Friday, January 12, 2018

BOOK REVIEW: The Saturday Night Supper Club

Another great book by Carla Laureano! I love her books, as you can see. 
Carla does a wonderful job of blending a great story line, unforgettable characters, saucy romance, and mouth watering food into each of her great books! I have to admit that I'm addicted to her books, and read them over and over again. This one is no different. I found myself able to connect with her characters and enjoy both the vulnerable and teasing sides of them that make them so realistic. There is also a thought provoking moral dilemma that had me wondering what I would do in the same situation.

Rachel Bishop wants to be celebrated for her ability to cook amazing food- which has nothing to do with the fact she's a woman. When Alex Kanin writes an editorial that leads to the downfall of Rachel's career, he has a choice to make. The story unfolds and takes Rachel down a road of finding herself, learning to trust, and maybe even to love.

True to Carla's form, this is a clean read with just enough romance to make it steamy, a bit of faith, and a large serving of culinary delights. If you love to cook, you'll be looking up recipes after reading this delightful book! I started back up our Supper Club as soon as I finished reading it! I'm looking forward to the next book in the series, and to rereading this one a few times a year.

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Chicken & black bean tortilla soup

Tortilla soup is one of my favorite soups! I love latin food, and this fits the bill PERFECTLY. 

1 lb chicken breast
3 16oz cans chicken broth
2 16 oz cans black beans
2 16 oz cans whole corn (or you can use frozen)
2 cans enchilada sauce (I use mild so my kids won't think its too spicy)
1 cup total red and yellow sweet peppers, sliced bite size
1/2 cup Chipotle sauce (I use Ortega)
1/2 cup coconut palm sugar (give it a smokey sweet flavor)
1/4 cup maple syrup
1/4 tsp ground cayenne pepper (more if you like it hot)

Add before serving
2 avocados, diced
lime juice (I like mine freshly squeezed)
1//2  cup chopped Cilantro - for garnish- and flavor
Mexican Style cheese
Sour cream
6 Prepared corn tortillas (below) or tortilla chips

Roast chicken breast at 400 degrees for 30 mins or until tears apart with a fork. Shred the chicken. {have you ever shredded meat in a kitchen aid? Wowza! It's so easy!! Toss it in and turn on with paddle attachment and let it shred}
While the chicken is cooking, add all other ingredients to crock pot (or pot on stove if you prefer). 
Add shredded chicken and heat on high for 30 mins (or until is near bowling if cooking on the stove), then let simmer on low or warm for the rest of the day.

Add 1 T olive oil to a cookie sheet spreading the oil across the surface. Place corn tortilla on it flipping them over to coat both sides. Sprinkle with salt. Heat at 400 for 5-10 mins watching to be sure they don't burn. Remove when they are crispy. Break up tortillas. You can also cut tortillas into strips or wedges before cooking if you'd like.

Ladle soup into bowls and add a spoonful each of diced avocado, cheese, and sour cream. Squeeze on some lime juice and toss in a handful of tortillas or tortilla chips.


Tuesday, November 3, 2015

BOOK REVIEW: Five Days in Skye by Carla Laureano

I love books that take me somewhere in my mind, and make me what to go there in real life! Five Days in Skye was one of those books. I honestly need to go to the Isle of Skye, and while I'm at it, visit the rest of Scotland as well!

Carla did a great job of creating characters who have substance and telling their stories without revealing too much, too fast. I loved Andy and her strong personality. She is spunky, quick-witted, and tenacious; all while being insecure and cautious. She's talented, knowledgeable, and takes herself and her job seriously. 

James is a dream character! He's an amazing chef, caring, family focused, and funny. Not to mention he sounds absolutely gorgeous. He's might be a celebrity, but he's still vulnerable, which makes him all the more lovable. 

While there were a few parts that I felt were predictable, there was enough cleverness in Carla's writing that I kept turning the pages, and didn't want to put the book down. The romance is steamy without becoming risque, and I would feel comfortable allowing my teen to read it. I felt like the story also had a good message about forgiving yourself, and leaving the past behind you.  It's a book I will be reading again soon!

I give this one 4.5 out of 5 stars. 

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Dairy Free Monkey Bread with frosting

I am a complete fan of monkey bread! I just can't get enough of the ooey gooey caramel-ly frosting covered goodness of it! However, I am now lactose intolerant/allergic- whatever.
So monkey bread is at the top of my DO NOT EAT list.
I've been messing around with a few recipes I've seen online, and none of them are tasty enough, or even resemble the monkey bread flavor so fresh in my mind and on my taste buds.
Today I made up my own recipe, and am SO pleased with the results that I had to get it written down somewhere so I can repeat it daily monthly.
I made a small(er) batch because my family gladly indulges in "the real thing" while I have my own batch of non dairy whatever to myself.
Double, triple, or keep it as it reads.
Dairy Free Monkey Bread
2 cans crescent rolls (I use Pillsbury original)
white sugar
1.5 cups brown sugar
1 14oz can coconut milk
2 T corn syrup
2 T coconut oil
1 tsp vanilla
Remove crescent rolls and slice log into 8 pieces. Cut each piece in half. Put cinnamon-sugar in a Ziploc bag and toss about 8 pieces into bag at a time. Coat with cinnamon sugar. Place coated pieces in casserole dish (or bundt pan if making a lager batch). Repeat until all pieces are coated.
In a medium saucepan, combine the sugar, coconut milk, and corn syrup. Cook on medium heat until mixture begins to boil (and foam- and look delicious). Remove from heat. Add coconut oil and vanilla. Stir until melted. Pour mixture over crescent rolls. (This makes way more caramel sauce than you need. I poured the rest in a mason jar and tossed it in the fridge for whatever else I decide needs to be covered in caramel in the next few weeks. You can half it, but then you're left with half a can of coconut milk)
Bake in oven at 350 degrees for 30 mins or until golden brown.
At this point, you can pour on a bit more caramel sauce and call it delicious. OR you can make a frosting for it.
1/8 cup shortening
2 T coconut oil
1 cup powdered sugar
1 tsp vanilla
1-2 tsp fresh lemon juice
lemon zest (optional)
Beat all ingredients until fluffy, spread on monkey bread.

ENJOY!!! (I am)

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Frozen Birthday Party

We caught the fever of Frozen! Lovebug had a pirate party half planned for her birthday when we went to see the movie. As we walked out of the theater, she announced that she wanted a Frozen birthday party.
This was mid-January, and as many know, there was no Frozen merchandise to be found both online or in a store. I loved Frozen as well, so it didn't take much arm twisting to get me on board. Lovebug wants to be Elsa for Halloween. I am all about multi-uses for costume. You can't find them anywhere OR a pattern for the dress, so I was left to my own devices. I used a princess nightgown to trace the  bodice and then winged it from there.
Here is my "Elsa"
 She didn't want poofy princess, but there was no way I was doing  a slit for a 5 year old, even if its only to the knee. A hidden pleat was the answer.

On to the party!!
The invitation
We made a bunch of these snowflakes. I loved the youtube tute HERE:
I used the lithographs that came with my Blu-ray preorder from Disney Store here and there to add scenes from the movie. The cone trees are 12x12 velum and have Christmas lights inside of them.
Remember that parachute we have? Yep. Its not just a wedding canopy, its snow. I draped it all over the family room.

I didn't get as much done ahead of time as planned so the morning of the party was busy and I didn't get all the details photographed. I missed the major Christmas clearance at the craft stores, because we saw the movie and switched themes so late. But I did manage to find a lot of floral sticks, swags, etc at Joann and then used what I had left from Lovebug's fairy party a few years back. I was looking for white, silver, purple, aqua, and blue for the color scheme and everything was covered in glitter. :)
Party fun
All the girls received tutus
 and tiaras that I found at Joann.
The boys had reindeer antlers and scarves. The antlers were made from a pattern I found HERE
We also had lots of yummy treats to put in goody bags. I found some stickers on Amazon as well.
Everyone took home an Olaf building kit. I got the printable from HERE
There were a lot of Valentine versions floating around the web, but I liked this one because it wasn't Valentine themed. I did have to adjust the size of it.
Inside there are three large marshmallows- one has "hair" that we made with tootsie rolls shaped like his hair. Two Wilton eyes, one orange Mike n Ike candy for the carrot nose, two stick pretzels, three brown mini M&Ms and two small marshmallows for the feet.
The food/dessert table
I didn't get a photo before they started digging in!!

Parfaits made with keylime yogurt, coconut macaroon, and coconut. I used keylime and vanilla yogurt mixed them together to make the flavor more subtle. I also added a bit of blue food coloring to adjust the color. They were layed with the plain vanilla yogurt, macaroon and coconut, then topped with coconut.
Snowflake sandwiches 

Blue jello jiggles "ice blocks" were the most popular item!
Cupcakes! I made the snowflakes out of vanilla candy melts. The idea was from HERE and she did a much better job than I did. I think my cold kitchen was to blame.
The cupcakes were from HERE and were so delicious! Again my kitchen was too cold for the frosting to work with the swirl :( So we just spread it on the best we could as the party guests arrived.
In the background you can see the candy coated marshmallows. Just mallows dipped in candy coating and covered in sprinkles.

Candy coating dipped pretzels and munchkin 'Snowballs"
We played some youtube Frozen videos with lyrics on the TV and the kids sang karaoke with it for a while.
The big hit was the snowball fight. We used Snowtime Anytime snowballs. We have had a snowball fight every day since we bought them several weeks ago. So much fun!!

We played Pin the Carrot on Olaf. I used this PRINTABLE and enlarged it at Staples.

We played Freeze tag and Freeze dancing.
It was a great party!!

Sunday, January 19, 2014

I'm a little teapot word art

Made this little gem for my kitchen. It turned out too cute not to share :)

Sunday, October 28, 2012

10 ways to prepare for power outages.

We have definitely had some experience with power outage where we live. There are a lot of trees, lots of wind. Its a recipe for outages. 

While getting ready for the next big possibility of being without power for several days, I was looking for a list I had made previously of things to have on hand and ways to prepare. I couldn't find. it. :( 
I decided having a post about it would keep it in a spot I could find AND it might help anyone else out there who too is preparing at some point in time. 

Hurricane Sandy is the instigator this time around, but we were very familiar with Isabel. 
We thought we were prepared, but it turned out nothing can prepare you for trees falling on your house :)
(except maybe to not have trees near your house.)
The ones that fell didn't look at all like they were thinking about falling. 
We're a bit more ready now. 

A few years back we bought a generator. While it's not the nifty "in your basement ready to take over when the power shuts off" type, its a generator, nonetheless. 
So here is my list of plans/preparations based on my circumstances. You can adjust however you need to. 
I live in the woods, on a well, with septic, and a sump pump in my basement. 

1. FUEL- For generator, for outdoor grill, for dutch ovens. We have a several 5 gallon containers for gas, two propane tanks, and always keep several large (read Sam's club) size charcoal bricket bags ready. We also have a charcoal grill, so if we run out of propane, we can fall back on the other grill. 

2. WATER- My husband can hook the generator up to the well, but its nice to have a back up just in case. We fill our large bathtub with water to use for bathing (sponge "bath's" in the shower) for filling toilet tanks to flush them, and for anything else not food related. 
We also have water stored, and when a storm is coming, we fill up three other large 5 gallon jugs with drinking and cooking water. Our well water is NOT we fill up drinking water through our reverse osmosis machine while we still have water running. 

3. FOOD- Not usually an issue or a huge need to adjust what its the house already for us, but I do try to plan some things that I know will be easy to make for several days. We hook up our refrigerators to the generator, so perishable items are not a problem. I do plan on making a trip to the store well before the chaos starts. Since I already have a large food supply in my home (usually 3 months worth), I pick up more milk, fruit and veggies, etc. The stores get ransacked a few days before the storm!

4. COOKING- Our stove and oven are electric, which is why we use our grills. However, because we have a generator, I can still use my electric hot plates if I need to, and even a crock pot or the microwave. 
We also have an AMAZING camp stove. Which I'm sure will get a lot of use this time around if we lose power. Any excuse my husband gets to use his nifty stove, he does. The griddle is big enough to cook my three year old on. Don't worry, we never get that desperate. 
We make sure to have oil, etc on hand for cooking. 

5. LIGHT & NEWS- We use candles in the main areas, flashlight for when we are moving from room to room AND solar lights from outside that we bring in and put in vases or inverted on the counter or table. Solar lights also are great for the bathroom. And the kids use them for night lights. (we also use them when we are camping. No batteries needed) I prefer the style with switches on them. 
Have a battery or hand crank radio ready to keep up on your local conditions and news about your situation is also good planning.

6. NECESSITIES- Toilet paper, paper towels (won't be doing laundry), Clorox wipes, paper plates- etc, diapers (if you need them) medication. Anything you need daily, make sure you have a weeks worth at least. Think about not being able to use a dishwasher or washing machine- what do you need? Make life easy on yourself.
Do you have pets? Don't forget them too.

7. INSURANCE- Not only do you need insurance for your home (always), when its stormy its nice to have the info handy for your insurance company *JUST* in case you need it. Being one of the first ones to report a loss is a good thing. I also have a few contractors numbers handy because we learned with Isabel, they booked up quick!

8. EMERGENCY CONTACTS- Have the numbers of people you need to reach printed out somewhere. If you can't get on the internet, if your phone doesn't work so the address book isn't accessible, whatever the reason...You need to be able to have a way to reach people without depending on the stored number on your phones. . If I can't use my cell phone for some reason, and need to use the land line, I have to switch to an "old school" regular land line phone since our phone is cordless. I could plug it in with the generator, but we try to limit what gets put on it. You should also have handy your power company's number and local authorities just in case. Not everything is a 911 call. 

9. MENTAL PREPARATION- Make sure you have a family meeting. Let all family members know what is  probably going to happen, and that they are going to still be safe. Have them help you get ready, it makes it less scary for them if they see the process of preparation. Discuss what your plans are for food, water, etc. Have comfort items handy and possibly discuss new sleeping arrangements if needed. Kids get scared when the power is out at night, even if they normally sleep in the dark. 

10. PHYSICAL PREPARATION- Get all the laundry, cleaning, and other household things done that will make life easier for you. Having clean clothes, clean dishes, a vacuumed floor, etc makes being without power a bit more easy. 
Keep in mind the time of year. If it's cold outside, be sure to have blankets, sleeping bags etc handy in case you are without heat. 
Prepare fun activities to do that don't use power, and even some fun things to do in the dark. If the power is out in the fall or winter, you could very well be in the dark for several hours before bedtime. Light sticks, and other glow activities are fun in the dark. Play flash light tag, set up some board games. 
If you have a portable DVD player, have it charged up for at least ONE movie, or on your computer perhaps. You can even make popcorn ahead of time and plan on a movie night. 
Have some sweet treats prepared-- chocolate is a must :)
DO NOT plan on feeding your children lots of foods they otherwise wouldn't eat. Like MRE's. No toddler is going to devour those if they aren't used to eating them already. 
Have a place planned outside your area to stay in case you will be without power for a longer period of time than you've planned for. 
The biggest thing that we do, is think through how three-seven days without power might affect us, and try to plan the best we can to have everything we NEED. Need means HAVE to have to survive on our own.
When that list is done, you just get busy preparing in those areas.
Attitude goes a long way, and if the adults in the house are panicking, or are upset about the situation, it trickles down. Think of your power being out as an unplanned camping trip, or staying in some exotic location that lives a bit more primitive. Living without things that make life so fast paced could be just the break you've needed :)

When the Power goes out:
Don't panic. Unplug electronics so they don't get hit with a surge when it comes back on. We do this DESPITE having a whole house surge protector. It often goes off and on repeatably before going out for a longer time.
Call your utility company to make sure they know you don't have power. Some areas don't get reported for a long time because everyone assumes someone else did it. There may also be a recording that lets you know when you can expect it to come back on (but don't hold your breath-- that changes often)

Keep in contact with your loved ones. Letting those who don't live near you especially know that you are okay will put them at ease. The media blows things way out of proportion. For all they know, you could be under the depths of the sea, even though you live at 3000 feet. 

Listen to local news stations to keep updated on the weather and other issues in your area. 
Keep in contact with local family and friends in case they need help. 

A little preparation goes a long way. :)