Monday, February 28, 2011

The Pennyless Life: "Portrait of Memories"

My brother Thomas is a severely talented artist; I don't think he realizes the the greatness of his artistry. Before Gigi passed he gave her this as a present for Christmas. I've been thinking about family a lot lately and just wanted to share....

This was drawn after a portrait of her when she was a nurse before she decided to stay at home with her son Jimmie, my Daddy.

Simms, my 3-year-old really looks up to his artist uncle Tom, he thinks he's the coolest, and here are Simms' soon to be published works....

"A Rocket Ship"

"Race Cars Up a Mountain"

"Arthur and Shapes"

My favorite; "ABCs"

Friday, February 25, 2011

Kill Jill

If our GPS, known by her given-name Jill, said "recalculating" one more time in that annoyingly calm voice I was going to be forced to "recalculate" her out of existence! But Matt seems to have taken a liking to her for some reason, even though in one moment of our trip across Texas she did get powered off (in that moment I was glad I didn't have a switch he could simply turn off). Unfortunately, she didn't stay silent for long because we needed her to recalculate our miscalculations.
Jill was still rambling on about "recalculating" for the 1000th time when I thought Matt was about to throw in the towel. We had traveled to Dallas with the specific directions from several friends to go to Rudy's for some of the finest Texas BBQ, Papasito's for some of the finest Tex-Mex in existence, and Sam Moon a Dallas gem filled to the brim with affordable treasures. These were on our to-do list and we were going to cross-off all three of those destinations no matter what Jill was trying to do to sabotage our efforts.
50 minutes later we still hadn't found our first destination, and I was about ready to jump out of the car and let Matt and Jill live happily-ever-after, while I went on my own and found some dead animal to put in a smoker and smother with BBQ sauce.
I was practically foaming at the mouth; dying to try some of Texas' best and couldn't wait any longer.....Rudy's BBQ was calling my name, I could hear it clearly, well it was a little drowned out by Jill's continual "turn right", "recalculating", "recalculating", "turn left", but I know I was meant to try this one-of-kind BBQ. My palms were sweating, I had a slight headache, I needed prayer; until finally like a beautiful vision from God we saw the sign off in the distance and we could smell the sweet, smoky scent of victory!

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

My heart in Texas

Sadness has hit my heart in Texas. Matt and I are flying home earlier then expected due to the passing of a beautiful, fancy, intelligent, serving, giving woman. My grandmother, lovingly named Gigi, passed away Saturday, February 19, 2011. Pray for safe travel today and a God-honoring service tomorrow for my Gigi.
Check back later this week for a recap of several tasty and fun highlights of the trip. Talk to you soon!

Saturday, February 19, 2011

The Pennyless Life: "The Southwest Difference"

For of those who don't know, my husband is a Worship Pastor at Springdale Community Church in Louisville, Ky. This week we get to spend together in Dallas, Tx attending The Gateway Worship Conference and exploring the offerings of the city.
So as I sat next to my husband waiting for our plane to take off I noticed tiny beads of sweat forming on the tip of his nose. I couldn't tell if it was the small amount of light coming through the windows of the plane, or if he really was losing color from his face. This is only the second flight we've been on together in 5 years of marriage. So I'll put it to you straight, my husband HATES to fly (hence the only second flight in 5 years of marriage). He's the first one to buckle-up and then he holds on tight from that point on. He's also the only one who pays attention while the flight attendant goes over all the safety precautions.
I on the other hand love the fact you don't have to watch the speed limit, worry about cars flying by you at 80 mph, or taking the wrong exit. I love sitting back and looking out the window at the clouds as the sun hits them just right, while I wait for my honey roasted peanuts and ginger ale. Other than the occasional butterfly I get if we hit a little turbulence that immediately brings images of Oceanic flight 815 to my mind, I'm good to go.
We made it safely and here are a couple of photos my husband managed to take between his panic attacks.

When we looked out our window I couldn't get the song out of my head "How Far Is Heaven".

Hello Dallas!

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Holy Moley Gaucamole

"Ewww Yucky!" that's what my son says when I make guacamole. "Yummy in my tummy!" is what I say, or is that what Simms says when I make pancakes? Either way guacamole is yummy (don't listen to my son). Right behind the white queso cheese dip, guacamole happens to be my second favorite dip in the entire universe. It is fresh and green, full of health benefits, and in a way tastes like you're eating a stick of butter. It's a win win in my opinion!
This is the most simple guacamole known to man, and probably my favorite; one because it is O' so good and two because you don't have dragon breath lingering around the rest of the day.

Holy Moley Gaucamole

1 avocado, peeled and diced
2 tbsp cilantro
1 tbsp lime juice
1 tsp cayenne pepper (if you're tough add more; I usually do)

In a small bowl add avocado and remaining ingredients. Smash avocado with fork and stir till combined. Serve with tortilla chips then lick the bowl clean.

One lovely ripe avocado.

Slice in half. Both the avocado and lime.

Make cross cuts and then flip the skin inside out.

The pieces will fall out in a perfect melodic chorus!

Add a bunch of fresh, chopped cilantro and lime juice.

Add that cayenne pepper, as much as your little heart desires or mouth can handle. Do it!

Smash with a fork and mix well.

Dig in! Holey Moley, thank you Lord!

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

This Really Gets Me Going!

I love speciality cookware of any kind, nice pots and pans can really get me going (Mmmmm now I realize why my husband got me those incredible skillets for Christmas.), knives can have somewhat the same effect, and then of course my bright red and powerful Kitchen Aid Mixer (Hey, now that I think about it, that was what my husband got me for one of our first Christmases. Matt, I am on to you!). I can stay for hours upon hours in speciality food or cooking stores and try out every wooden spoon, as if I have a pot of vegetable soup or macaroni and cheese (depending on what mood I'm in) cooking right in front of me. It's one of my God-given passions. I love food and I love to eat food, so I learned to love cooking the food that I love so very much.
My roll-model of the moment shares this same passion. She even recently designed her very own model of a Kitchen Aid Mixer (Jealous, right here!). This woman has quickly inspired me in several areas of my life, which has then encouraged me to pursue life with the same ferocity that I pursue food. She has become the icing on my cake, the glaze on my donut, the cream in my coffee, the jalapeno in my salsa (you get the point).
This woman's name is Ree Drummond famously known as The Pioneer Woman. With her blog, she has driven me to grasp life and hold on tight with my eyes wide open. She has drive, creativity, intelligence, and beauty that, if I'm honest, makes me want to pluck her eyebrows out, but once I'm thinking clearly she truly makes me want to reach my dreams and then give her a big hug, and maybe a gift card to her favorite restaurant.
Here is the link to her Restaurant Style Salsa that I made to go with the Chicken Fajita Pasta with Queso Sauce. Thanks Ree for being such a woman to aspire to and for getting me going (No, not like that! I can't believe you thought that! Giving me drive. Let's just leave it at that.). Ree you inspire me to be me.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Valentine's Day and My Love Affair

Since Matt and I decided to stay in for Valentine's Day I still wanted to prepare a special dinner. He was just planning on having a protein shake, that sweet dear, but a special occasion calls for a special dinner, even if it didn't happen to be candlelit and two kids were running around our house screaming, fighting and giggling to their little hearts content.
I also thought since Matt and I have a love affair with Mexican food it would be appropriate to make a posh Mexican dinner if you will. I think the fact that I could also eat white queso dip out of an old, sweaty shoe had somewhat to do with the dinner selection, as well.
Because of my white queso obsession I have tried and tried to make my own which only ends in dip too soupy or too lumpy. Mine never even comes close to those served in restaurants, so I took a different approach and thought why not try to immulate the dip in a sauce; a pasta sauce.
So for the Valentine's Day dinner extravaganza [insert drum roll] I made Restaurant Style Salsa with tortilla chips and Chicken Fajita Pasta served in a Queso Sauce [insert oos and ahhs]!

Chicken Fajita Pasta with Queso Sauce

3 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, diced in 1-inch pieces (not exact science, you know what I mean)
1 green pepper
1 red pepper
1 red onion
1 clove garlic
4 tbsp butter
2 tbsp cumin
1 tsp black pepper
1/4 tsp salt
1 cup heaving cream
1/2 cup white wine
2 cups shredded Monterrey jack cheese
1 cup hot pepper jack cheese
1 cup Parmesan
1 lb pasta of your choosing (I used whole grain spaghetti; I know whole grain but I'm pretending it will cancel out the cream and cheese)

Heat a non-stick skillet over medium heat and add a tablespoon of butter. Add chicken that has been seasoned well with salt, pepper, and cumin. Saute until cooked through with a nice crust. Put chicken in a bowl and set aside. Add another tablespoon of butter and chopped garlic. Then add peppers and onion, that have been cleaned and roughly chopped. Saute till soft and caramelized. Add another tablespoon of butter (for good measure of course) and some more salt and pepper and cumin. Set vegetables aside in a bowl, as well. Add white wine, this will deglaze the pan (or help take up all the yummy, crusty, bits of goodness from sticking to the pan). Then here comes the good part (catch your breath), add the cream and all that cheese! Bring heat up to a boil, and whisk constantly until cheese has melted, reduce to a simmer and let the sauce thicken. Your mouth may start watering here, but try to resist tasting because you will burn off your taste buds (no that did not happen to me, ok, ok it did! I couldn't help myself). While the sauce is simmering start cooking your pasta. Whisk the sauce until at the right consistency for you, thick, but smooth and silky enough to be considered a sauce. Drain pasta and toss chicken, vegetables, sauce and pasta together till everything is soaking up that yummy sauce. Now serve, add more shredded cheese, and take a bite, you know you're going to have a panic attack if you don't try it soon. Now you can say prayer over dinner in peace.

Again to cancel out the cream and cheese.

Chop up the chicken.

Saute it in butter. I got a little too excited moving the pan around.

Chop up your veggies.

Saute in butter, then add more butter of course!

Deglaze, then....I'm sorry let me have a moment....add the cream.

Then add the cheese.....a tear just ran down my cheek.

I'm so emotional; it's not even that time of month! Now calm down here because this is where I burned my tongue.

Toss together and it's time to taste! Now you can say a prayer of thanks! Hallelujah! Amen!

Monday, February 14, 2011

Honey Undress Me....I Mean Salad Dressing

I get quite a few requests for my homemade Honey-Mustard Vinaigrette. Some of you may roll your eyes with even the thought of a homemade dressing. I know Kraft makes 10,000 varieties of salad dressings, but let me share with you the benefits of making your own dressing. ONE: It is WAY cheaper. TWO: It is made with ingredients from a well-stocked pantry. THREE: It is healthy and delicious. FOUR: It is made in about two minutes flat, so easy. FIVE: It is WAY cheaper (did I mention that already?). Not to mention this dressing is perfect on practically any salad from a fruit and nut salad to your basic tossed salad. Your taste buds and pocket books will thank me after you've mixed up this yummy concoction.
Since it is Valentine's Day I thought that this Honey Undress Me (Sheesh! I need to get my mind out of the gutter!), ok I've climbed out, I mean Honey-Mustard Dressing would be the perfect addition to any salad that you may be making for your loved ones, and in the appropriate context (see: Disclaimer) it may turn into undressing by the night's end. I had to say that; Happy Valentine's Day!

Honey-Mustard Vinaigrette

1 cup of good olive oil
3-4 tbsp of honey
1 tbsp of white wine vinegar
2 tbsp of honey mustard
pinch of salt
1 tsp of cracked black pepper

Pour all ingredients in a small bowl and whisk really well until all ingredients are incorporated. Taste and see if you need to make any adjustments by adding a little more honey, mustard, or vinegar. Pour on your salad of choice and mix.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

The Pennyless Life: "My First Loves"

I'm going to start a new segment on my blog called The Pennyless Life. Every week I plan on giving you a glimpse into my life through photos. Hope you like it!

WARNING! Do not look into those eyes. They will make you melt at first glance!

Simms, my 3 year-old, eating one of those pennyless meals. I love this little guy!

Look at that smile! My heart is so full looking at that.

The love of my life (left) with the other love of my life (right). This makes me so happy! I am a proud wife and Mommy.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Soup that will make you wanna spank your Mammy!

Usually the saying is slap your Mammy, but I'm not into physical abuse so I substituted the word slap for spank. So if you have a Mammy to spank, or you are one, you better watch out because you will get spanked silly after just one bite of this deliciously addicting soup. I repeat: you WILL get spanked! And since V-Day is just around the corner and some of you may be looking for a little action, simply make this soup and you will get action till your little heart's content. (Disclaimer: "Action" is only allowed for those who are married. And I mean taken vows of promise before God, family, and friends. Praise the LORD! Amen.)
Ok, now that I have spoken my peace. Let's get down to business. This is another Laraine speciality, I know, I know, she needs her own cookbook, but for now you will have to get a taste of her awesomeness right here. And not to mention you will thank me once you have this potato soup cooking away in your slow cooker and the aroma that fills your house and makes you want to faint into heavenly bliss. Then you will thank me again when you get that action I was talking about (see: Disclaimer).
And since we're saying our thank yous.....thank you Laraine, you cooking Goddess and sweet friend, and thank YOU for reading. Seriously, with Valentine's Day around the corner I have to say early, I love you all dearly, and I mean dearly! Talk to you soon if you haven't gone into food coma after inhaling this soup or you're too busy with that action I was talking about..... (again see: Disclaimer).

Baked Potato Soup*

Real crumbled bacon bits
2/3 cup butter
2/3 cup flour
7 cups of milk (4 cups of milk and 3 cups of heavy cream; please use heavy cream I'm begging you!)
4 or 5 large baking potatoes (peeled, cooked, cooled, and cubed)
1 1/4 cup Cheddar Cheese
1 cup sour cream (Optional - I don't use it)
1 tsp salt
1 tsp pepper

Melt butter over medium heat. Whisk in flour until smooth. Gradually stir in milk, whisking constantly until thickened. This makes what is known as a rue, which is a thickening agent that can be added to any sauce or soup that needs to be made a little thicker. Place potatoes in slow cooker on low eat. Pour in milk, cream, and rue. Mix in bacon, cheese, sour cream (optional), salt and pepper. Cook on low for 3-6 hours in your slow cooker. Stir occasionally (gasp!), I know you usually don't touch the slow cooker once you start it, but this needs to be stirred about every thirty minutes, believe me, so it's silky smooth and the only chunks that appear are the potatoes. You will owe me later for that advice, not really.
If eating as leftovers heat and add milk as needed to get desired consistency.

*Sorry there are no pictures; there's never enough time to take them because it's eaten so fast. No seriously, you'll understand once you try it.

Friday, February 11, 2011

The Kissing Disease with Perks!

I LOVE Qdoba! And what better way to show my love and devotion then on Valentine's Day. My friend Lisa just sent this to me and I thought I would share the love, and get this, all you have to bring is your lips. Mono aside; don't be scared you need to get this deal! No holding back, it's time to pucker up!

And the winner is.....

Drumroll please.......It seems to be a tie! The healthy version of the original apple crisp, Fruit Crisp with Apple-Date Filling is from Eat Well by William-Sonoma. This is my go to, especially in the cold months for an easy, healthy dessert. Quick Apple Crisp was given to me by my friend Laraine Epley and is modified from The Pampered Chef.
Depending on what you are in the mood for, Laraines' verison is denser and moist with the yellow cake. I had never had an apple crisp like this before, it was rich and so sweet. A perfect end to a meal on a cold evening, delicious! The William-Sonoma version is lighter, fruiter, and a little spicy and sweet with the mix of fruit, sugar, and spices.
Try them both out as they battle it out for your favorite.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Battle to the Death

In the battle of good vs. evil who always prevails? Well the go to answer is good. In the ultimate battle Christ has conquered the devil. Dorothy melted the Wicked witch of the West. Macaulay Culkin put those burglars in jail in the classic Home Alone. Simba, unfortunately, had to go within the family tree in the name of righteousness to conquer his uncle Scar. Well, you get the picture.....good always wins in the end, but is that the case when it comes to food? Does the good healthy tofu salad when out over a Five Guys cheeseburger? You tell me. Not that this can compare to tofu and cheeseburgers, but both do have the classics sugar and butter.
So battling it out for the top spot, a first in Pennyless Cook history, is Fruit Crisp with Apple Date Filling (healthy) vs. Quick Apple Crisp (not-so-healthy). You tell me which one wins the crown. This could be a nail-biter.

Fruit Crisp with Apple Date Filling*

1/4 cup sugar
1 tbsp cornstarch
3 lb, peeled, cored, and sliced
1/2 cup dates, pitted and chopped
1/4 cup apple juice

Crisp Topping:
1 cup rolled oats
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup light brown sugar firmly packed
3/4 tsp cinnamon
1/2 cup unsalted butter cut into pieces
1/3 cup walnuts chopped

Crisp Topping:
Combine oats, flour, brown sugar, cinnamon, and salt. With a mixer fitted with a paddle attachment on low speed, or using fingers, mix or rub in butter until mixture forms coarse crumbs and begins to come together.
Stir in walnuts. Use at once, or seal in a freezer bag and freeze up to 6 months. (Crumble frozen topping right over fruit without thawing it first, and expect to add a few minutes to the baking time.)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. In a large bowl, mix sugar and cornstarch. Add apples, dates, and juice and mix well. Pour fruit into a 9-inch square or round baking dish. Sprinkle evenly with topping mixture.
Bake until topping is golden brown and apples are tender with pierced with a knife, 50-60 minutes. Let crisp stand for at least 15 minutes before serving, and serve warm or at room temperature with honey and a drizzle of cold cream or frozen yogurt.


Quick Apple Crisp*

5 granny smith apples, sliced and cored
1 package (9 ounces) yellow cake mix
2 tbsp of sugar
1 tbsp ground cinnamon
1/4 cup butter melted
1/2 cup chopped nuts

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Combine all ingredients but the apples. Mix until crumbly. Sprinkle over apples in a baking dish. Bake for 35-40 minutes. Serve warm over vanilla ice cream.

*Names of authors of each recipe will be revealed this week, but have been withheld for the sake of this historical competition.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Surprise! Happy Birthday!

Well since my birthday is also the celebration of our engagment it was only fitting that my husband surprised me again this year, as he did that romantical night 6 years ago. This year there was no diamond involved or scavenger hunt (see Do you like surprises?), it did however include dinner at P.F. Chang's, coffee at Quills, and then a throw down at Akiko for karaoki. I feel like I'm still recovering from this shin-dig since I was out WAY past my bedtime.
I want to share with you this incredible coffee we had. I ordered a drink with honey and cinnamon; it was comforting and full of sweetness; yet the actual coffee flavor came through luxuriously and subtly. If you live in the Louisville area and haven't made it downtown to Quills you are missing out on the best coffee shop around. It's on Baxter Avenue and you must stop in. It's a limited menu with artisan coffee makers, desserts, and a radical tea selection. The fine baristas making your coffee will completely impress you when you receive your drink with foam on top that looks like it needs to be framed and hung on a wall. Philip Revell, one of Quill's own, designed our drinks and we found out he would be entering his work as a representative of Louisville in Coffee Fest Free Pour Latee Art Championship in Chicago. A national competition. Beautiful, intricate designs that Revell creates will lay perfectly on the top of your coffee by way of the milk, and stay there until almost the very last drop. It's a grande experience from the very first sip.
Go to Baxter Avenue, get a cup of coffee, window shop, and soak up the life of the city as if for the very first time.
Go celebrate something! You may be surprised, as I was, and that surprise became one of the best nights I've had.