Lemon Chicken Linguine

image

I absolutely adore Pinterest. It doesn’t matter if half of the projects I try don’t work. I made my own modge podge. Just because it turned out to be only slightly sticky goo that was useless is beyond the point. I made something unique. I have two unfinished Pinterest projects sitting around the house. Mostly, because the advertised simplicity has turned into several weekends of sheer dedication. Needless to say, it’ll be a while before I finish. That’s the main reason that I look to Pinterest for inspiration, but don’t alwasy give into the temptation. I never know what I’m getting myself into.

Last night I made an exception. I found a recipe for Lemon Chicken Fettuccine, had all of the ingredients and gave into the drool worthy picture. My main reason for sharing this recipe with you today is simple – it was delicious! My husband wholeheartedly agreed and have already had to discuss who is getting the leftovers. I would make it again in a heartbeat.

For those of you who know me, I like to play with recipes. I’ll make substitutions based on what I have in the fridge and adjust here or there. I made no exception last night. The original recipe calls for chicken, mushrooms and fresh tomatoes. I didn’t have any fresh tomatoes, so I used canned. (The recipe cooks the tomatoes so you don’t notice the difference.) I also had some fresh spinach and artichokes in the fridge that I decided to add. The flavors blended together perfectly. I also substituted lemon pepper for pepper at every opportunity. I wanted the chicken, veggies and the sauce to have a nice balance of lemon. Obviously, if I’m sharing the recipe with you then it turned out just right. My favorite bit of happiness to announce: I wouldn’t make anymore alterations. What was created last night was perfect. Paired with the right white wine it’s heavenly.

Lemon Chicken Linguine

8 oz linguine
1 lb. Chicken, diced
8 oz mushrooms
Handful of fresh spinach
1/4 cup diced tomatoes
4-6 artichoke hearts, diced
Lemon pepper
Salt
1 Tablespoon dried parsley
3 Tablespoons olive oil, divided
1 lemon, squeezed
1/8 tsp garlic powder
Parmesan cheese, to garnish

1.) Boil pasta while you make the sauce. Ideally, you want the pasta and the sauce to finish at the same time to avoid overcooking.
2.) In a large saute pan, add 1 tablespoon of olive oil and warm to medium heat. Saute the diced chicken seasoned generously with lemon pepper and a dash of salt until brown. Add mushrooms. Cook 3-5 minutes and add diced tomatoes, artichoke hearts and fresh spinach. When spinach has wilted, reduce heat and add 1 tablespoon of parsley, a dash of lemon pepper and a dash of salt.
3.) Create the sauce in a separate bowl or cup. Add two tablespoons olive oil, the juice of 1 lemon, to taste. (Because you are using a lot of lemon pepper, you may not need as much lemon juice. Adjust accordingly.) Add a dash of salt, 1/4 tsp of lemon pepper and the garlic powder. Taste and perfect to your preference.
4.) When the pasta is done, add it to the saute pan of veggies and pour in lemon oil sauce. Toss to combine. Serve with a small sprinkle of parmesan cheese and enjoy!

image

Advertisements

The Ultimate Bacon Creamy Bowl of Happiness

image

This is the ultimate creation of creamy, bacon, curry happiness. Unlike the rest of the nation, I haven’t given in to the bacon craze. I enjoy it, but can live without it. However this is one of the recipes that always makes me whistle a different tune. All it took was one taste and I was sold. For those of you who are already bacon fans, be prepared to enter a state of bliss.

My husband introduced me to this recipe when we were dating. I had managed to catch a whopper of a cold and was stuck on the couch feeling miserable. He came over to my apartment with juice, medicine and the ingredients for Bonfire Warmer Soup. I absolutely loved it. Now whenever it’s gloomy outside, one of us gets sick or we can think of any other excuse, we make this recipe. It’s the best comfort food you could ask for. Serve it with a roll of crunchy bread and you’ll be converted as well.

I always double the recipe, but somehow never get a chance to freeze any of the leftovers. The soup disappears from the fridge too quickly. I’ve made it with turkey bacon and haven’t noticed a difference in flavor. It’s still delightfully savory.

image

Bonfire Warmer Soup

Ingredients
1 carrot, sliced
1 onion, chopped
4 slices bacon, chopped
1 Tablespoon butter
1 teaspoon curry powder
2 Tablespoons plain flour
2 cups minus 2 Tablespoons milk
2/3 cup chicken or vegetable stock

Directions
1.) Gently sauté the carrot, onion and bacon in the butter for 10 minutes until softened.
2.) Stir in the curry powder and flour, cook for 2 minutes.
3.) Gradually add the milk and stock stirring continuously until the soup thickens and boils.
4.) Serve with crusty bread.

Happy Birthday to Me!

happy bday

When I was a kid, my birthday was always a big celebration. Our city had its 4th of July fireworks one day early which meant the city gave me the best birthday gift every year. As a family, we’d get together for ice cream pie and celebration beforehand and then walk down to the riverfront for my fireworks. I loved it!

I moved away from my hometown years ago. Now that I’m an adult I think about the bugs, the humidity, the annoying people, the discomfort of sitting on the ground, and the hours of bumper to bumper traffic. I still love fireworks, but I appreciate being able to enjoy them from afar in comfort over getting my old front row seats.

This year, I’m taking a slightly different approach. I wanted to see how many small ways I could celebrate my birthday beyond the fireworks. I started my endeavor when I found out that a lot of the companies I already love have birthday clubs. The companies advertise their great products and give you something for free. You get to feel special and try to forget that you’re really just getting older. I thought it would be fun to spread it out throughout the week so I could enjoy these little surprises.

Now, please keep in mind these are already companies that I buy products from and support. There are a lot of companies out there that offer freebies, but I didn’t sign up because I wasn’t just out to get something for nothing. I wanted to have something I already enjoyed from a company I knew I’d be returning to. Trust me, a lot of companies you know and love offer a lot of discounts and special gifts for your birthday. You just have to be willing to look.

Moes-Logo_New

Moe’s Monday – I love Moe’s burritos and salsa verde. I used to work around the corner from Moe’s Southwest Grill and learned the importance of celebrating Moe’s Mondays. A burrito at Moe’s is normally $6.00-7.50. On Moe’s Mondays it’s $5.00 for any burrito, chips and a drink. Yes, I used to go religiously. Now that they’re further away from the office, it’s harder to break away and return in my allotted half an hour break. On the Monday before my birthday, I was already leaving work early so it was easy to squeeze in a burrito full of happiness. When I looked into their birthday club, I found out that you get any entrée for free if you purchase a drink. You have two weeks before the coupon expires which is another win in my book.

The-Fluffy-Movie-Banner

Fluffy Tuesday – For those of you who don’t watch a lot of standup comedy, you are missing out. Gabriel Iglesias is my favorite comedian. He is simply hysterical. You can watch his videos for free on Amazon prime or Youtube. The easiest way to find him is to look him up under the nickname Fluffy. Watch and you will understand. For the best birthday treat ever, he did one stand up show two days before my birthday. It was amazing. My husband and I laughed the night away!

bongos_logo_581_295

To round the evening off, we went to one of my favorite restaurants, Bongos. Bongos is a restaurant in South Florida owned by Gloria Estefan with authentic Cuban food. The atmosphere is great, the food is delicious and the mojitos are even better. It gave us a chance to have a bite to eat and relax before the show.

coldstone

Cold Stone Wednesday – When I was in college there was only one ice cream shop in town, Cold Stone Creamery. Considering the insane summer heat, this was the most popular place for 5-6 months of the year. The lines were outside the door, but it was always worth the wait. I haven’t been back in ages and always go down memory lane when I drive past. I was delighted to find out that they have a birthday club – buy one get one free. Since my husband has never had Coldstone before, we both went for a special treat. The company has changed a little bit, but it’s still good ice cream. This is another coupon that you have two weeks to use.

aveda_leaf_logo-446x2181

Aveda and Firehouse Thursday – I love Aveda. They have salons nationwide and have a high standard for their stylists. Each one goes through intensive training and recertification to make sure their skills are above top notch. Their products are amazing and the service is exceptional. On your birthday, they also give you a free gift of a personalized scent perfume or body care product worth up to $25. I need a haircut and highlights anyways. I decided I might as well spend the day getting pampered.

There is one catch to the Aveda birthday club, you have to sign up at least 30 days before your birthday. They’ll send you a card in the mail that qualifies you for your free product. In the age of electronic everything waiting for a card in the mail is annoying, but what can you do?

firehouse

Firehouse subs will give you a free regular sub on your birthday with a valid ID. I love this company especially because they support firefighters and other great charities. Their hot subs are really some of my favorites. My husband and I went there for a late lunch.

BBQ Friday – My husband and I love BBQ chicken with homemade Spanish rice. His mother taught us both how to make it and it’s one of the best comfort foods. It’s also incredibly easy to make. It gives us a chance to have a great homemade meal without the hassle. It’ll be the perfect way to round out the week and celebrate the 4th of July. I also decided to make a peach pie. Nothing smells more like summer time than a peach pie cooling on the counter. Add a bit of vanilla ice cream and I’m in heaven.

bare escentuals

The other company whose birthday club I signed up for is Bare Escentuals. I love their makeup. You get a free gift for your birthday which you can pick up later in the month if you prefer. Complete your online profile and earn a shopping day of your choice where your entire order is 15% off. I need to restock on my makeup and will gladly use the discount. The only catch, your 15% off day can’t be your birthday.

jamba juice

Jamba Juice also offers a free smoothie for your birthday. I signed up for their online deals after my birthday, but because it was the same month I still got a free smoothie. Yeah Jamba Juice! Their smoothies are my favorite.

WHBM

White House Black Market also sent me a coupon $10 off a purchase of $50. I’m already a member of their store so I automatically get 5% off and free shipping on all of my purchases. Add the $10 off and their great sale prices and I’m a happy camper. They update their website all the time so keep an eye on it. The item you wanted may be in stock tomorrow.

I had an amazing birthday. Yes, there were fireworks that I got to watch from the comfort of our home. It was a wonderful week full of little special events and a beautiful surprise bouquet of flowers from my husband. He really is amazing! The week of fun is over and I have been pampered and fed to excess. Now I have to return to my normal life, which has its own set of perks. Now I’m a year older, a little wiser and get to look forward to another year of adventure.

Easy Tips to a Stress Free Thanksgiving

thanksgiving

Thanksgiving is only a few days away and the tension is building. People are getting nervous about traveling, creating the perfect feast or are simply frustrated with cranky people. Take a deep breath everyone. The holidays don’t have to be another reason to grumble. Here are some simple ways to enjoy your holiday and not feel trapped in the kitchen.

1.) Pick Recipes You Already Know

The most important thing for surviving the holidays is knowing what to expect. Pick recipes you already know are good and that you’ve made before. If you really want to try something new, pick only one recipe. New recipes are so easy to mess up and no one wants to bring a dud to the table.

Example: My office decided to throw a Christmas party and I wanted to try making homemade eggnog. The problem was the milk boiled and the whole thing curdled. I was stuck with chunky eggnog pudding. I didn’t have a pretty dish to put it in so I could pretend it was intentional. So, I brought in my pitcher of thick eggnog goo to the potluck. Needless to say, no one ate it and I haven’t tried to make eggnog since.

2.) Go Grocery Shopping Early

We all know that the closer it is to the holidays, the worse the grocery store becomes. I know that if I want to stay in the holiday spirit, I have to avoid grumpy stressed people trying to run you over to get to the checkout lane. Take the time now to put together your grocery list and get to the store while it’s still relatively quiet. It also gives you plenty of time to grab any last minute forgotten items.

Example: Last year I realized that I had forgotten to purchase the sweetened condensed milk I need to make my amazing pumpkin pie. Thankfully I realized this out early enough in the day and could make my own. It took a long time, but I was able to make my pumpkin pie without anyone realizing my mistake. So before you rush to the store, do a quick online search for possible substitutes. You might have something on hand you can use instead.

3.) Make Your Sides and Desserts Ahead of Time

You can make your pumpkin, apple, pecan or mincemeat pie several days ahead of time. Just bake them and keep them in the fridge until the big day. If you really want to plan ahead you can assemble your pie, not bake it and keep it in the freezer for several weeks. The day before your feast just pop it in the oven and give it plenty of time to cool. Most of your sides can be treated the same way. You can assemble, keep in the fridge and wait to bake or freeze and bake later.

Example: I try to make as much as I can before Thanksgiving day. It’s nice to wake up in the morning and just have to pop things in the oven. I always make my spinach pie, cheesy potatoes, pies, stuffing and small breakfast casserole ahead of time. Look at your recipes a second time. Your green bean casserole can easily be put together the night before.

4.) Know What You’re Doing with the Turkey

Almost every Thanksgiving horror story I read involves cooks who have never made a turkey before or want to try a new method. If you want to try something new, whether it’s roasting, frying, brining or smoking you want to test it out first. Buy a frozen chicken and try the method you prefer. Practice before the big day instead of running the risk of ruining the star of the meal.

Other Turkey Tips:
– Thawing your turkey can take days. Make sure you have enough time.
– When you’re estimating how much time you’ll need to roast, always double the time. I’ve never cooked an 8 lb. turkey in under 3 hours. You can always reheat the turkey, but you can’t serve it raw.
– If you’re brining your turkey, make sure your container is large enough to fit the bird, brine and ice. (5 and 10 gallon containers are best)
– Measure your oven before buying your turkey to make sure it will fit.
– Use a meat thermometer to avoid over or under cooking.
– Make sure you remove the giblets before roasting.
– Cook your stuffing outside of your turkey to avoid salmonella.
– Let the meat rest 15-20 minutes before carving.
– Keep animals out of the kitchen and away from the turkey!

Example: The first time I made the turkey for Thanksgiving I decided to brine it. I used a five gallon bucket I had cleaned out and added ice periodically. I put something heavy on the lid to avoid any canine investigation and I roasted the turkey to perfection. I did however have to transport my bird to my mother’s house. I covered it with tin foil and left it in the roasting pan. I was afraid it would move too much on the floor, so I put it on the passenger seat and drove very carefully across town. The turkey did survive the trip, but my car seat did not. It had a stain from the turkey drippings until the day I sold it. The moral of the story: whoever cooks the turkey hosts the party. You can transport it, but it’s a pain. Turkeys are best right out of the oven and it’s easier to make the gravy with fresh drippings.

In case you were wondering, I haven’t brined a turkey since that year. It was a lot of extra work and it only tasted good. I find that fresh turkeys are worth the extra money. They taste better, absorb the subtle flavors you toss in the cavity nicely and have a lot less salt injected into them which keeps them from tasting too dry.

5.) Plan an Appetizer or Pickle Tray

If you’re serving your Thanksgiving feast at 4:00 and having an early breakfast, expect to have a few rumbling tummies. Having a quick appetizer to pass around will give your guests something to hold them over but won’t fill them up. It will also keep the pressure off of you while everyone waits for the turkey to finish roasting.

Example: One Thanksgiving I made spinach artichoke roll-ups as a nice appetizer. However, they had to be baked and the oven was spoken for. Thankfully, there was a small convection oven on the countertop that I could use. The only problem was that it took longer to make everything because I had to work in batches. By the time everything was ready, half of the plate had cooled off. I learned my lesson after that and stick to a simple olive and pickle tray. They’re so easy to put together, don’t take up a lot of precious space in the fridge and are delicious. Any reason to have pickles works for me!

6.) Clean Your House Ahead of Time

Don’t wait until the last minute to put everything away, mop, and clean the bathrooms. The day of you should only have to vacuum and light a few candles in the bathrooms. It’s one less thing you have to worry about.

Example: Holidays are stressful for me because that’s always the time of the year that everyone is hosting a party and work is chaotic. I get home and the last thing I want to do is make a pie. Instead of grumbling or skipping this homemade festival, I normally set aside a schedule. On Friday I’ll do my grocery shopping, Saturday I’ll make my pie, Sunday I’ll take off and Monday I’ll clean the bathrooms. I find that if I chip away at my To Do List it’s easier to face the holidays. The most satisfying moment every Thanksgiving and Christmas is driving home the night before the big day. The grocery stores are packed, cars are bumper to bumper and everyone around me is grouchy. Instead of feeding into it, I get to sit back and smile. All the hard work is already done and I can enjoy my holiday.

Holidays are the time of the year you get to spend with close friends and family and have a delicious feast. It’s a chance for old traditions and making some new ones. Whether you’re hosting your first Thanksgiving or bringing a dish for Christmas, there are some simple things you can do to enjoy the season instead of dreading it. Plan ahead, kick back and relax. Enjoy your holiday instead of feeding into the stress and frustration.

Sweet Potato Shepherd’s Pie

Sweet potato2

Fall is the ultimate excuse for comfort food. Everything about the season calls for you to have something delicious roasting or baking in the oven. It’s time to break out your sweet potatoes, apple pies, pumpkin bread and cranberries!

I’m always on the lookout for different recipes to try. Normally, this starts with my random cravings, but this delicious find came from the magazine Everyday with Rachel Ray. I have no idea how I got a subscription, but I always glance at it when it arrives. I enjoy the Food Network, but rarely make their recipes because they normally call for several ingredients that I don’t keep in my pantry.

I was intrigued when there was a section dedicated to budget meals that actually looked really good. It was a fall dedicated magazine so one recipe used applesauce and the other used mashed sweet potatoes. Needless to say, I was game. I collected my recipes for the week and got to cooking.

Here’s my intriguing tidbit for the day – I made four Rachel Ray recipes: three budget meals and one 30 Minute Meal. I picked the 30 Minute Meal because I wanted to make something special. My husband and I loved two of the budget meals, liked the third and didn’t care for the 30 Minute Meal. It just proves that you don’t need fancy ingredients to make an amazing meal.

We have made this recipe twice already – the magazine only came out in September – and I keep telling myself that I’m going to set aside half and freeze it. Sadly, it hasn’t made it there yet. The only changes that we made is to use ground turkey instead of ground pork. Because turkey is so bland, we had used more seasonings than the original recipe called for. My husband, who seasons like a pro, made this the first time and we devoured the pot. I made it the second time and was hesitant with the seasonings. It was good, but was so much better when I added a bit more cumin, garlic, salt and pepper. Don’t be afraid to give this a little kick.


Sweet potato

Sweet Potato Shepherd’s Pie

Recipe by Rachel Ray with Creative Campbell additions

Ingredients

  • 2 lbs. sweet potatoes
  • 2 Tbsp. butter
  • salt and pepper
  • 3 Tbsp. maple syrup
  • 2 tsp. smoked paprika
  • 3 tsp. ground cumin
  • 3 tsp. garlic powder
  • 1-2 tsp. cayenne powder, depending on preference
  • 1 lb. ground turkey
  • 1/4 cup white wine
  • 1 cup chopped yellow onion
  • 1 bag frozen corn kernels, thawed

Cook sweet potatoes in oven or in the microwave if you are pressed for time. Remove orange innards and place in a mixing bowl. Add butter, salt and pepper and maple syrup. Mash together and set aside.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a Dutch oven, toast the paprika and cumin over medium-high heat, stirring 1 minute. Add the turkey, garlic and cayenne powder. Cook 6-7 minutes breaking turkey apart with a spoon. Add wine and cook 2 minutes. Use a slotted spoon to transfer turkey to a separate bowl and discard all but 2 Tbsp. of the liquid. Set turkey aside.

In the Dutch oven, cook the onion over medium heat, stirring until softened about 3 minutes. Add the corn and cook 1-2 minutes. Add the turkey and mix well. Season with salt and pepper.

Flatten turkey mixture to create a layer. Add mashed sweet potatoes on top and smooth to create a second layer. Bake for 15 minutes, then broil 3-5 minutes to brown the top.