March 10, 2017

(Last Night's) Dinner: Tortellini Soup and Cheesy Biscuits

Pinterest can be such a black hole and a time suck. One can spend HOURS searching and pinning and creating boards... most never to be looked at again. I try every once in a while to go through my "Foodstuffs" board where I've pinned countless recipes and find a few to make. This was one of them, Looked good, easy and I usually have a thing of tortellini from Trader Joe's in my freezer. I used this recipe and it was fine. Truthfully, it was a little bland so next time I think I'd do a few things different, I like soups that have more complex flavors, What I did do different from the recipe is I blended the soup prior to adding the pasta and spinach, I despise tomato chunks, also I had Pesto Tortellini so I think if it had been cheese filled it also may have been a little better. All in all it was a decent soup.

For the biscuits I used a random mix I had for buttermilk biscuits, you could use Bisquick Mix or make them from scratch, they are all pretty easy, and then I added about cup of shredded sharp cheddar, some garlic salt, and Italian seasoning (basically whatever i had in my pantry) mixed them and baked them according to directions (450 for 8-10 mins) and then as soon as they came out of the oven I brushed them with some melted butter that I mixed with garlic powder, basically I re-created the biscuits you get at Red Lobster. I know they sell a mix now at the stores and it's not too bad, but they are easy to recreate without the "official" stuff. Maybe the whole meal would have also been better if it'd been soup weather outside, it was one of the warmest days of the year so far so it was probably better suited to fire up the grill than eat soup.

PS Follow me on Pinterest here annadria

March 8, 2017

Dinner: "Plan A" Tuscan Brick Chicken with Charred Lemons and Gorgonzola Gnocchi

So I finally pulled out the intended dinner from the other night. It was a pretty easy recipe from My homegirl Chrissy's book (seriously buy it, it's worth it). So it sounded a little intimidating and I may have bought a cast iron pan just so I could cook this and I happened to have some random bricks in my garage so I think thats what sealed it for me (Don't worry I washed the bricks and then triple wrapped them in foil). The recipe for the chicken is as follows:

John's Tuscan Brick Chicken with Charred Lemons (PS John Legend could make me chicken ANYDAY)

1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
3 tablespoons chopped fresh rosemary
3 tablespoons chopped fresh sage
2 tablespoons very finely minced garlic (about 4 cloves)
1 ½ teaspoons red pepper flakes
Kosher salt
1 ½ teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
Grated zest of 2 lemons, plus 2 skin-on lemons, quartered
4 bone-in, skin-on chicken leg quarters
2 tablespoons canola oil
Special equipment ? 2 bricks ($1 at Home Depot)

In a bowl, combine the olive oil, rosemary, sage, garlic, red pepper flakes, 1 ½ teaspoons salt, the pepper, and lemon zest. Pat the chicken dry and place it in a baking dish. Rub the herb mixture all over the chicken, cover, and refrigerate for at least 2 hours and up to 24 hours. 
Double-wrap the bricks in a heavy-duty foil (this is your workout for the day). Heat a large cast iron skillet over medium-high heat until hot. Add the canola oil, then add the chicken, skin-side down, and weight it down with the bricks. (If they don't all fit comfortably, use 2 pans, or cook in batches.) Cook, without moving the chicken, for 7 to 9 minutes, or until the underside is crisped and mahogany brown (don't lift it, which means be a more patient person than me). Remove the bricks, flip the chicken, weight it down with the bricks again, and continue to cook until the underside is browned and the meat is cooked through, 7 to 9 minutes. (If the skin on the first side seemed too dark, reduce the heat to medium. To check if the meat is done, pierce the thickest part with a knife; if the juices that come out have no pink, it's done)
Remove the chicken from the pan, add the quartered lemons, and sear until slightly charred and caramelized, about 2 minutes per side. Serve the chicken with more salt to taste and the charred lemons for squeezing.   

My Tips: I would def make this again.... but I would probably just use the thighs or even skin-on chicken breasts, Leg quarters are fine and all but I feel like they are more for show. Practically speaking I would have prob got the same amount of meat off a thigh than the boney combo. Also I don't like the idea of cutting the meat to check for doneness... if it's not and you put the brick back on it you are squeezing out all the juicy goodness... with dark meat it's not as bad as if it were a chicken breast... but why do it. Use a meat thermometer if you can.

yep I dug this out of the trash, just to take a pic
The gnocchi was kinda a cheat. Good old Trader Joes for the win. Honestly I saw Rachel Ray make gnocchi from scratch on her show the other day and the motivated part of me was like "Hey! I can do that" and then the realistic side kicked in and was like "hey! you have a bag of that in the freezer!" the Freezer won and I''m not mad at it. I did sprinkle a little fresh cracked pepper and fresh parsley over it cause I'm fancy like that. 

March 6, 2017

Dinner: "Plan B" Tilapia and Roasted Veggie Duo

Dinner was supposed to be something else.... well frozen chicken had other plans so I scrapped the "Plan A" and threw this together last minute. It's a pretty sad and bland looking meal but it was surprising tasty thanks to my little helpers. 

I cut the Broccoli and Cauliflower into florets and tossed them in a bowl with the EVOO, a little lemon pepper, garlic salt and crushed red pepper flakes and laid them out on a foil lined sheet pan sprayed with a little cooking spray for good measure. I scooted them to the sides to make room for the fish. The fish got much the same treatment coated with a little EVOO and light sprinkling of lemon pepper and then laid down the center of the tray.

The whole thing went in to a 425 preheated oven for about 10 mins till the fish was cooked and the veggies started to char. (I did turn the veggies after about 6 mins just to make sure they didn't get to toasted on one side). Easy Peasy and got the job done though I'm looking forward to "Plan A" later this week.

March 2, 2017

Dinner: Steak Cauliflower Fried "Rice"

So one of my favorite gifts this Christmas came from my bestie, Jen. It was a custom cookbook from Tasty. You know all those yummy Facebook videos that we all drool over... well apparently you can custom create a cookbook picking from their categories and recipes. (see it here) it's straight genius. She obviously knows me well and appreciates reaping the rewards of a new recipe. (I have leftovers if you need lunch tomorrow)

Tonight's recipe is brought to you by my personalized cookbook and my need to regroup after last nights carb over-load. I basically followed this recipe but used sliced beef chuck (pre-packaged but unseasoned for carne asada and cut it into more manageable sizes) I marinated the meat in a little bit of Soy Sauce, and garlic and let it sit while I prepped the veggies. Pro tip (okay okay i'm no pro... but I read it somewhere) instead of using the blade in the food processor if you have the grater attachment run it through that like you would grate cheese, you just get a better consistency so it doesn't turn to mush... and i use a little of the stem too. I know... crazy town over here. Anyway it was pretty straightforward, easy and dare I say tasty... (internal groan) and doesn't leave you with the take-out hangover from traditional Fried Rice and I'm guessing is just as good the next day.

March 1, 2017

Dinner: Lemon Garlic Shrimp Pasta with Roasted Asparagus

OK, so I figured if I was going to annoy everyone with my social media posts about dinner I might as well link to the recipes I'm using so that others can try them if they fill so inclined. So thus begins my blogger (again, pretty sure I've "begun" about a half dozen times.) I'll try and add the ones I've already made since I know some people have asked so check back!

Tonight's dinner was originally going to be just a quick Shrimp and Asparagus StirFry. Then I got to thinking that I should prob offer my poor husband (who is along for this dinner-cooking ride) some carbs. Viola pasta. and then I got to thinking how lemon, garlic and butter all pair so nicely together... and luckily the Internet agrees... I love Pinterest for many reasons but being able to basically search for recipe idea based solely off ingredients is amazing.  I browsed for a minute (literally while standing the cereal aisle of Winco) and decided on trying this one from a The recipe was easy to follow and I think it turned out great. (recipe note, I used parsley at the end cause I didn't have any basil)

For the  asparagus I cut the bottoms off, tossed with some EVOO (that's Extra Virgin Olive Oil for those that don't watch Rachel Ray on the daily) added some salt and pepper and threw in the oven at 425 degrees for maybe 10 mins (I didn't time it, basically once they turn bright green and start to smoke and char a little you know they are done) right after I took them out I sprinkled on some grated parm cheese and called it good.   

The whole meal came together very fast, helps that shrimp cooks in like 3 mins so really boiling the water for the pasta took the longest (seriously, my stove takes FOREVER!). So lets say the whole thing took 20 mins to put together, and the ingredients for the whole pot cost less than $20 (It prob made 4 generous portions, means I have leftovers, YAY!) I think that's win win... at a restaurant I would have probably waited longer (had over cooked shrimp) and paid close to $20 (or more) for the one plate...  man I'm rocking this whole cooking dinner thing!

April 18, 2016

To All The Rentals I've Loved Before

My first apartment was a dump. I don't count all the spaces I moved in and out of while in college, though some of those were dumps too. My first living-by-myself-post-college apartment was kinda a shit hole but I loved it. It was a spacious (by then standards) one bedroom in the Avenues neighborhood outside downtown Salt lake City and it was $400 a month! I thought I had hit the jackpot. I could get past the obvious flaws: small kitchen, old appliances, NO air conditioning, a lack of storage space and ratty old carpet. It was mine. I learned to adult there. I grew up there. Now some would argue that "growing up" happens in those formidable years of childhood where you learn "wrong from right" (or at least you should have, can't speak for everyone), you picked your friends, navigated through Junior and Senior Highs and hopefully came out the other side a well balanced and productive adult. I don't disagree that those years are important but I don't think you truly "grow up" until you have cut the apron strings,  join the adult world and move out on your own. (Note: I'm not saying that if you are "adulting" and still live at home you are still a child, but there is wisdom and knowledge that comes with paying your own cable bill).

That was me there smack in the middle Long Live Apt #5
I found this little slice of heaven through a then boyfriend (funny thing I think we broke up a few weeks later). At the time the deciding factor was that it was cheap. Overtime it was about location, and covered parking, and the ability to have pets and it was cheap and it was for me. Just me. A lot of adult firsts happened in that place. I got my first post college "real job" living there, I bought my first set of matching couches to the fill the space (my first adult furniture purchase I might add), I brought my sweet little dog Dede home there when she was just 8 weeks old (or so) and I watched the first movie with the love of my life there. I spent seven years there. The memories are endless and precious but when the time came to bid adieu I knew it was for bigger and better things, and to start a life with my love. I had finally grown up.

My attempt at landscaping with out actually planting anything in the ground
We lived in Logan, UT for 6 months before the decision was made to move back to SLC. Timing was short and I scoured the listings and quickly found us a cute little house to call home. It was outside downtown about 15 minutes or so, small and quaint in a great east side neighborhood. I quickly grew to love the area and didn't mind the house so much. I thought we could be there a few years. That house holds a special place in my heart. That was the house we returned to after getting married. We added 2 more furry members to our family there and I gained a greater appreciation for yard work and the realization that those great big beautiful trees might provide shade from the sweltering heat of the summer, but they are trash trees. They drop something year round needles, pinecones, smaller pinecones, none stop ALL.THE.TIME. Although they were the bane of my existence. I learned to take pride in cleaning a yard up and probably put more time, effort and sweat into a rental yard than most would. That little house served us well. We had created a nice little home together there.

The front patio went on for days
Two years in and assuming we'd be there maybe two more, the opportunity came to move a few blocks away into a updated rambler for not much more than we were paying. It was a no brainer. Granite countertops for days, double ovens, a garage and a patio to spend the summers on oh, and we could finally bring back our king sized bed!  So in the hottest month of the year we packed up our little home and exploded into double the square footage. Prior to moving in I was able to hone my painting skills... and by that I mean I painted what felt like the WHOLE THING. More time, effort and sweat put into a rental but it made it our own. It was a rental, but I was going to take care of it and treat it like it was more, since it was, it was our home. The most amazing thing happened here. This is the house we brought our band new baby girl home to. I walked endless laps around the kitchen island hoping to soothe her in the wee hours of the night. We rock her to sleep in the recliner in her nursery that I spent weeks obsessing over and couldn't be happier with how it turned out. I became a mom in this house. That is something special.

Enjoying one of the first nice days of Spring
This post isn't just to serve as a little walk down memory lane it is to remind me and document all the places that have served their purpose during the course of my adult life. To look back at where I started and see how far I've come. From a dumpy one bedroom-living-the-single-life-hole-in-the-wall to a rambler for a family of 3. Things sure have changed, and change is in the the air, because this post is also to share the news that we have made the ultimate leap in adulting and we are currently under contract to buy a house! I really thought we'd be in the current house a few more years, but once again an opportunity came up and it was too good to pass by. Were we looking? no- not really, though I look all the time just to get a feel for what's out there, prices in areas etc. We had talked about wanting to get into our own place sooner than later but the plan was to wait and save while we finished paying off some debt. I was content.

I saw this house online on a Tuesday was intrigued and arranged for us to have a walk through. I really thought I'd find something wrong with it. I had no idea we'd like it so much. It needs some work- the kitchen and bathrooms need work, but cosmetic stuff  (the fun stuff) mostly, the rest is nice. It's not our dream home or our forever home but it's a great starter home for us and our little family. As I was walking through I was already imagining the layout of Tilly's new nursery. We were ready to put in an offer. The problem was we hadn't even gone to the bank about a loan. We weren't so worried about being approved but knowing this house was such a good deal in a good area needing little work I knew it wouldn't last long. We had our realtor friend that arranged the walk through call the sellers agent and let them know we wanted to put in an offer once we had pre-approval from the bank and she let him know they were expecting two other offers that night. Dang. We still woke up at the crack of dawn ran to our local loan officer (shout out to America First Credit Union) and was able to get pre-approved fairly quick so with that we were able to put in an offer, hearing they had received one other already. We waited. Our offer expired at 5 pm on the Thursday so it was a long 24 hours. Waiting is not my forte but I just assumed if it was meant to be it would work out. Though not gonna lie, I started a Pinterest Board for the renovations I would do; I thought for sure I'd jinxed it. They say you should never imagine yourself in a house till the papers are signed. I was already planning out the next 5-10 years of our life there. At 4:15 pm on Thursday we got the word that the offer was accepted. It's still a shock as to how fast it all happened. The house was on the market for 4 days and it took us 2 more to go under contract.

getting the good news
So now I guess you can all follow along as we navigate the process of buying a house (so many things already). It's exciting and scary but was time for us to put our big kid pants on and make this final leap into the adult world.

*** I didn't want to post this until we knew our loan was finalized and we were in the clear for closing, we're about there.. and should be closing in a little over 2 weeks!!!***

February 25, 2016

So Many New Things... and why restart a Blog now

So it's been a while... a long LONG while... whatevs. I started this blog a few years ago right after I had quit my job, moved in with my Fiance (now Husband) and was bored and full of ideas and promise. I was planning a wedding, making a plain condo a home and filling my time with what projects I could. I figured what better way to document then start a Blog!

So young... so full of Blog promise

So lets just say things didn't quite go as planned...