best barbeque chicken, like…ever. (Sorry, Taylor Swift is still fresh on my mind) The only problem was that the first step involved a dry rub, but the idiot who wrote the guide, egotistically refused to give his rub recipe. No worries. I thought, let’s improvise and make our own, ya know…a little bit of this & a little dash of that… OK?

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NO! Not OK!

My rub recipe was way too strong, resulting in the most beautiful but awful tasting chicken on the planet. Really? Who screws up barbeque chicken? Certainly not the Fabulous Fairy! WRONG! I am shamefully raising my hand and owning my defeat. It was horrible and inedible. We ate green beans and roasted potatoes for dinner followed by a bowl of consolation mint chocolate chip ice cream instead. AWESOME!

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Wow! At this point I accepted defeat, blamed a searing sinus headache and retreated to bed, only to lie there awake. Thoughts just came racing into my head, seemingly out of nowhere, about one of my daughters and some upcoming meetings about her school program next year. The next thing I knew, I was wide awake and in tears. Not wanting to wake up my husband, I crept back down to the kitchen to make a cup of tea and sort things out. After all, I am a teacher in real life. I have a master’s degree in education plus a gazillion credits past that, and I have taught almost every subject. She’s going into middle school. I teach middle school. It should be a no brainer! Right?

Super Awesome! In all of my mental processing, I burnt the frozen waffle that I popped in the toaster. Clearly, my cooking skills have now regressed to those of a 4 year old.

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So here I found myself holding a cup of tea and a burnt waffle, strike # 3, all while shedding tears of frustration over a meeting that is not even firmly scheduled yet. This is where my moment of clarity came.

My kitchen disasters had nothing to do with the weather, cheap marshmallows, egotistical cooks, or sinus headaches. They were a result of my lack of a recipe in life. My thoughts, fears, critical points to be made, test scores, and witty remarks were all mixed around in my mind like a bad meal. I realized that I need a real plan to move forward with my daughter’s meetings and educational needs. Here I am, The Fabulous Fairy, who can pull out a recipe for almost anything (except a barbecue rub), but trying to tip-toe through a touchy situation without a recipe for success and progress when it came to my own child. Whew!

Lesson learned, tears over.

So, here I sit, at the counter in my kitchen, my recipe central, hacking at the pathetic pile of second string unicorn poop, crafting a recipe for my daughter. I am confident that I will find a plan, and eventually some sleep, but I am going to approach my hurdles with a bit more foresight, organization, and personal forgiveness.

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I guess sometimes we have to remember that we need to nourish our hearts and minds as well as we nourish our bodies.

Good night. Here’s to hoping dinner is more successful tomorrow.

~Kelly, “The Not Always Fabulous Fairy”

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Blood Orange Margaritas

1-IMG_2901Over the past year, I’ve developed a passion for blood oranges. I don’t know why, I just think they’re cool.  I’ve tried blood orange infused vodka, blood orange spiked lemonade, blood orange martinis, blood orange balsamic glaze, and yesterday, I struck gold with blood orange margaritas.

It was 4th of July, and my husband took all of the kids to the pool, so I could cook and prepare for an evening picnic.  I cooked, cleaned, and vacuumed the downstairs. The house was clean, empty, and quiet, so I decided that I deserved a cocktail. I chose to make myself a fresh margarita, so I pulled out my little juicer, a big glass, the tequila, and a handful limes, but when rummaging around in the fruit drawer, I found two lonely, forgotten blood oranges. Hmmmm… I wondered if they would work in my margarita.

Oh boy! Did they ever work! These margaritas were spectacular! Even my husband, who is not a fan of margaritas (a huge character flaw, I know, but I love him anyway…) thought they were tasty. They were so good that I debated having one for breakfast this morning. It’s kind of like orange juice, right?

No worries, my better judgment prevailed, and I opted for coffee, but you can bet, if I were on a tropical vacation, without my kids, I’d be having one of these suckers with my breakfast!  But for now, I’m not on vacation, and I have three kids who want to go back to the pool this afternoon, so my margarita indulgence will have to wait for socially appropriate, responsible-parent cocktail consuming hours (tonight, after the kids go to bed). As a consolation, to get them off my mind, and preserved in cyber eternity, I am sharing the recipe with you.

I promise I don’t have a drinking problem. They’re just that good! I implore you to try them.

 

Ingredients:

8-9 limes

2 blood oranges

½ Cup of tequila

2/3 cup of Grand Marnier

1 full batch of Simple Syrup

Crushed ice

 

Preparation:

  1. Juice the limes (about 1 cup of juice)1-IMG_2888
  2. Peel the blood oranges and puree them in a blender, then strain the puree in a fine sieve, pushing the pulp through with a rubber spatula.1-IMG_2884
  3. Mix lime juice, strained orange puree, tequila, Grand Marnier, and simple syrup.1-IMG_2894
  4. Pour into a glass over the crushed ice.
  5. Garnish with a slice of lime and a slice of blood orange.1-IMG_2878

** How to make simple syrup– In a small sauce pan, combine 1 cup of water & 1 cup of sugar. Bring to a boil and stir until the sugar is dissolved. Allow it to cool.

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Roasted Cherry Tomatoes and Yoga Pants

1-IMG_2668I don’t really love tomatoes raw, but once roasted, I could eat them until I burst. Seriously, I need to wear my yoga pants (aka “buffet pants”) when indulging in any roasted tomatoey goodness. I even went as far as to plant a bazillion cherry tomato plants in various parts of my backyard to satisfy my need for these yummy little savory treasures.

My passion err..obsession for roasted tomatoes started with a recipe that I saw for French bread pizzas. The recipe called for roasted cherry tomato puree as the pizza sauce. Once I made these, it opened all new doors. I now use roasted cherry tomatoes on a weekly basis for a multitude of recipes. They’re simple, easy, and packed with flavor.

Try them, but I take no responsibility for creating a new addiction, or causing you to need stretch pants to accommodate your overstuffed belly.

Ingredients:

2 pints of cherry or grape tomatoes

2-3 Tbsp. of olive oil

1-2 sprigs of fresh thyme

Salt & pepper (to taste)

Preparation:

1.       Wash & dry the tomatoes.

2.       Slice them in half.

3.       Pre-heat the oven to 425 degrees.

4.       Place the tomatoes in a casserole dish or roasting pan so they cover the bottom in a single layer.

5.       Drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle with salt & pepper.

6.       Add thyme, and toss, coating all of the tomatoes.

7.       Roast in the oven on 425 for about 35 minutes, or until they are withered and caramelized at the edges.

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Serving Suggestions:

1.       Allow them to cool and toss with fresh basil, mozzarella, and balsamic vinegar.

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2.       Roast 3 cloves of garlic with the tomatoes. Puree with a hand blender, add a sprinkle of sugar if you like the sauce a bit sweet, and top raviolis, or use it as a pizza sauce for French bread pizza.

3.       Toss with mozzarella, basil, balsamic vinegar, and large croutons for a tasty panzanella.

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Savory Pot Roast

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Pot roast, your perfect post pool day dish!

I know, you’re thinking “What kind of crazy loon makes pot roast in the middle of a heat wave in June??

Me!

While this does not seem like summer fare, I find myself juggling early mornings at swim team practice, then long activity filled summer days. I need slow cooker meals that will fill the starving bellies of my hungry monsters who are often “dying” and “starving” as they stagger around the kitchen whining for food at 4:30 on a Wednesday. And who wants to fire up the stove after a day of kid crazy??

This week was “Clean the Freezer Week” at my house, and I happened to have a big ol’ chuck roast in the freezer threatening to slip out and crush the tiny toes of a Popsicle seeking rummager. I figured I might as well pop it in the slow cooker and feed them a hearty meal. The result was well fed, happy kids who marched their satisfied tummies upstairs and slept well all night! SCORE!!

As for the recipe, This is an old family favorite, courtesy of my mother. Over the years, I have tweaked it a bit, but it still remains very much like the recipe of my childhood.

Savory Pot Roast

1 3lb beef roast

Oil for frying

Salt

¼ cup balsamic vinegar

1 can of fire roasted diced tomatoes OR ¼ cup catsup

2 Tbsp. soy sauce

2 Tbsp. Worcestershire

1 sprig of fresh rosemary OR 1 tsp. dried crushed rosemary

4 fresh garlic cloves OR ½ tsp. garlic powder

½ tsp. dry mustard

In a Dutch oven or large oven safe pot, brown meat on the stovetop in small amount of oil. Sprinkle meat with a little salt. Combine remaining ingredients; pour over meat. Cover tightly, roast at 350 for 2 hours or until tender. Remove meat to heated platter. Skim excess fat from sauce. Spoon sauce over meat.

*** You can also cook it on low in a slow cooker for about 8 hours. I also add carrots and potatoes to cook in the sauce with the meat 🙂

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My Backyard Garden is Growing

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Rockin’ Rose Romano’s [SPONSORED]

1-IMG_2229Recently, the kind people at Rose Romano’s Italian Peppers sent me a few jars of their tasty sauce. Wow, am I a lucky girl. I was amazed by the beautiful presentation of the box I received, and I was intrigued by the recipes suggested in the insert. What I learned is that Rose Romano’s is actually more like a condiment, rather than a pasta sauce. As a coveted family recipe, owner, Dr. Marshall Angotti, created this gluten-free, low calorie, goodness as the perfect complement to your simple homemade dishes. Rose Romano’s Italian Peppers comes in two flavors, red pepper and green pepper, and the recipe possibilities are endless.

My biggest challenge was to figure out how I was going to use the red pepper sauce that I received, because the cookbook and menu created by Dr. Angotti is substantial! I decided on making a simple bow tie pasta tossed with garlic, olive oil, fresh basil, and salt & pepper. Once the pasta was seasoned, I spooned it onto a plate, topped it with the red pepper sauce, and served it with a side of crusty garlic bread. What a great, easy weeknight meal, even my girls loved it! We all went to bed with well nourished, happy bellies.

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The next challenge came with how to serve the green pepper sauce. I immediately thought of my nephew’s upcoming graduation party. I knew that my sister was making 100 pounds of Freakin’ Fabulous Roasted Pork for sandwiches, and a sandwich bar was the perfect stage for Rose Romano’s green pepper sauce. Along with traditional bar-b-que sauce, we offered a bowl of warm Rose Romano’s. The green pepper sauce was a sweet compliment to the savory garlic roasted pork.

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After my initial successes, I am excited to try some of the recipes suggested by Dr. Angotti. His recipes suggest topping almost anything with this unique food accessory, from hamburgers, to grilled chicken, to eggs. The ideas are creative as well as simple and healthy.

If you are looking for a new way to dress up a boring dish, or need a quick and easy gift idea, consider Rose Romano’s Peppers. You can order online or locate them at a store near you by visiting http://www.roseromanos.com.

Disclosure of Material Connection: This is a “sponsored post.” The company who sponsored it compensated me via a cash payment, gift, or something else of value to write it. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will be good for my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.

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Ridiculously Good Radishes

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I started gardening two years ago, and it has been a really fun family experience ever since. We started growing the basics like tomatoes, zucchini, peppers and cucumbers. Last year we branched out with green beans, lettuce, snow peas, and garlic. So, when I was selecting seeds and planning for this year’s garden, I wanted to expand even farther. While shopping, a pack of radish seeds caught my eye, so I grabbed them and figured, why not?

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Well, I had no idea how fun radishes could be. They were the first little shoots to appear in the garden, and we were so excited to see those peeks of green as a welcome sign of the season to come. I was so surprised to see how quickly those tiny shoots turned into big leafy greens! At that point, being the radish novice that I am, I turned to the internet to find out just when to pick them. I also learned, through my farmer’s market escapades, that the leaves can be eaten, too. In fact, the leaves pack more nutritional punch than the radishes themselves. And, boy are they tasty! I will never discard them again.

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You can imagine our excitement today when we picked our first crop, and they were great. I started simple, with what I knew. I washed the roots and the leaves well, then cut the leaves off and tossed them with some fresh spinach. Then I sliced the radishes and tossed them in as well. Finally, I drizzled the salad with a simple, Italian vinaigrette. It was a great, fresh side salad to compliment tonight’s dinner.

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Radishes will now become a staple in my garden. Let me know in the comments below if you have any creative uses for radishes or the tasty greens.

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10 Things to Consider When Renovating Your Kitchen

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As many of you know, I just completed a renovation of my kitchen. It was necessity due to a leaking sliding glass door that had caused the subfloor to rot, but it also created a good opportunity to remodel and change out some aspects of my kitchen that I didn’t love. The white finishes did not suit my family with three small children. Also, the linoleum floor was pretty outdated, and my appliances didn’t match. Finally, my husband and I have a rustic style, so our new construction kitchen didn’t suit our personal tastes.

This was the first remodel that my husband and I had undertaken, and there were some valuable lessons learned in the process. So, recently, when Unique Design of Brisbane, Australia reached out, asking me to share some tips about renovating a kitchen, I was well prepared with my new found knowledge. I am constantly in my kitchen. It is where I cook, relax, oversee homework, eat, and entertain. It is the most used room in my house, so it was essential that I thoroughly planned and considered all of the decisions regarding my updated kitchen. After reflecting on this experience, I compiled a list of my top ten things you should do when planning a kitchen renovation.

# 1 Find What You Like: You need to visualize exactly what you like. Use magazines, Pinterest, or design sites like Unique Design to find pictures of kitchens that appeal to you. Also, remember that you do not need to find all of your tastes in one place. It’s ok to find a picture of a floor and another picture of the cabinets, etc…

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#2 Research Materials: Be sure to research the pros and cons of the materials and finishes you like. Make sure the durability and maintenance match your lifestyle and your family. For example, If you are a meticulous neat-freak, you do not want to choose copper counter tops that will develop marks and an uneven patina over time.

#3 Establish A Budget: Most of us do not have an unlimited amount of money to throw into a kitchen renovation, so establishing a budget is necessary to maintaining mental health and financial stability. When establishing a budget, make sure you can afford it, and make sure your home’s value is proportionate to the renovation budget. Finally, conduct property value research to ensure that you can get a decent return on your investment.

#4 Consider Alternatives: Once you have an idea of what look you are trying to achieve, consider the options. If you can’t afford your first choice, look for cheaper alternatives that provide the same look. Also, consider eco-friendly options when possible. A good showroom, designer, or contactor can help you understand the products currently available on the market.

#5 Evaluate Your Space: Prior to your remodel, evaluate the space in your kitchen and surrounding rooms. Is the space being used as well as possible? For example, we chose to get rid of the kitchen table and created a coffee/wine nook because our dining room was going unused five feet away. Don’t be afraid to use an old space in a new way. It may just make your house feel new again. Luckily, Unique Designs has  Designer 3D, a free downloadable, digital template to use when planning your new kitchen.

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#6 Communicate With Your Designer and/or Contractor: Discuss your needs and thoughts openly from the start. Not only can this save you money, but it will offer you a different perspective and valuable knowledge gained through experience. We learned this with our contractor when he grabbed a piece of slate tile from my rejected pile and showed me how beautiful it could be, and unique ways he could arrange it to create a one-of-a-kind look. It is my favorite part of the new kitchen! Also, when we discussed our budget with him, he pointed out simple things we could do to save hundreds of dollars.

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#7 Be Creative, But Neutral: If you have BOLD style, choose a neutral foundation and add BOLD accents. Remember that your house is an investment. Your expensive renovation should not be something that detracts from the value of your home, nor something that you will regret in five years.

#8 Treat Yourself: Leave enough money in the budget to allow yourself at least one indulgence. Perhaps it will be an expensive light fixture or a new dishwasher. Whatever you choose, it will be the one piece that will jump out at you daily and make the room personal.

#9 Be Patient & Plan Accordingly: In order to preserve your sanity and happiness, plan out your renovation timeline while considering family and professional stressors. Be sure that the construction phase does not overlap your most stressful time of the year, or a major life event.

#10 USE IT!!: Once your kitchen is done, USE IT! Don’t avoid making it messy, or try to preserve its new perfection, embrace it, and appreciate it by cooking in it, or hosting guests to show it off. Make the effort and expense worth it.

So there you have it, my two cents worth of renovation advice. Good luck, happy planning, and love your space!

Disclosure of Material Connection: This is a “sponsored post.” The company who sponsored it compensated me via a cash payment, gift, or something else of value to write it. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will be good for my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.

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Food Envy

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                This past Saturday night was the kind of spring evening that made you crave outdoor drinks and dining, so when my husband and I found ourselves unexpectedly without kids, we knew we had to seize the opportunity and treat ourselves to a date night out. We knew we wanted to eat outside, but figured reservations at our favorite spots would be tough to snag on such late notice. With a little creative thinking, I called a cute little BYOB that we pass often, but have never tried. Luckily, they had a table, so I grabbed a bottle of red and off we went.

At this point, I need to provide a little background before I go any further. My husband and I are a bit competitive. We often find ourselves exchanging a little healthy competition over silly little things in life. We always have to play “guess the bill” at the end of each meal out, and many of the major decisions in our marriage have been settled with rock, paper, scissors because, let’s face it, that is a game of chance…or fate. Little did I know, that we also had a silent food competition going, too.

It all started in the car. I Googled the menu, to see what seasonal selections they had to offer. At that point, I decided on braised short ribs, but once we got to the restaurant, I heard the specials and decided on pork with a citrus pestoey kind of sauce. My husband ordered the short ribs. Well, the first course came out, and it was excellent. I loved my salad, and Brandon liked his grilled shrimp appetizer. Everything was in balance, and our date was everything I wanted. Then our main course arrived.

The server came out holding two plates. Mistakenly, he placed the short ribs in front of me. That is when the sinking feeling started to creep in. Then, when he corrected his error, and gave me my meal, my heart started to sink. I felt like a 5 year old who was just given a plate piled high with Brussels sprouts. My dinner did not look as yummy as Brandon’s, but I convinced myself that I DID have the better dish. I took a bite. It was good, but I found myself longingly gazing at his balsamic glazed goodness. Then, he delivered a final blow to my pathetic looking, green glazed, pork chop; he offered me a bite. Well, that was it. Food envy enveloped me, and all I could think about with each mediocre bite of my own meal, was that Brandon was the menu master of the night. He had chosen the winning ticket from the menu and had won this restaurant challenge. Who knew date night dinner could be so passively competitive. I was reminded once again that I do not like to lose. At this point, there was only one thing left to do, I ordered the Bourbon Pecan Crème Brule and finished my bottle of wine.

The moral of this story is to always go with your gut, literally, when ordering dinner out!

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My Heirloom Garden

Normally when you hear of heirloom gardening, it is in reference to heirloom tomatoes or heirloom seeds, but never an actual heirloom garden. Well, this weekend, as a family, we created our very own heirloom garden.

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Recently, while trolling through Pinterest, I came across this great pin about creating a garden from an old dresser. When I suggested the idea to my husband, he thought I was nuts and equated me to my very eccentric neighbor who plants plastic flowers.

Well, I had to expand my current garden, especially after the drastic guerrilla gardening measures I took last season! I had a strong need to expand, a creative vision, and an old, slightly warped dresser that belonged to my grandmother long ago. So, yesterday morning, while I sipped my coffee on the patio and gazed at my unplanted garden, I decided that I would turn my grandmother’s ugly dresser into an adorable garden, regardless of what my husband thought.

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First, I enlisted the help of my girls. After my husband grudgingly carried the beast upstairs, we went to work wiping it free of dust and grime.

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Next, we removed all of the drawers and flipped it on its back. I left the drawer dividers intact so they could serve as a planting guide. The girls were ecstatic that I let them paint it for me. It just needed to be covered, so it was a perfect painting task for kids. It did not need to be a fancy paint job since we hid this surface in the next step.

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Once dry, we covered the exterior with 24 in. woven picket fencing to give the garden a polished professional look. (I really don’t want to be that crazy neighbor who plants old furniture in her backyard!) Here is where my husband gets the credit…I will admit that he suggested the picket fence idea. Ok. So we nailed each picket to the dresser, covering all four sides. We used two nails, one towards the top and one towards the bottom. Finally, we used wire cutters to remove any excess fencing and bent the ends of the wires to avoid the sharp edges being exposed.

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At the end, we decided to drill some holes. We drilled a few in the bottom and along the sides, between some of the pickets, close to the ground to allow any excess water to drain. Finally, we moved it to a nice, level, sunny spot in the yard, and filled the bottom with gravel & stone to encourage good drainage, and then filled the rest with soil and compost.

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I have started seeds indoors for a few veggies, and when the weather warms up, I will fill the garden with zucchini, tomatoes, squash, and peppers. Happily, I was able to take an old heirloom that had lost its luster and re-purpose it into an afternoon of family time, fun memories, and a hands on lesson in nutrition, which are all heirlooms in their own right.

Be sure to stop back and check the progress of my garden.