~*~ Birthday Parties & Presents ~*~

So the big 40 has arrived.

I’m super excited about some gifts I’ve received and just had to share!

I realize I’m probably one of the last people on earth with a food blog who didn’t already have one of these handy-dandy things, but I do now and I love it.

I have arrived, kitchen peeps! 

My mom gave this to me a few weeks ago (a very early birthday present) and I’ve already used it several times. It came in really handy when I was whipping up some real cream for my Chocolate-Strawberry Shortcake Whoopie Pies :)

And look at this adorable cover she made for it.

THEN {squeeeeeeeee….} I got THESE!

Ya’ll are going “Wha??” Yeah, I know, they’re food storage containers BUT they are also BPA FREE and ya’ll know how I am about those pesky, toxic BPA’s!

When I found these on Amazon and forwarded the link to the hubby, he was like, ‘Are you serious? You want this for your birthday?’

What can I say- I’m easy to please. And since I’m in the process of a pantry make-over these are perfect! Glass is expensive and not as durable (Let’s face it, glass breaks) and this BPA free plastic is a great alternative.

So…..out with the old….

…and in with the NEW!

Ta-da!

So, I won’t leave you hanging. These great food storage containers by Lock & Lock were very reasonably priced through Amazon.  They offer several different sized sets and even larger specialty containers. Check out the link for yourself and replace those old, toxic food containers.

So I promised last week that I would share pictures from my birthday party. I had a GREAT time- but that’s expected because I have such GREAT friends :) We went out to dinner and then to our friend’s bar and danced and had so much fun. They bought me a bunch of gag gifts and told me I had to wear it all- so that’s where the shell boobies came in. You can also see me sporting my new Hot & Messy wine glass from Hot Mess Mom. There were 13 of us all together so we were never able to get a group picture.

 

 

           

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

          

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Coconut Cream Tart

In lieu of my birthday I decided to choose a dessert this week just for me ;) The boys did like it very much, however, and if you like coconut, you will too. I’m not much of a custard person, but this was really good, and I could see lots of potential using this recipe as a base for a basic custard.

Coconut Cream Tart

3/4 cup sugar

1/3 cup flour (I used unbleached all-purpose for this. no wheat)

4 large eggs

2 cups milk

1 Tbsp. vanilla

1/2 cup shredded coconut + more for sprinkling

1 pkg. frozen tart shells or *premade pie crust cut into circles

Whisk together the sugar, flour, eggs, and milk in a heavy saucepan . Cook over medium heat, whisking constantly, 6-10 minutes, or until a chilled pudding-like thickness. Remove from heat. Stir in vanilla nd coconut.

Cover and chill 6 hours (or more). Bake tart shells according to package directions. Cool completely. Spoon custard into shells. Dollop with whipped cream and sprinkle with additional coconut flakes.

*I used the kind of premade crust that Pillsbury sells in long rolls that need to be spread out a bit with a rolling-pin. Also, I don’t have a tart pan so I used a muffin tin. Gently place circles into the tins, press sides down and prick several times with a fork. Bake for 7 or 8 minutes (or until browned) at 400*.

This dessert came together very quick (cooling time aside) and easily, and it looks and tastes like A LOT more work went into it. Super good!

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We’re Moving!

A season has come to an end. (No, not the blog, silly!) Living the life of an itinerant ministry, we often are moved from one appointment to another. We’ve had five amazing years here on the island; an experience we would not have had otherwise. It’s become home to my children, especially Number One who changed so much from 10 to 15. When he looks back I know he will see this place as his home. As much as I moved around as a child, the home I spent years 9-15 in were the most impactful. There’s just something about that time of your life.

It’s a bittersweet time because we’ve known a very long time that this was coming, but weren’t allowed to say anything for months. Not knowing what was coming has been stressful. I am the kind of person that likes to know what to expect, even if it’s years from now, just so I can be prepared. Of course, we didn’t know where we were going, we only knew that we would. Once the appointment was set we were allowed to tell our congregation and our friends and family.

I have made some awesome friends here. I have made myself a part of the community by getting involved in several organizations. I made a niche for myself and now I will have to start all over. But the blog shall remain and of course nothing here will change ;) My 40th birthday is coming up and you know what that means: Girls Night! I will be sure to post some pictures as this may very well be our last get-together before June. I hope not but we’ll see.

So for the next two months I will be super busy. Five years collects a lot of stuff and I have to go through the attic and weed out the things we need to throw out, donate, etc. Then start packing. Ugh! How I hate the packing. But I’ve done this countless times and this definitely won’t be my last move. If I miss a post here and there it is because I’m up to my ears in boxes and whatnot, which I suspect will leave me little time for writing, but I will do my best to post most days (just to keep me sane if nothing else!)

So before I know it it’ll be “goodbye” to the island; the salt air and salt water (all over my car and house windows), the flooding yards and streets, the small close-knit community where everyone knows everyone (and their business),  the very inflated gas prices, my neighbor’s roosters crowing all day long, the Canadian Geese that come every spring and lay bombs all over my yard, the tourists, and last but certainly not least, the hurricanes and nor’eastern winds. You can probably tell that I’m not really sad to say goodbye to most of these things. There are pros and cons to every living situation.

But I will also be saying goodbye to friends and church family. There are more people I will be sad to leave behind than there are whom I will not. And I will miss the ocean. I’m not much of a beach lounger but it was always fun to go out and find a car or a group of people you knew and someone to hang out with for a little bit while the kids made sand castles and played in the water. Those impromptu meetings with random friends were always rewarding.

I will miss the beautiful sunrises and sunsets, and the sheer volume of stars in the night sky that I never saw before anywhere else. I will miss being able to say, “Anyone wanna walk with me over to the store?” And having my name known virtually everywhere I frequented. It’s so nice when you sit down at a restaurant and they already have your half sweet- half unsweet tea waiting for you ;) I’ll miss the nature. I gained a newfound love for God’s creation in the sand dunes. Even watching hundreds of people come out daily to kite surf or wind surf. I will miss the rustic beauty that is all around this island.

I’ll miss the dolphins.

I’ll miss the hundreds of turtles that come out to sun themselves on the side of Hwy 64 on logs in the creeks.

The pelicans were pretty cool, too, but I won’t miss the seagulls ( we call them sand chickens.)

I won’t miss the nutrients, or the possums, or the plethora of feral cats that were always trying to scam my cat’s food.

So goodbye will be said and tears will be shed (haha- that rhymed!) and then the time will come to say “Hello!” to a new town, a new house, a new church, new schools, new jobs, and new friends.

Things will be different. There’s no way they can’t. The island is a place like no other. But that’s okay. Different isn’t a bad thing. Sometimes it’s just a little challenging. I’m good with challenges :)

Chicken Tortilla Casserole

My insatiable appetite for anything Mexican-flavored cannot be quenched. Hence, this newest addition to my list. I loved this casserole. It was flavorful but it was also comforting. You know what I mean? Just add it to the list along with your chicken noodle soup and meatloaf. This casserole is sure to become one of your go-to favorites as well.

I found this “healthified” recipe at eatbetteramerica.com where I have found many other wonderful, healthy recipes and options. I did adapt this recipe quite a bit, so you’re welcome to check out theirs as well. Here’s what I did:

*Since hubby is out if town I only made 1/2 a casserole. It was enough for me and the boys with enough leftover for my lunch the next day. No waste probably excites me more than organizing. Weird. I know.

Chicken Tortilla Casserole

**Cream Soup Mix

2 large chicken breast, cooked and shredded

4 oz. sour cream

1 tsp. chili powder

1/2 tsp cumin

1/2 green bell pepper, coarsely chopped

3 Roma tomatoes, chopped

1 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese, divided

1/4 cup Parmesan cheese

4 corn tortillas (6 inch) torn into bite-sized pieces

1. Heat oven to 350*. Spray 4×7 or 1 1/2 qt. baking dish with cooking spray.

2. In a small saucepan mix up cream soup mix by adding 1 1/4 cup water to 1/3 dry cream soup mix. Whisk and bring to soft boil for 2 minutes. Stir to avoid scalding. Once thickened, remove from heat.

3. In a large bowl, mix soup, sour cream, chicken, pepper and tomatoes, 1/2 the cheddar, Parmesan, chili powder, cumin, and tortillas. Spread out in baking dish.

4. Cover dish with foil and bake for 25-30 minutes. Uncover; sprinkle with remaining cheese. Bake uncovered for another 5 minutes or just until melted and casserole is bubbly. Let sit for 5 minutes.

**The dry mixture is more than you need for this recipe but it is good to have extra on hand. Dry mixture will measure close to 2 1/2 cups and only 1/3 cup will be needed for any recipe that calls for a regular 10 oz. can of condensed cream soup.

I used what ingredients I had on hand, but I would definitely like to try this with green chiles. We ate this with a green salad. It was super yummy!

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I’ve been Nominated :)

What a blessing it was to log on to WordPress the other day and find that I’d been nominated for the Versatile Blogger Award by Stephanie over at A Modern Christian Woman. If you have the time you should definitely check out her awesome blog. It’s full of great homemade recipes and lots of faith. That’s my kind of girl :) Thank you, Stephanie ♥

The rules of accepting this award are as follows:

 Thank the award giver(s) and link back to them in your post

- Share 7 things about yourself

- Pass this award along to 15 or 20 bloggers you read and admire

- Contact your chosen bloggers to let them know about the award

Seven Things About Me:

1. I’ve lived from one side of the country to the other.

2. I love a good thunderstorm as long as it’s not grocery day.

3. I write young adult fiction and am currently working on a trilogy.

4. I usually have about 5 different songs running through my head at the same time.

5. Winnie The Pooh is my hero {I recommend reading The Tao of Pooh}

6. I wish I had invented Press ‘n Seal – that stuff is awesome!

7. My first concert was Bon Jovi and Cinderella in 1987.

My Versatile Blogger Nominees are:

Hot Mess Mom – This woman is the epitome of versatile in the blogging world, and no question about it, my alter ego in spirit :)

The Better Baker - A joyful, loving woman who has awesome, down home recipes and a huge heart!

Tinkerbelle @ Laughter is Catching – There’s not much I can say other than I adore this young woman’s writing. You really need to check her out for yourself.

The Inklings of Life – I am probably her newest fan. I just found this awesome new blog via Hot Mess Mom. Fantastic.

Have a Dream - A wonderful blog full of inspiration.

Crumbs and Chaos – I’ve strictly been an observer of this blog, but I love the amazing recipes that come from it, and the fact that it’s a collaborative effort between 4 sisters.

Blog is the New Black -  Great recipes, great kitchen tips & tricks. This blog fits in really well with my love for organization and being efficient in the kitchen.

Caring for Kailey –  This is a special blogger who writes about issues close to my heart; ADHD and SPD among other things. If you have a child with these disorders, check out this blog. We can never have too much support.

Fitness Pheonixx – Awesome support and advice on staying fit and healthy. As an inspiring nutritionist, I find her to be exceptionally helpful.

Veg Hot Pot – An awesome resource for vegetarian recipes.

The Marathon Mom – One of my favorite blogs; full of encouragement and inspiration. I don’t know how this mom does it all :)

Clever Muffin - One of the very first blogs I started following when I began blogging last year. Awesome, awesome recipes!

Foodie Foodie Two Shoes - An awesome blog full of food, travel, and photos.

Thanks again for this wonderful blogger award! It’s very exciting and I hope I continue to write posts that you will enjoy ;) Have a very blessed day ♥

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Millefeuille Ratatouille

This week’s Meatless Monday feature is Ratatouille. If you’ve been following me long enough you’ll know this is a repost, but it is definitely worth one and deserves a place in my Meatless Monday cache.

I made this recently when we had family visiting for Easter break. Of course, I served it with Bulgur- my favorite way to eat this dish!

Click the links to take you to the recipes.

Enjoy!

Ratatouille

Millefeuille Ratatouille

Bulgur

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Chocolate-Strawberry Shortcake Whoopie Pies

Whoopie Pies are the new cupcake! Have you heard? There has been a whoopie pie craze going on for some time now. At first I thought it was random, seeing a whoopie pie recipe here and there, but it’s apparent I was wrong and whoopie pies are making a come back. HUGE!

I’ll be honest, this isn’t my sort of thing. For one, this recipe uses marshmallow fluff (gah!). I don’t know how you can make a whoopie pie without it- but I will be on the lookout for that recipe.

The other reason is, other than the standard loaf, cookies, or cake, I suck when it comes to getting creative in the baking department. These turned out pretty good in spite of myself. I think I’d invest in a whoopie pie baking pan- if there is such a thing.

Whoopie Pies

1 pkg chocolate cake mix

3/4 cup water

1/2 cup oil

3 eggs

1 pkg (8 oz) cream cheese, softened

1 jar (7 oz) marshmallow creme

1 pint whipping cream, whipped

3 cups fresh strawberries, sliced

HEAT oven to 350*

BEAT first 4 ingredients with mixer until well blended. Drop 2 Tbsp. batter, 2 inches apart, into 32 mounds on baking sheets sprayed with cooking spray. Bake 10 minutes or until toothpick comes out of center almost clean. Cool on baking sheets 3 minutes. Remove to wire racks; cook completely.

MIX cream cheese and fluff together until well blended then add to whipped cream. Spread about 1 Tbsp. on one side of each cookies, add slices strawberries and sandwich together gently.

Makes 16 servings :)

Thursdays Treasures, Full Plate Thursday, Weekend Potluck, Foodie Friday, TGIF,

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Tuscan Chicken Skillet

As one of my first-timers that I’d added to my April Menu, this chicken dish did not disappoint. It was super delicious! Everyone thoroughly enjoyed it and it was quick to prepare. I served it with roasted asparagus and Trader Joe’s grain mix of orzo, pearl cous cous, and quinoa. A complete meal in 30 minutes. And it has a creamy pesto sauce that you will love!

Tuscan Chicken Skillet

4 small boneless skinless chicken breasts

3 oz. cream cheese, cubed

2 oz. sour cream*

1/4 cup water

1/4 cup pesto**

HEAT a large nonstick pan and add 1 tsp EVOO. Add chicken; cover. Cook on each side 5-7 minutes or until done. Remove chicken from skillet; cover to keep warm.

ADD  remaining ingredients to the skillet. Cook, uncovered, on medium heat for 2 minutes or until heated through, stirring occasionally.

RETURN the chicken to the skillet. Cook and stir 1 minute or until chicken is coated and heated through.

*You could forgo the sour cream all together and just use 4 oz. of cream cheese.

**Pesto is easy enough to make and there are recipes available all over the internet, but you can also buy it prepared from most grocery stores. I buy mine in a large container from Sam’s and then freeze smaller portions so they’re ready to go.

This was lots of potential for other meals. It would be lovely served with pasta, and the sauce, if doubled, would make a great alternative to an alfredo sauce. Small tomatoes, broccoli, even asparagus tips could be added to the sauce.

You should definitely make this soon. Even your pickiest eater will love it. I promise there won’t be anything left over!

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Pan Seared Sea Scallops

These were AWESOME {insert sing-song voice here}! I don’t do shellfish often but occasionally I’ll get a taste for these rich and delish mussels. This recipe is so simple and easy. If you’re not sure how to cook up scallops, here’s the best way. I served these on top of my creamy risotto and it was heavenly!

1 dozen sea scallops, thawed, washed, and patted dry

1 Tbsp. EVOO

1 Tbsp. butter

salt and pepper

Toss scallops with EVOO and salt and pepper. Heat nonstick skillet with butter over high heat. When pan is hot place scallops in. Be sure the mussels do not touch each other as this will draw moisture out. Sear on one side for about 4-5 minutes until browned. Turn scallops over and sear the other side for same amount of time.

Serve over Creamy Risotto and Enjoy!

 See how easy that was?

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Not-so-Mock Risotto

Awhile back in my April Menu post I said I’d be making a mock risotto- well, I ended up making a traditional one using Arborio rice. I will, however, include the recipe for the mock risotto for those days when you don’t feel like stirring over a hot stove for an hour.

I have to give my mom credit for this dish. Although I’d intended to cook the meal, she ended up pretty much doing all the work while I stood around, telling her what to add and drank wine :) Thanks, Mom!

Creamy Risotto

4 Tbsp butter

6 cups warm chicken broth

1 cup dry white wine

2 cups Arborio rice

2-3 cloves garlic, minced

1 small onion, minced

1 cup fresh or frozen peas

4 oz. Neufchatel cheese

Salt to taste

1. Heat large skillet over medium-high heat and melt 4 Tbsp. butter. Add onion and garlic and cook for 4 minutes, until translucent. Add the rice and toast for several minutes, stirring often.

2. Pour in the wine and allow to reduce for just a minute or two, then add about 3 cups of the broth. Cook for 7-8 minutes or until absorbed by the rice, then add the rest of the broth 1 cup at a time, until blended well. Stir frequently.

3. Bring to a soft boil, stirring. Add peas and stir in well. Lower heat to med-low and continue stirring until broth is absorbed and rice is al dente and creamy.

4. Cube the cream cheese and add it to the rice, stirring until melted and blended in.

* Excellent additions would be asparagus tips, mushrooms, bell peppers, and/or tomatoes.

**This made a huge amount, perfect for 2 or 3 meals. Can be used as a side or a main vegetarian dish {vegetable broth substituted should you prefer}.

***SO DELISH!

Mock Risotto

1 Tbsp EVOO

1 medium onion

1/4 tsp. salt

2 cups instant brown rice

2-3 cloves garlic, minced

2  1/2 cups  chicken broth

1 cup fresh or frozen peas

4 oz. Neufchatel cream cheese

1/2 cup grated Asiago or Parmesan cheese

1. Heat oil in large nonstick skillet over medium low heat. Add onion and salt and cook, stirring often, until soft and just beginning to brown, 4 to 6 minutes. Add rice and garlic and cook until the garlic is fragrant, 30 seconds to one minute. You should toast the rice- not burn it. Add broth and bring to a boil; cover, reduce heat to a simmer and cook for 5 minutes.

2. Remove cover and add peas, stir lightly or just leave them on top of the rice mixture. Replace cover and continue simmering, adjusting the heat if necessary, until the liquid is almost absorbed and peas are crisp, about 5 minutes.

3. Cube the cheese and carefully stir it in until melted and mixed thoroughly.

LOOK FOR MY SEA SCALLOPS RECIPE POST SOON~ THEY WERE PERFECT WITH THE RISOTTO!

ENJOY! 

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