Monday, November 7, 2011

New England, Good Food & a Propsal

So much has happend since we last talked. We took a trip to New Hampshire & the New England coast. It was beautiful, I could totally see myself living up there. We drove through White Mountain State Park, that's where that picture you see above was taken. On that drive we stopped at a hiking trail & the Hunk proposed & I said yes. YAH!! Which means now we have alot going on around the GWW household, lots of wedding planning is happening as we are planning for the end of May.

Also on our little vacation we took a road trip up the coast of Maine (home of the lobster roll) & it too was gorgeous. The beaches are incredible, nothing like our Gulf Coast beaches but just as breathtaking. We said we wouldn't mind taking a summer trip to Maine & try out their beaches for a week or so. The beaches there are very rocky, the sand is almost black but it's just like what you see in movies, we loved it.

On our trip that day we stopped for lunch at Capt'n & Patty's, just south of York, Maine. It was a small little place overlooking the harbor. I was determined to get a lobster roll that day & Capt'n & Patty's did not disappoint. It was a delicious blend of lump lobster meat mixed with a little mayo, maybe some lemon juice & fresh parsley all stuff in a split slice of buttery, toasted french bread. It doesn't sound like much I know but trust me I could have eaten several of these things & for every meal. It came with a side of their home-made onion rings which were equally as good.

We drove further up the coast to the Nubble Lighthouse, it was originally built in 1879 & the house in 1901. It was very picturesque as you can see above. It reminded us of the house in Beetlejuice too. Ha!

The feeling you get when you see this picture, you know where you just look at it & go "ahhhh", that was the feel of that entire area. Absolutley wonderful, easy, breezy & relaxing.

The lighthouse sits on an island of sorts & can only be reached by a bucket that's suspended on a pulley like system. It wasn't open to the public so we only got to see it from the opposite shore, along with about 100 other folks. We didn't realize what we were going to see when we said "let's follow the signs to that lighthouse, that would be neat." And look what we found.

We saw alot of pretty scenery while in New England in addition to Maine & midcentral New Hampshire. We even drove over to Vermont one day to look at covered bridges. We had a pint at some really neat pubs & good food at some really neat restaurants as well.

One of those restaurants was the famous Red Arrow Diner. We had lunch on our last day before we hit the airport. We discovered it when searching cool places to go & found that this was on Diners, Drive-Ins & Dives, so of course we had to check it out. And let me tell you it was well worth the time, they have a huge menu, almost anything you want plus they have daily specials. I would love to go there for a solid week & have every meal even though I still wouldn't get try everything I wanted.

It was a tiny little L-shaped diner with only about 6 feet between the counter & the wall & only 5 booths on one end. You actually went through the kitchen to get to the bathroom, the Hunk had to go & the cook says to him "hey buddy, that way" & points to the restroom. Ha! We thought that was pretty funny.

Anyway, we sat at a booth & discovered that we were sitting where Adam Sandler sat when he visited the Red Arrow, the name plate above was on the back of the booth. We started looking around & I was sitting where Al Gore had sat, there were several other celebrity notations on the other booths too along with their signed picture of them sitting in said booth. Not a bad end to an awesome trip.

The Red Arrow, & alot of places in New England, are famous for their beans. So of course we had to order a side of them. They were really good, a little sweet, alot like baked beans without the BBQ sauce in them.

And to us they are just baked beans that everyone has at any summer time cookout. But to the folks of New Englad they are a staple. You really can find them on almost every non-specialty restaurant menu.

My actual lunch was a turkey club, you could choose any side & I chose one of my favorites, mac & cheese. The turkey club was very good, it wasn't sliced deli turkey it was freshly sliced turkey from a fturkey fresh cooked that day, you could tell. The bacon was plentiful too & cooked perfectly. The mac & cheese was creamy & delicous & they put an extra spoonful of the cheese sauce on top before they serve it. The Hunk tried one of the specials, a cheeseburger quesadilla & had a side of their famous chicken & rice soup. We wished we could have taken an extra order of both home with us.

But there was one thing that might overshadow the famous beans & soup & specials & sandwiches. And that is their house made twinkies. I ate too much at lunch & couldn't eat it right away. But I did dig in the next day when we got home & it was pretty good. A nice sponge cake with a marshmallowey-icing like filling. You definitley should stop by the Red Arrow & get your own Twinkie next time your in Manchester, New Hampshire.

We had a great trip & I'm so glad I'm finally getting to share it & our good news of the approaching wedding with you.

I'll be back later in the week with a new recipe & a DIY project on the new At Home section of my blog.


Sunday, October 16, 2011

Caprese Stuffed Chicken with Balsamic Reduction

Who doesn't love Italy?

Even if you've never been to Italy you love it.

We also love the Italian colors of red, green & white, they are used in everything, flags, food, decorations, furniture. They are everywhere.

We love salad, especially caprese salad which is tomato (red), basil (green) & cheese (white) with balsamic vinegar.

So since we love all those things so much why not stuff them into the meat that we also love so much, chicken & top it with a sauce that everyone loves as well, balsmic vinegar.

I'm always trying to come up with new & different things to do with chicken. We have it alot around the GWW house & it gets boring fixing it the same way all the time. So, I thought I was being brilliant when I came up with this recipe.

Come to find out I'm not the first person to create this.

I was a little disappointed to find out I wasn't as creative as I thought or at least not anymore creative than every other foodie out there.

But I'm okay with it, I think.

Let's see what you think.

I started with 3 boneless, skinless chicken breast. These were of pretty good size too. So I placed them on top of some wax paper & covered them with another sheet of wax paper.

And I beat them to within an inch of there lives. Actually to about 1/2 an inch. It took banging on the chicken on both sides to get them as thin as I wanted. My poor mallet was worn out.

Then I seasoned both sides with seasoned salt, pepper, garlic salt & italian seasoning & set them to the side.

I grabbed 3 roma tomatoes, one for each chicken breast, sliced them in half & got all the seeds out.

I sliced some fresh mozzarella, 2 slices for each chicken breast & I grabbed a basil leaf or 2 (not pictured) for each chicken breast as well.

I layered the tomatoes, basil & cheese on one end of the chicken breast.

And carefully rolled it up, securing it with toothpicks. This is not the neatest chicken rolling job I know, but it's the best I could do. Next time I may beat the chicken out thinner to see if that helps.

I then heated some olive oil over medium high heat & seared the outside of the chicken, again, not an easy task with the toothpicks.

I browned the chicken on each side for about 2-3 mins, just long enough to get a good golden crust on them.

Then they were placed in a greased baking dish & baked on 375 for about 30 mins.

They came out golden & delicious. But as you can see I needed to do a better job of closing up the ends of the chicken as some of the cheese made it's way out. So make that mental note for yourself.

While the chicken baked I prepared a balsamic reduction. I failed to take pictures of that, but it would have been pretty boring because all that consist of is 1 cup of balsamic vinegar brought to a boil then the heat reduced to simmer until it reduces by half, then add 1/4 cup of brown sugar & continue heating until mixture is thick & syrup like.

Slice your chicken & drizzle with the reduction & serve. The balsamic reduction is the key to this chicken, it was a delicious combination.

Try it yourself & let me know how it turns out.

Caprese Stuffed Chicken with Balsamic Reduction
3 boneless, skinless chicken breast, pounded to 1/4" thick
Seasoned Salt, Garlic Salt, Black Pepper & Italian Seasoning to taste
3 Roma tomatoes, sliced in half & seeds removed
6 slices 1/4 slices of mozzarella cheese
3-6 fresh basil leaves
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 cup balsamic vinegar
1/4 cup brown sugar

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Season both sides of the chicken breast with the salts, pepper & italian seasoning. Place 2 tomato halves, 1 or 2 basil leaves & 2 slices of cheese on one end of chicken breast. Roll chicken, jelly roll style & secure sides & ends with toothpicks. Heat oil over medium high heat, place chicken breast in oil & sear each side, about 3 minutes per side. Place chicken breast in baking dish in greased baking dish & bake for 30 minutes. While chicken bakes heat balsamic vinegar over high heat to boiling, reduce heat & simmer until vinegar has reduced by half. Add brown sugar & continue heating until mixture has thickened & has a syrup like texture. Once chicken is done, slice & drizzle with balsamic reduction to serve.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Creamy Sausage Dip

Yes, another dip recipe.

As I stated last week, I love finger foods & dips would be included in those & this one is especially yummy. You really don't even need a chip or anything as your finger will work just fine or a spoon for those of you who may be more civilized on occasion.

This recipe came to me from my dear friend Marian. Marian is one of the most even keel people you will ever meet in your life. She always has a smile on her face. It has been questioned however whether that smile is from the her being truly positive all the time & seeing the good in all things or delirium. The jury is still out & I feel sure she will agree with me on that.

Marian also has the sweetest, cutest children you will ever lay eyes on. Her first born Charlie, he's 3, there are no words to describe that child. He's just too adorable & funny.

Her second, Mari Evelyn is only 5 months & as big as her 3 year old brother. Seriously, this kid is one of those chubby babies that has rolls on her arms & legs. I just love to see babies like that they are too cute.

So enough about Marian & her perfect family (her husband is a jewel as well by the way). Let's get back to the dip.

This recipe is a staple for Marian & the rest of her family when it comes to football games, showers of any kind or just when you are in the mood for a good snack. Marian also calls it 1-2-3 dip, but I decided to take the liberty of changing the name to something that sounds a little more appetizing...Creamy Sausage Dip. I'm sure Marian won't mind...she's even keeled remember.

So what's in this dip you ask? Well let's see...

First you'll need 1 pound of ground sausage, browned & drained. This is the 1 in the 1-2-3 & the sausage in the creamy sausage dip. Get it? Good. That's what I'm here for, to state the obvious.

Moving on.

Next you'll place 3 8oz blocks of cream cheese in the same pan you used for the sausage. We are getting out of order here, but this is the 3 in the 1-2-3 & the creamy in the creamy sausage dip.

Heat the cheese over medium-low heat until it is thoroughly melted. You will need to continuously stir this so that it doesn't stick to the pan & scorch.

After the cheese is creamy & smooth add the sausage back in.

Mix that together really well to incorporate the flavors & continue letting the cheese get melty & creamy.

Now add in 2 cans of rotel tomatoes or diced tomatoes with green chilis as some brands call it. You will not drain the tomatoes. The juice helps keep the dip from getting goopey & sticky when it cools down some. And this is the 2 in the 1-2-3.

Mix all that together until it's hot & slightly bubbly. I also added a dash of salt & black pepper & a pinch of cilantro. None of that is necessary however, it's sheer preference.

When it's all heated it is ready to serve. You can keep this in a crock-pot to keep it warm if serving it a party & it's just as good room temperature as it is hot.

I serve this with corn chips scoops, Marian serves it with wheat thin crackers. You may serve it with whatever you like. To keep it low carb it would go well with pork skins or vegetables...or a spoon.


Creamy Sausage Dip (aka 1-2-3 Dip)

1lb sausage, browned & drained
2 cans rotel tomatoes, undrained
3-8oz blocks of cream cheese
Salt, Pepper, Cilantro to taste (optional)

After browning & draining your sausage place the cream cheese in a pan over medium-low heat. Stir until cheese is melted & creamy. Add sausage back to cheese, stir well, then add tomatoes. You may add a dash of salt, pepper & cilantro if you prefer. Continue stirring dip until heated through & it just starts to bubble. Serve with corn chip scoops or wheat thins.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Jalapeno Popper Dip

It's football season & you know what that means.

It's the season of dips, chips, snacks & all things bite size & delicious.

I love finger foods.

I would live on finger foods alone if I could. Like in that movie Mermaids where Cher plays the mom & Winona Ryder is her teenage daughter & Cher makes finger foods for all of their meals.

That would be awesome to me. I would love it.

So now that I've probably upset all the male readers out there by comparing football season to a Cher movie, let's get on with things.

I initially found this recipe when I saw the pinned picture on Pinterest.

Pinterest is my new addiction & it will be yours too if you go there. Don't say I didn't warn you.

I saw the picture of the dip & wanted the recipe. So I navigated my way through Pinterest to get to the link for Closet Cooking's Jalapeno Popper Dip. This is another cooking blog that I now read daily. Kevin has a ton of great recipes, you should check him out.

I printed the recipe & read it over & it got me to thinking.

Where Kevin's recipe called for panko bread crumbs on top to mimic the battered & fried outside of a traditional jalapeno popper I thought I'd substitute that with more cheddar cheese & add bacon. One, this makes it more low-carb friendly & two, if I had to choose I'd choose my jalapeno popper be wrapped in bacon instead of breaded in panko bread crumbs.

That's just my personal preference & again goes back to the low-carb lifestyle I try so desperately to follow.

So here's how it went down...

I fried up some bacon & set it aside to drain on a paper towel. I used about eight slices, you can add more if you think you'd like more, I probably will next time.

Then dice about 1/2 a cup of pickled jalapenos, you know the kind in the jar, they are usually already sliced, but you need to do a rough chop on them. Be sure to take out the seeds for a little less heat if that is your style. Also, this really turned out a little too spicy for my taste so I would either cut the amount of pickled jalapenos in half or use fresh jalapenos with the amount of seeds & membrane removed that I prefer. Kevin's calls for both to be added & that would be waaayyy too much heat for me.

In a large bowl mix together cream cheese, mayonnaise, half of the shredded cheddar cheese, a 1/2 cup of the grated parmigiano reggiano & your chopped jalapenos.

Chop your bacon & add about two-thirds of it to the cheese/jalapeno mixture. Mix all of that together really well.

I used a glass pie plate, you can use any type of dish you like, but the more shallow the better. Be sure to grease it with non-stick spray. Dump your dip mixture into your baking dish.

Top it with the remaining cheddar cheese & bacon.

Bake at 375 degrees for about 20 minutes.

I fixed this for a football party & got so busy trying to prepare it for that, that I did not take the action shot which would have included a corn chip scoop being dipped in & pulled out with melty, gooey cheesey jalapeno goodness all over it.

So you'll have to contend with another picture of it coming out of the oven.

Enjoy with your favorite tortilla or corn chip or even crackers. Just a side note, as this cools it gets a little goopey so I would suggest keeping it in or on something that will help it to stay warm.

And as always let me know how it turns out for you.

Jalapeno Popper Dip
8-10 slices of bacon
1-8oz block of cream cheese
1/2 cup of mayonnaise
1 cup of shredded cheddar cheese
3/4 cup of parmigiano reggiano
1/2 cup of pickled jalapenos

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Fry bacon & set aside to drain & cool. In a mixing bowl blend together cream cheese, half of the cheddar cheese, 1/2 cup of the parmigiano reggiano & the jalapenos. Give the bacon a rough chop & add about 2/3 of it to the cheese & jalapeno mixture. Grease a shallow baking dish with non-stick spray. Pour in dip mixture & spread evenly across the dish. Top with remaining cheeses & bacon. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until bubbly & cheese has melted. Serve warm.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Chicken Spread

Hey ya'll! I'm back!

I know, I know, it's been too long...for you & me both.

But good news! I'm on the fast track now with my post & blogging so you'll be seeing alot more of me.

As mentioned in my last "I'm still here" post I mentioned new additions & those are on the way, it takes a little work to add new features to your blog. But never fear, they will be here soon.

So let's talk about why we are here today...the chicken spread.

This recipe came to me from my friend & former co-worker Lauren.

That's former on my part not hers. She's still there, I'm not.

I'm blogging...amongst other things.


Lauren brought this to a baby shower a few months back & it was delicious. Addictive in fact. So of course I quickly asked her for the recipe & made it the first opportunity I had. Which was a random Saturday when I was bored & wanted a low-carb snack.

Remember that low-carb lifestyle I try so desperately to follow?

Yeah. Still doing that & this recipe fits the bill for it.

So let's get to the recipe & let me apologize for the lack of step-by-step pictures. This is one of those throw everything in a bowl, mix together & serve deals & not until I got almost done making it did I remember to take pics...I know! I'm sorry. But this is super easy, I promise. I also made a small tweak, Lauren's recipe called for 2-8oz blocks of cream cheese & it made it a little to firm for me, so I substituted mayo & sour cream for one of the blocks of cream cheese & it turned out perfect.

All you do is mix together canned chicken, cream cheese, mayonnaise, sour cream, paprika, dill weed, garlic powder, parsley, diced onion & lemon juice. Chill for at least an hour to let the flavors blend & voila. You have chicken spread or dip or stuff or whatever you wanna call it. You may serve it with crackers of your choice, cheese crisps, it would be really good with celery, carrots, bell pepper, whatever blows your skirt up.

It's delicious. Try it & let me know what you think.

Here's the full recipe with measurements & all that.

Lauren's Chicken Spread

1-8oz block of cream cheese
1/2 cup of mayonnaise
1/2 cup of sour cream
1-13oz can of chicken, drained
1/4 tsp paprika
1/4 tsp dill weed
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1 Tbsp dried parsley flakes
1/4 cup finely diced onion
1 tsp lemon juice

Mix cream cheese, mayonnaise & sour cream together until well blended. Add in chicken & remaining ingredients, mix well. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour to allow flavors to blend. Serve with your favorite crackers or raw vegetables.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Get ready, cuz here I come...

Hey ya'll!! I know you thought I had forgotten all about you but the truth is I've been getting ready for the explosion of posts that are on the way. It will be an extravaganza of excitement I promise. Soon I will have much more time to dedicate to this blog & I will be adding a new Do-It-Yourself /Decorating portion. I'm very excited about the changes & I hope you are too.

I just wanted to drop you a little note to let you know what's been going on since I haven't been around in almost 2 months. And yes, I'm ashamed, but hold on tight, because the rides about to get really fun.

Thank you all so much for your support during this time of transition & I look forward to entertaining you (hoping that's what you consider it) very, very soon.


Saturday, July 9, 2011

Country Sausage Gravy

Mmm, mmm, mmm, I luuuvvv sausage gravy.

The very first time I had this I was about 11 years old & my Grandma Hicks made it for me & she served it over texas toast. It was love at first sight for me & the gravy.

The ironic thing is my family roots grow deep in the country & looking back I can't believe it took me 11 years to have this stuff. The minute it hit my lips I felt I had been deprived.

After all, I knew at a very young age that fried pork chops, rice & gravy, butterbeans cooked with okra & seasoned with bacon grease, silver king corn & fresh tomatoes with biscuits or cornbread should be a staple in any good southern household. (Did your arteries just clog up reading that? Mine did, but my mouth watered too) How was it that country gravy never made it into the mix until 11 years in.

To add to this confusion it's now a breakfast staple at my dad's house on Saturday mornings? It never was when I was growing up.

Why does/did my mother or my Grandma Denmark never fix this delicious gravy? Why did they make me rely on the breakfast buffet at Shoney's to get my country sausage gravy fix?

These are questions I may never know the answer to. But the good news is I'm all grown up now & can fix this any time I want to.

Except when I'm having a "good" week on the low-carb lifestyle I try so desperately to follow.

And except when the hunk puts in a special request for it.

And as far as he's concerned this recipe is the best he's had. Ever since the first time I fixed this for him he refuses to have it anywhere else. And that is a great compliment.

And this is the last sentence I'm starting with the word "and" or else the grammar police are going to come after me.

So how do you fix this country sausage gravy that I keep talking about? Here goes...

Brown 1lb of sausage in a the same skillet you would use to make the gravy.

Remove the sausage to a plate to drain leaving some of the drippings in the skillet.

This next part is not for the faint of heart or the high of cholesterol. Don't say I didn't warn you...

This is bacon grease & were it's not essential to the gravy it sure does make it taste good & rich. Over medium low heat, add about a tablespoon of the bacon grease to the pan.

Let that melt down & scrape the pan to get the little bits of sausage left lingering.

Now add about 3 tablespoons of all-purpose flour.

Add a couple tablespoon of butter, 1/4 tsp of salt & a good amount of black pepper. Using a whisk continuously stir your flour, grease & butter mixture. 

The butter really should be added to the pan with or instead of the bacon grease, but I was a little late in grabbing it & throwing it in.

Lightly whisk this just until it browns a little, the flour is smooth, the butter is melted & it starts to bubble.

Add about 2 cups of milk to the flour, 1 cup at a time whisking between pours. Again making sure you are continuously whisking this until the flour is fully incorporated with the milk & it starts to thicken just slightly. And when I say whisk I don't mean like your beating an egg, more like just trying to keep the liquid moving so it doesn't burn or stick.

Lack of whisking can cause the flour and milk to scorch & nobody likes scorched milk & flour.

Add your cooked sausage & continue stirring, you can switch to a spatula or wooden spoon or utensil of your choice at this point.

Keep stirring until the gravy is thickened to your liking, you may add a little more milk if it gets too thick.

That's it, simple. You have country sausage gravy. Yum, yum. You can make this without the sausage also if you like.

Serve over quick-as-a-wink biscuits & you've got breakfast or lunch or dinner or a snack.

Whatever meal you have this for enjoy it & let me know how it turns out.


Country Sausage Gravy
Makes about 4-5 cups of gravy

1lb ground sausage
1 Tbsp of bacon grease (optional)
2 Tbsp butter
3 Tbsp all purpose-flour
1/4 tsp salt
1/4-1/2 tsp black pepper
2 cups milk

Brown sausage & set aside leaving some drippings in the skillet. Over medium-low heat melt bacon grease & butter. Add flour, salt & pepper. Continuously whisk flour mixture until just brown & flour has dissolved & starts to bubble. Add milk, 1 cup at a time, gently whisking until flour is fully incorporated with the milk. Just as the gravy starts to barely thicken add sausage. Continue stirring until gravy starts to bubble & is to desired thickness. If gravy gets too thick, add a little milk.