Ham and Bean Soup

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I do not like ham and bean soup. I don’t like beans in any capacity. I may be a carnivore but I don’t really like ham. We had a few snow days in March, so I made a list of … Continue reading

Chicken Crust Pizza

It’s been a crazy couple of months for this girl. I went right from working full time at my favorite place in the world, to a long term subbing assignment at an inner city school, moved out of my parents into what would be our first apartment, started a new long term assignment at a different school with my own classroom, finished planning a wedding, and got married. Needless to say, I haven’t had too much time to breathe. BUT I have an entire collection of recipes, classroom freebies and adventures, wedding pictures and vendors, that I’ve been stock piling for when I was finally able to join the blogging world again.

Being that I have a special affinity for food, it’s only fitting that my return post be one of my new favorites, and one that Ethan LOVES- chicken crust pizza. This recipe was cooked in a 10in cast iron skillet, to give you an idea of space: ingredient ratio.

What you’ll need:

2-3 boneless skinless chicken breast (ground chicken is fine too)

1 egg

About ½ cup bread crumbs

Tomato sauce of choice (I use canned stuff from my parents garden)

Spices of choice (to add to your sauce- I do onion, garlic, basil, oregano, and red pepper flakes)

PIZZA TOPPINGS! This is my favorite part! I get good mozzarella, pepperoni, and fry up some bacon

Preheat your oven to 375.

  1. In a food processor, ground the chicken with the egg. It will be a fairly mushy consistency. Mix in the bread crumbs by hand or with a spoon. The egg helps keep the chicken from shrinking and the bread crumbs help bind it all together.
  2. Smoosh the chicken into the bottom of a baking dish, or skillet. Make sure it is pretty even. I like to make the edges a bit thicker like a real pizza crust. Put in the oven for at least 20 minutes or until it’s no longer pink.
  3. The sauce can be done a number of ways. I usually start my sauce on the stove well before I’m ready to use it to give the flavors time to meld and develop. You could also just use a jar of Ragu, the choice is really up to you. I do however recommend heating the sauce before using it.
  4. After the chicken crust is done baking, assemble the toppings! This is a great chance to get the kids or your spouse involved. I fried bacon, then sautéed onions in the bacon fat. I added some of the onions to the sauce, and used the rest as a topping on the pizzas. Bacon makes everything better.
  5. Since the chicken is already cooked and the sauce is already warm, you’re really only putting it back in the oven to melt the cheese (clearly the best part). I put it back in the oven at 375 for about 10 minutes to get it started, and kick on the broiler to really finish bubbling the cheese.

EAT! 😀

Shrimp and Chicken Pasta

Home alone. Well, kinda. Does having 4 dogs with you really count as “alone?” Is it kinda like “you’re not drinking alone if your <dog>/<cat> is with you?” Either way, after surviving on Cheerios for the last 3 days {no exaggeration, I eat like a toddler 95% of the time}, it was time for a “big kid meal.”

Ingredients:

1-2 lb shrimp (my bag was a 40-50 count)

Chicken (breasts, legs, what ever. I had some left over legs I chopped up and threw in)

Garlic clove

Butter

Olive oil

Pasta (penne is perfect!)

6 cups water

Tomato sauce (I used a pint mason jar of our homemade stuff)

1/2 cup red wine (optional but oh so yummy)

Salt/Pepper

Basil

Onion

Parmesan Cheese

Oh the best part, all done in ONE pan!!! BOOM!

*THAW AND PEAL YOUR SHRIMP BEFORE YOU START IF NEEDED! DONT FORGET TO DEVEIN! Prep what ever chicken you are using as well!*

  1. In your pan, melt butter with about 2 tablespoons of olive oil. While they are heating chop cup your garlic and onion.
  2. Once your butter has melted, on medium/high heat, add in your garlic and onion to sauté. While they are going, cut up your chicken, get your ingredients in order.
  3. Add in your shrimp and chicken to the butter goodness in the pan. Sear for 2-3 minutes.

13672090_10209826670848571_74546087_n4. Add in your tomato sauce, water, pasta, red wine, and sauce seasonings

13652707_10209826670768569_1814399578_n5. Cook at a low boil until the pasta is cooked through.

6. Serve nice and hot with parmesan on top!

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Total prep (including shrimp for me) 30 min. Clean up- 5 minutes, we have a great non-stick pan.

 

Savory Rosemary Garlic Scones

In preparation for my tea party bridal shower in a few days, one of the scone flavors that I made was rosemary and garlic. As you can imagine, we have a ton of sweets and just talking about all the sugar made me crave something a little more savory. So I made the executive decision to make something a bit more savory to throw into the mix.

Ingredients:

3 cups all purpose flour

1 cup Bisquick

1 cup milk

1/4 cup sugar

1 stick COLD butter

1/2 cup Crisco (optional)

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon pepper (or to taste)

4 teaspoons baking POWDER! (I will admit one time I made scones and I grabbed the baking soda instead of baking powder. Nothing will ever express how nasty they were. My friend from school was way too eager to tell the world of my epic baking failure)

1 large garlic clove (or two smaller ones)

2 tablespoons of rosemary (I used dried)

 

Mince your garlic. I also did a rough chop on the rosemary so it wasn’t like eating pine needles.

In a large bowl combine flour, oats, bisquick, sugar, baking soda, garlic, salt, pepper, and rosemary.

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Chop cold butter and Crisco into the dry ingredients with a hand pie crust thing. If you’re crazy, a fork will do just fine. I’ve done it before when a pie crust thing wasn’t available.

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Once the butter and Crisco are pea sized pieces, add in the milk. Continue to work through.

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Pre-heat your oven to 400

Flour a section of counter and dump the dough out. I cut my batch in half to make it easier to work with. Lightly flour the top of your dough and press with your hands to shape a rectangle about 1/2 of an inch thick. Using a sharp knife cut the dough into squares. Some people make a circle  like a small pie. I’m partial to the triangles myself. I did also sprinkle some additional rosemary on top of each one

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Place triangles 1/2 inch apart on a parchment covered cookie sheet. Bake 12-15 minutes or until the edges and top start to get brown.

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Allow to cool before storing in an air tight container. Feel free to serve these warm, with butter, or on their own.

Wedding Planning on a Budget Part II

In my first part of this “series” I went over our basic wedding decisions. I discussed venue, some decorations, stationary and stamps. You can find all the good stuff HERE. I’m going to share a few more things that have come up and expenses that creep in.

DJ:

I love music. Ethan loves music. I sing. I dance. I wiggle. He hums. And kinda has rhythm. And plays a few instruments. I would have a dance party in the corner if I needed too. But a DJ does more than just play music at a wedding, at least, a good one does more than that. We started our search for a DJ, and it’s not easy. You start out with recommendations from others. “The DJ at my cousin’s nephew’s wedding was great! They rave about him. Let me get you their number!” You smile, grin, take the number and stuff it in the back of your wedding planner. You look online. And you find people that are $2,000+, they seem fun, but well…you can tell they just won’t really “work.” And then, your mom goes “hey, we know a guy DUH!” Not only do we know him, but after having done work for the school I attended, I know he’s good. I knew he was REALLY good when I got on his website and he had a questionnaire with really, really, good questions. Everything from who is in our wedding party, special dances and what songs we’d like, what kind of music we want played, what we absolutely do NOT want played, the list goes on. He is a DJ but also an MC. WINNING! And on top of that, he is AFFORDABLE! It’s in the name Affordable Music DJs.

Photography:

This may be one of the most important elements of your wedding. Seriously, you are going to be stuck looking at these pictures for all eternity. Nothing is worse than paying a boat load of money for bad pictures, poorly edited pictures, or a photographer who doesn’t get any of the shots you wanted them too. Photography is not cheap. Your friend might have a camera and say they are a “photographer,” but, call me a snob (maybe it’s because I’m a teacher), I put stock in an education, and I am THRILLED that our photographer not only has a degree in digital media/photography or that she is budget conscious/friendly, but that she is also a friend and did our engagement pictures. You can take a look at some of those HERE. I have no fear that she will do an amazing job because she already knocked it out of the park for those, and she knows what we want.

*Side note idea* Create a private Pinterest board just for you and your photographer if they’re into that kind of thing. I went through and found pictures and poses that I would like to do for our wedding. Giving them a visual and idea to go off of other than “um…you’ve done this before, I trust you,” will help give them a legitimate direction and make sure that you have an idea of what you are looking for as well.Screen Shot 2016-05-24 at 9.08.14 AM.pngFood:

I feel like this is one of the more stressful ordeals to go through when planning a wedding. I’ve been to a number of weddings, and there always seem to be fads over the years as well. I tend to have a bit of a selfish mind frame. This is our wedding. You are our guests, and we’re glad that you can come, but at the end of the day, it’s ours. Not yours. I’m not going to kill myself to have 18 different options because you may not be in the “mood” for chicken, allergic to everything under the sun, or have a billion food allergies (unless it’s serious like you start flopping on the floor if you get near a peanut).

We are having an early ceremony and lunch reception for a number of reasons. Everything from we have people traveling from out of town and I don’t want them to have to NEED to stay the night, to I want to not be dead and enjoy my wedding night. There are 3. food positives to this scenario.

1. It’s lunch so there’s not as much pressure to have a fancy sit-down dinner or something.

2. No alcohol. I have nothing against it, I’m not a staunch alcohol is the worst thing ever, but really. If you can’t have fun at a wedding without it, you shouldn’t be there; and if you REALLY want to drink at 1 in the afternoon before driving home there are bigger issues. It’s just something that due to the time of day, we are easily able to skip….and save hundreds of dollars in the process by doing.

3. Lunch food in general tends to be a bit lighter and more fun. So we are doing pizza. Yes. You read that right. Pizza. We are having a pizza lunch reception. We are offering 3 varieties- Pepperoni, Hawaiian, and Margarita (fancy cheese pizza).  When people RSVP they will be able to chose their flavor so that we have an idea of how many of each we’ll need. We are also having salad and some sides. My parents are not 100% on the pizza band wagon so they will have some small/extra “options” for their own sanity. But it will be less than $500 to have pizza for about 150 people.

Drinks will be water, soda, and a hot chocolate/coffee table. We will make the giant pot things of coffee, and put the hot chocolate in crock pots. Marshmallows, chocolate dipped spoons, mini candy canes, whipped cream, sauces, 3 basic cream flavors, mini chocolate chips, and coconut will be provided to add to the hot drinks. We found awesome disposable mugs from Sam’s Club for a very reasonable price.0009838260822_A.jpgAgain, something super fun that will cost under $200 to do for our guests.

The Restaurant Store is AMAZING! I’m sorry if you don’t have one near you, or you’ve never heard of it. Because it’s the bomb.com. The items we can’t get from SAMs club, we are getting from here, like nice, disposable plates that we can buy by the case for under $100. Buying in bulk is a great, quick, easy way to save money and have plenty of what you need!

 

Favors:

Originally my mother and I thought of this brilliant idea to do jars of jam. But we don’t buy jam, we make it ourselves. And then we started thinking about the fact that we’d have to get about 150 little jam jars. If you haven’t ever made jam yourself let me tell you….it takes a LOT of fruit to make it happen. I mean, a TON! Even with having a strawberry patch in our backyard, there’s no way in the world we’d grow enough. Oh yeah, and it takes a TON of sugar. The logistics and reality of that cute favor hit us pretty quickly. We decided to make it the bridal shower favor instead and start from scratch for the wedding.

We found heart and snowflake shaped cookie cutters from Oriental trade. I love to bake. Everyone knows it. I have a particular affinity for sugar cookies. The cutters come on a card, have a sugar cookie recipe on the inside, and a personalization spot on the front. They’re about $9 a dozen.

They’re cute, but they’re a bit plain. My plan is to use blue water color on the left and right edges to make them a bit more personal and pretty. They come out to cost just a bit more than $1 each.

Hand-Me-Downs:

Weddings are beautiful. Weddings hopefully, only happen once for you. You have one day to make this happen. ONE DAY. Which is why spending an astronomical amount just makes my skin crawl. The average wedding is about $20k. That’s a down payment on a house. That’s a car. That’s a really really really nice vacation to Europe for like a month. It makes my head spin. And at the end of the day, it is only ONE day. The most important part of that day is marrying your best friend and love of your life. Who cares if you use hand me down goodies from other friends or even strangers who used them before you?

My future sister-in-law got married last September. They bought good quality white table cloths and cloth napkins. We have to pick up a few extra but that is a large chunk of money we are saving by borrowing them. The center pieces will pop on the white. We’re using blue ribbon and jingle bells to tie the napkins, that will later be used for our jingle bell send-off.

I was in a wedding in Nebraska last weekend. Her mother spent good money and got a very nice quality isle runner. She sold it to me for $30. There are a few faint step marks that I’ll wipe off with a damp cloth. I’m getting paint markers and am going to write/calligraphy on a Bible verse Ethan and I picked out.

My mother and I have been collecting blue glass for years. We pick them up at Goodwill, yard sales, or even get them as gifts when friends and family see them at yard sales and Goodwill. We’ve spent anywhere for $5 to $0.50 on vases and glasses (with the exception of the blue wine bottles because we had to drink the wine first). Each center piece with the flowers, pine cones, jingle bells, and blue glass will easily cost less than $5 a table.

In Conclusion:

As an English teacher, that ending makes my skin crawl, but it works here. You’ll notice throughout the post that most of the products I’m using, I’m getting through people I know. This does not mean that I am getting discounts. I’m paying the same amount other people would pay for the same services and goods. But it does two things. I can rest assured knowing that the people I am relying on to make our day special will make it happen. I trust them. I would also much rather give my business and money to local people who I know and trust. I spent a lot of time shopping around and looking for decent quality, good prices, and coupons. I’m buying “plain” items and making them personal and our own. Personalization is key. Adding a monogram, adding a picture, adding an aspect that is obviously hand crafted/done, instantly makes things seem more expensive and nicer than something just bought off of a shelf and given.

1 Dish Chicken and Veggies

Tonight my family is all over the place. My brother came home from work, turned around, and left for job number 2. My parents came home, loaded 2 of the four dogs into the car for a quick trip to the vet for a manicure. I was left home. As my mom ran out the door, she said “Why don’t you throw some hot dogs on the grill?” Now I like hot dogs as much as the next person. There was a solid 2 years of my small life where I ate nothing but hot dogs and chicken nuggets (my mother still talks about it). But having just had kielbasa the night before, I wasn’t feelin it. So, what could I make relatively quickly that would be done by the time my parents got home and wouldn’t make a giant mess? 1 dish chicken and veggies.

What you’ll need:

2 cups chicken stock or water with 2 bullion cubes

Salt

Pepper

Onion (we had yellow so that’s what I used)

Chicken Breasts

Potatoes

Green Beans (we have fresh, frozen ones from our garden)

Carrots

Thyme

Parsley

  1. Thaw your chicken breast. We buy chicken in bulk, and my mom usually cuts thick breasts in half so they’re not as thick and cook a bit quicker.
  2. Dirty peel and cut your potatoes and carrots. If you can’t stand the skins, feel free to peel them completely. If you are worried about them cooking all of the way in the oven (like me) you can pre-boil them for a bit to kick start the cooking process.
  3. Cut a slice of onion about 1/2 inch thick. Simply cut into quarters so you have pretty decent sized pieces.
  4. Prepare your chicken broth and preheat your oven to 400 degrees. The chicken broth helps cook the potatoes, carrots, and green beans while also keeping the chicken nice and juicy!
  5. Lightly grease the bottom of a 13×9 baking dish. dump in your veggies and mix a bit. Lay your chicken breast on top. Pour your chicken broth over it all, it won’t cover all of the veggies but it will come about 1/2 up.
  6. Sprinkle salt, pepper and a bit of thyme and parsley.

13177273_10209214354421043_6736157662262300396_n.jpg7. Cover with foil and put into your oven. Cook until chicken and veggies are cooked through.

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If you’re feeling adventurous, you could remove the chicken and veggies to a platter and make a thicker sauce with the juices and chicken broth by adding cornstarch. I did not do that this evening.

You could easily make this in a crock pot, or use additional vegetables like asparagus. If you were to do this in a crock pot, I would add an extra cup of broth/water just to be on the safe side, especially if you plan on leaving it unattended.

Pantry Stocker Bridal Shower Basket

I graduated from a Christian college. Cue the looks, laughs, jokes, and eye rolling.

Miraculously, I made it all of the way through 4 ½ years of Christian college without going to a single wedding. True story. This also means that now everyone is finally getting married and that also means bridal shower gifts.

As per usual, the dishes, the linens, the crock pots, the door mats, the silver ware, and cups all go on the registry. Couples sign up for all of the stuff to stock their homes and it’s lovely. But then they actually get their homes. They move in. And there’s nothing to put on those beautiful new plates. And, the bathroom needs cleaned before anyone will use it. Heaven forbid someone cuts a finger and you have to rummage through boxes, hoping SOMEWHERE there is a band-aide.

First shopping trips are expensive. On top of regular groceries, you have to stock your cabinets. There’s the medicine cabinet, the pantry, the cleaning shelf…..It doesn’t seem like a lot but it adds up very quickly. More often than not, families get a lot of the stuff. It’s useful; don’t get me wrong. When I have my shower one day, I will love those pots and pans like there’s no tomorrow. The “stuff” is needed and practical. But so often, things are double bought, or you realize after you get something that it’s not as needed as you once thought and you end up exchanging, returning, or regifting. It happens to everyone.

In recent months, my friends and I have had conversations with statements like:

“Can someone buy my pantry? I love everything on my registry, but really, I don’t need 6 sets of sheets. That grocery bill is going to be killer.”

“Why do people not buy things like Advil for bridal showers? They do it at baby showers. That should be a thing.”

My friend Liv and I went in together to help stock our friend Katie’s pantry for her bridal shower.

What we got:

Flour

Granulated sugar

Brown Sugar

Powdered Sugar

Cookie Mix

Brownie Mix

Bisquick

Minute Rice

Mac n Cheese

Pronto Pasta

Baking Soda

Baking Powder

Salt

Pepper

Peanut Butter

Jelly

Cooking Spray

Vegetable Oil

Chocolate chips

Basket

Using LOTS of coupons, we were able to make this super useful basket for under $50. We got the groceries from Target (we have a problem, we openly admit it), and the basket from JoAnn Fabrics. I had a wicked good coupon. Using LOTS of coupons, we were able to make basket for under $50. I simply wrapped each piece with tissue paper and stuffed a few extra in to help cover some tops and give it some style.

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Cinnabon Rolls

I have an inherited disease. It’s a love of Cinnabon Cinnamon Rolls. Once upon a time, before Google and Pinterest were things, before restaurants released “secret recipes,” and my mother was a stay at home mom, she made many batches in an attempt to replicate the Cinnabon Roll. They used to be much more popular than they are today. It is once in a blue moon to come across a store/stand. I am lucky enough to have a mall that has a Cinnabon kiosk. *Yes, be jealous.* Thankfully we are beyond the Pintrest-less years, and most recipes can be found online. Even though I’d just had Cinnabon Center of the Rolls on Wednesday, I needed some more. So I made them. Prepare yourself for butter, cinnamon, brown sugar, and frosting, to take over your weekend breakfast.

Depending on how tall you cut your rolls, this batch makes 8-12 cinnamon rolls. I suggest cutting them at least 2 inches though.

Ingredients:

Dough
1 package active dry yeast
1 cup warm milk
½ cup granulated sugar
⅓ cup softened butter (not melted)
1/2 tsp salt
2 eggs
4 cups all purpose flour
Filling
1 cup lightly packed brown sugar
2-3 tablespoons cinnamon
⅓ cup softened butter
Frosting
2 cups powdered sugar
Half the juice of 1 lemon
1 teaspoon vanilla
Milk until desired consistency
  1. Dissolve the yeast in the warm milk in a stand mixer with a sprinkle of sugar. Let sit a minute or two.
  2. Add sugar, eggs, and half of the flour flour to the bowl of a mixer and mix well using the dough attachment.
  3. Cut and add in the soft butter along with the rest of the flour. Continue to knead until well combined.
  4. Place dough into an oiled bowl, cover and let rise in a warm place about 1 hour or until the dough has doubled in size. 12736031_10208509233113451_1755304200_n.jpg
  5. Roll the dough out on a lightly floured surface until it’s about 1/4 inch thick. My dough patch was HUGE!
  6. To make filling, brown sugar and cinnamon in a bowl.12736046_10208509232873445_184962519_n.jpg
  7. Spread the filling butter on the surface of the dough. I literally squished it in my hands to soften and spread it. Dump and spread the mixture evenly over the surface of the dough. 12746440_10208510359821618_423696633_n.jpg 12769407_10208510359661614_741690829_n.jpg
  8. Working carefully, from the long edge, roll the dough down to the bottom edge. Cut I used a cerated knife. 12736431_10208510227058299_249941488_n.jpg
  9. Place the cut rolls in a lightly greased pan. Cover them with a . Let them rise again for another 30 minutes until they double in size. 12736337_10208510226618288_1088431460_n.jpg
  10. Preheat oven to 350 F degrees. Grease a 9×13 inch baking pan.
  11. Bake for about 20 minutes or until light golden brown. I baked mine for 18 and they were perfect!  12767385_10208510226298280_1408391615_n.jpg
  12. While the rolls are baking make the icing by mixing all ingredients and whisk until combined. Using a whisk attachment on your stand mixer would add additional fluff if you like that sort of thing.
  13. When the rolls are done, spread generously with icing.12721777_10208510225178252_1344450237_n.jpg

EAT WARM! If you can’t eat them right out of the oven, warming them in the microwave for 10-15 seconds is PERFECT! Drink with a nice hot cup of coffee or tall glass of milk!

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Chocolate Crinkle Cookies

My most favorite Christmas cookie ever is the Chocolate Crinkle cookie. I realized while making them the other night that it’s pretty close to a brownie batter…maybe that’s why I love them so much! They are soft, chewy, chocolatey and classic.

Ingredients:

1/2 vegetable oil

4 eggs

2 cups of flour

4 oz bakers chocolate

2 teaspoons baking powder

2 cups granulated sugar

1 cup powdered sugar

  1. Melt your bakers chocolate in the microwave
  2. In a mixer combine sugar, vegetable oil and melted chocolate
  3. Very SLOWLY add in your 4 eggs. The chocolate is hot so if you dump them all in at once they’ll scramble!
  4. Sift 2 cups of flour with baking powder and a dash of salt- slowly add to your chocolatey mix. Your batter will be thicker than a cake batter, but not as dry as a regular cookie batter.
  5. Transfer to some plastic wrap to chill in the fridge. THIS IS VERY IMPORTANT!!! 3hrs-over night is best. I left mine in over night.
  6. In a bowl add powdered sugar. Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees

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  1. Using teaspoons or a small ice cream scooper, scoop small portions of chilled dough, roll and drop into powdered sugar to coat.

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  1. Place on parchmented cookie sheet. Bake for 9-11 minutes. DO NOT OVER BAKE or they will end up crunchy and they are best nice and soft. I bake mine for 9-10 minutes.
  2. Remove from baking sheet and place on cooling rack.

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ENJOY! These guys are best with a giant glass of milk and no care for your waist line. This is a hard cookie to have just 1 of. 🙂

Makes about 5 dozen cookies!

Chocolate Peanut Butter Protein Balls

As the school year is approaching, I am stocking up on desk snacks. I LOVE food, and tend to graze throughout the day instead of solid meals. This doesn’t usually work for teachers, but thankfully I have an awesome schedule that will allow me to do just that throughout my school day. Along with Goldfish, Nutella, chocolate chip muffins, and popcorn, I wanted something with a bit more substance. I’ve made these chocolate peanut butter balls before, but these have the added benefit of whey protein. The particular kind that I use also has added energy- B12, caffeine etc.

Ingredients:

1 1/2 cups peanut butter

1 cup oats

1/4 cup mini chocolate chips

1/4 honey

1 1/2 10g scoops of protein- I use whey protein and use a flavor that goes with this recipe- vanilla or chocolate

  1. In a bowl, warm peanut butter and honey in the microwave until it is a bit runny so that it will mix easier.
  2. In a separate bowl, combine your protein, oats and mini chocolate chips
  3. Once the peanut butter and honey are warmed, pour into the other ingredients and fold in. If the mixture still seems dry and crumbly, add a bit more warmed peanut butter. It should form a nice ball and hold together well.
  4. Using a 1 inch ice cream scoop, or teaspoons, scoop out the mix onto wax paper.
  5. Allow to set for about an hour. Keep in an air tight container or separate into snack bags for a quick grab.

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This recipe made 34 small protein balls. 3 or 4 is just enough so they will make it a week! It took me less than 20 minutes to make!!!! I am going to keep a bag of these guys in my desk for a great afternoon pick me up! Happy snacking!