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So Paige and I are off today on a mini-adventure. We have a long trek ahead of us that could take hours. We are stocking up on rations and other necessities to get us through this trip.

Where are we going you ask? Well, to see the Pioneer Woman! Orlando is one of her stops on her book signing tour. So Paige and I are sneaking out of work early and heading on over.

We have heard rumors of people standing in line for hours to get her signature. Since we don’t want to be leaving Orlando at 10 tonight or later, we thought we would get there early and find a good book and a cup of coffee and camp out for a bit.

Check in tomorrow to hear how it went and hopefully see some fun pictures!

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I decided to make a salad the other night with ingredients on hand.  It sounded so good in my head.  And I knew I was going to want to share this with you. But one camera is hiding. And the other camera was full and didn’t want any more food. And I was in too much of a hurry to delete the pictures. And my camera phone is broken so I couldn’t even resort to that.

So, I am going to do something very old-fashioned. I am going to just give you a recipe with very little commentary. And I am going to ask you to do something very old-fashioned as well. Read without pictures. I’m sorry, I know this is horrible but I didn’t want to not share at all!

This salad was delicious. It was a filling salad. It would be a good entertaining salad. It’s a good, “I have leftover chicken that I don’t know what to do with” salad. Even Baker Man went back for seconds – so it is a Man-Friendly Salad. I mean, it has bacon after all.

INGREDIENTS
Bag of baby spinach
½ lb of bacon
3 small apples – I used fuji
1/3 large onion, about 2/3 cup chopped
2 cooked chicken breasts cubed
Grated cheddar cheese – optional
Honey Dijon dressing

PREPARATION
Start by cooking your bacon. While your bacon is cooking, rinse your spinach and let it dry. Then chop your onion. Core and roughly chop your apples.

Set your bacon on a paper towel to drain. Lightly cook the apples and onions in the bacon grease. You want them to be warmed through and just starting to soften. And you don’t have to use the bacon grease if you don’t want too – it just adds a little bit of flavor but you could skip that and make this slightly more healthy.

As for the chicken, I had left over chicken so I sliced it cold and tossed it in the salad. You could grill, bake, broil, sauté, fry, or cook it just about any way you want to and add to the salad. Or you can buy pre-cooked. The point is, cooked chicken, cut bite size, hot or cold.

Mix all of the prepared ingredients into a bowl and toss. Grate cheese into the salad if desired. Or cube cheese. Cubed brie would be delicious in this salad though I used cheddar. Both work with the other ingredients – just in different ways. Serve with Honey Dijon Dressing.

TOTAL PREP TIME – About 10 – 15 minutes (not including chicken cook time)

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A Shuttle Launch

I know this blog is predominately about food. But I feel so strongly this morning I have to put this into words. Or at least try.

I just walked in from seeing one of the final space shuttle launches. Every launch I have ever seen has moved me emotionally. There are critics who say that the shuttle is old and out of date. And this is true. But really, what a beautiful machine. What incredible accomplishments it has had during its lifetime. Both scientifically, but also in bringing together a nation. Is it time for change in our space program? Yes, absolutely. But it is also time to remember the great things the space shuttle has done.

My memories of the shuttle range from lying on our backs in music class with our feet up on the wall pretending to be astronauts lifting off, to standing at the space center watching the shuttle take off. I have been humbled by the beauty of the launches and proud that for a short time, I was able to contribute to the program. I feel completely lucky that I have been able to live so close to the space center. That I have seen so many launches. That I got to work with the incredible team at KSC. I have been able to climb the launch pad, meet astronauts, and be within arm’s reach of a shuttle.

The launch this morning was beautiful. The skies were clear and the shuttle lit up the sky. A few minutes later, the rumble from the lift off made it to us and I was reminded of the shuttle’s power.

I apologize for the ramble this morning. Like I said, every launch moves me, but the closer we get to the end of the space shuttle program, it hits me even more. I am sad that we are losing something that has been so important to the United States, to science, to space exploration, and more. I am sad that we are stopping with no alternative, with no clear future for the program. I said above, it may be time for change, but I don’t believe it is time to stop with no clear path forward.

I just hope that a new plan, a new direction for NASA can be laid out soon. That we find some new path in space. I hope for all of you, that if you have not seen a space shuttle launch, that you take the opportunity to see one in the next couple of months. It truly is breathtaking.

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I hate wasting food. So I don’t. The meal had to have been really bad for it to go into the trash, like those flax crackers I tried to make.  I try to make my meals go as far as they can. Sometimes that means another full dinner. Sometimes they disapear into the bottomless pit I married before I get home from work the next day. Other times I make new meals.

So take the roja vieja I made the other night. I decided it would make a fantastic lunch for my husband to take to work. The challenge: he needs lunch he can eat with his hands and that don’t need to be reheated. The answer: I made him some wraps.

First I got my assembly line ready with whole grain wraps, the leftover vieja ropa and rice, and lettuce.

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With the wraps laid out, I put a piece of lettuce on each one. Then some rice on top of that. Top it off with some of the vieja ropa.

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And I rolled them up. I am not so good at that part yet but I am working on it. I wrapped them in foil and sent my husband on his way. Be careful to drain out some of the “juice” so the wrap doesn’t get soggy during the day.

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Enjoy!

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You get all sorts of results when experimenting in the kitchen. Some are better than others. This week I experienced the whole range.

The Good:

Mmmm. 15 Bean Soup. I call it “Anything Goes 15 Bean Soup”. Because basically anything can go into it. My mom was big into soups and stews, and chowders and such in the colder months growing up. 15 bean soup is one that I never fully appreciated until I got older.

I start with this: Hurst’s 15 Bean Soup Mix. It is found where ever you find dried beans in your grocery store.

Mom prefers the original mix that isn’t as spicy. I like to heat it up with the Cajun mix and hot sausage. Either one of them is good. Generally I follow the cooking directions on the bag except I add every vegetable in the house – onion, peppers, carrots, celery, potatoes, spinach, etc. Go to town. I even added the left over rice from my veggie casserole this time. You might want to add a little extra water if you are adding lots of extras. The tougher veggies, like carrots, go in early and then you add the other stuff later. An easy and hearty meal. It does take a little planning though. This one is not ready in 30 minutes.

Yesterday I tried it in the crock pot for the first time. I chopped the veggies and cooked the sausage the night before. I also put the beans in water to soak overnight. In the morning I threw everything into the crock pot. I set it on low for 10 hours. I did not bring beans to a boil first since they were going to be cooking much longer than normal. It was great coming home with dinner ready to be served!

The Bad:

I love bruschetta. There isn’t anything about it I don’t like. So when I found about 15 bazillion recipes online for a chicken bruschetta bake I thought I had hit the jackpot. There were so many variations of this recipe with high ratings I assumed this had to be a no-brainer. Well, this must be like the hardboiled egg for me. I’ve tried it a couple of times and my husband and I are always just a tad disappointed. Not really bad – just meh. I have a couple of ideas of how to make it better for us but I am not sure I want to put in the time to figure it out. Go out and try it though. The rest of the world seems to think it is good, so it might just be the cook!

bruschetta

Doesn’t look so bad right? I’ll admit, the topping was pretty good it was just the casserole over all that didn’t meet expectations.

The Ugly:

Flax Seed Crackers. I have been DYING to try these. Highly suggested to me a couple of years ago but was told I needed a food dehydrator. Well, since I wasn’t running out to get one of those, I saw that there were a very small amount of recipes online for how to make them in the oven. I thought I would give them a try. Eeeeew. Ok – maybe blame the cook again. I needed to make them flatter for one thing – so they were more like crackers. They were a little soft, which really wasn’t a big deal but the taste was AWFUL. Remember the old stereotype about healthy food tasting like cardboard? Well yep, I made healthy food that tasted like cardboard. I am sure someone out there has a good recipe. I think I need to just up about everything flavor-wise (garlic, pepper, parmesan cheese, red pepper, etc) and flatten them to see if that helps. This might get a second chance but not any time soon!

flax crackers

The dogs liked them but since flax is high in fiber and I didn’t want to be woken up in the middle of the night for a potty run, they only got the smallest of nibbles.

So – there you have it. The ups and downs in my kitchen recently!

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A Dieter’s Nightmare

Last night’s dinner was bad.  Unhealthy bad.  But it was really really good too.  Yummy good.  Now, I am not on a diet, but I do try to eat healthy.  Well, last night, I threw all of that to the wind.  I hate to admit it but my husband gets most of the credit for this meal.  So what did we have?  Steak covered in a creamy garlic and parmesan sauce.  Our sides were potato salad and pasta salad.  That’s right NO veggies.  I wanted to make a salad but I figured if we were going to be bad, we may as well be really bad.   

So the sides we picked up pre-made from our local market when we got the steak.  We chose New York strip.  That is typically our steak of choice when cooking at home, or a top sirloin.  For me, those seem to be the best value for the price.  I let the steak get to room temperature on the counter and then gave them a good helping of salt on both sides.  Then they disapeared to the grill and my husband worked his magic.  Usually that is all we do to steak and it is fantastic.  And everyone always asks what our secret is.  Well there it is.  Salt.    

Tonight we decided to do something special.  The sauce is brand new – an idea born while shopping.  His original idea was a garlic and cheese crusted steak.  Then he decided it would better to just have the sauce on top. 

I started by grating about 2 cups of the parmesan cheese.

 

 I apologize for the low quality on the pictures.  My brother-in-law “borrowed” my camera so I am making do with my camera phone for now. 

Then I was told to mix it with the heavy cream already on the stove.  (I did a lot of the cooking but I was really just following instructions).  We had the heat on medium low so the cheese slowly melted and nothing burned.

I minced 3 cloves of garlic and mixed it with everything else.  And then we added a couple tablespoons of butter.  You can see the butter melting here.  And the darker spot there?  That is the sherry he decided to add last minute – no more than a ¼ cup.  That is optional.  You could also use white wine if you have some open.  We also put in some fresh ground pepper. 

 

And I just kept stirring.  And stirring.  And stirring.  Until the steaks returned from the grill.  The sauce started pretty liquidy (I don’t think that is a word).  But as I stirred, it started to thicken up.  This would make a great fondue with just a little extra time on the stove or some flour to thicken it up even more. 

 So here it all is served up on our plates. 

Mmmm.  It was so good.  I made a special trip to the gym today after that heavy dinner but it was so worth it.  We will have to have this again….hmmm, maybe dinner tonight?

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About Paige

My passion for cooking began when I moved to Gainesville for college (Go Gators!).  Ok, actually it started more like survival rather than passion.  Living at home I was spoiled by my amazing cook for a mother and never really had a need to find my way around the kitchen.  Fast forward to the end of my first semester and my limited recipe repertoire of peanut butter & jelly, grilled cheese, and tuna fish sandwiches was starting to get very old very fast.  I had a crazy idea (I get lots of those) to invite some friends over to our apartment for a pre-Thanksgiving feast.  How hard could it be?  After several phonecalls to our mothers, plastic gloves and duct tape, and an itty bitty oven fire my roommate and I survived our first Thanksgiving… and much to my surprise, I loved every minute of it.

Outside of the kitchen you will probably find me spending time with my husband, playing with our (six year old) puppy, eating Thai food, working out, reading, hanging out on the boat, entertaining our friends, enjoying the beautiful outdoors… all while trying to forget about my addiction to food 🙂

Welcome to our little home on the web.   We’re glad you’re here and hope you stick around as we share our enthusiasm for food, fun, and life!

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