Monday, July 9, 2012

Salmon Burgers

Okay, so we really ate these the way you would a crab cake, but they are really meant to be a burger. You know, with a bun, some mayo, lettuce, tomato... and they would have been even more delicious that way.  But I didn't have the appropriate groceries in stock.

I did have a bag of organic baby yukon gold potatoes, and some broccoli, and so that's what we ate.  Pretty simple.  But I think I'll make these again sometime with some slider buns, some crispy romaine lettuce, some olive oil mayo and tomato slices.  YUM.

Salmon Burgers

1 lb skinned salmon filet, diced
1 Tbsp lemon juice
1 tsp dried tarragon
1/4 tsp celery seed
1/4 tsp fresh cracked pepper
1 tsp honey dijon mustard
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 cup breadcrumbs (I used panko, but I think any will do)

Mix all together, and form into 4 small patties.  Saute in some warmed olive oil on med-high heat until browned, flip and brown the other side.  Serve immediately.

Thursday, July 5, 2012


We grilled some chicken on the grill one night, so I decided to try out some different flavors on top of  crostini.  Crostini is "little toasts" in Italian.  I bought a loaf of fresh French bread, goat cheese, avacado, and fresh salsa from The Fresh Market.  I also had some fresh blueberries from a local (NC) farm.

I brushed olive oil all around the french bread slices and delivered them to my husband, who grilled them along with the chicken.

The crostini with goat cheese and blueberries tasted like it had blueberry cream cheese, which was yummy, but not what I had expected.

What I really fell in love with was the one with goat cheese, avacado, salsa, and fresh cracked pepper.  I couldn't get enough.  It was so refreshing on a warm spring day.  My 7 year old even loved it!  My 4 year old wasn't quite as adventurous, who stuck with crostini with goat cheese, and blueberries on the side.

What do you love on crostini?

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Backyard Berm, a Big Update!

We worked very hard in early spring on the back berm.  I posted a couple of years ago about how I had built it back up and added mulch.  Well, then I never did anything else.
This year we built a stacked brick wall.  It looks so much nicer, and really creates a division between the overgrown wetlands and us.  My husband cleaned up a lot of bamboo, vines, and other overgrowth as we went.

We did the following steps to ensure a lasting wall:
  • We made sure that the ground was level with every brick laid
  • We used small metal rods to add stability, by driving them down the holes every so many feet.
  • We used dirt and mulch to stabilize some more, behind the wall.
  • We put landscape fabric down, below the mulch.
 We did have to do something special around the drain pipe.  This is where rain water goes out to the wetland behind us.  We used a steel bar to hold the bricks straight across.  By the way, all the wild birds here are 'wild' about the brick wall!

It's definitely added some curb appeal to the back yard, and I love it!  Peter Cottontail also loves it!  He comes out every day to enjoy the view (and he likes to eat the weeds in our yard, too).
The wall was a lot of work, but a labor of love.  I love working in the yard, so this was a great project, and will be rewarding for a very long time.  I'll have to share what plants are currently on the berm in a future post, as well as some thoughts for what I'd like to add.  Any suggestions?

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Apple Sausage Sizzle

Tonight I decided to whip up something simple and inexpensive, using staples that I already had in the pantry and/or fridge.  I had 1/2 turkey kielbasa in the freezer.  The other ingredients are always on hand at my house.  Turns out the family loved this meal!

This meal would actually work well for breakfast, too! It would also work well for camping- all of this food can be prepped ahead of time and cooked at the campsite.  Do you tailgate?  This would make a great breakfast tailgate idea!

Choose an apple variety that has sweetness and is crisp, so that it will stay crisp even after warming.  I chose Pink Ladies.

Apple Sausage Sizzle

1/2 lb Turkey Kielbasa, sliced and halved into bite-size
2 Apples (I chose Pink Ladies), sliced
Olive Oil, maybe 1-2 Tbsp
Dried Sage, about 1/2 tsp
Pure Maple Syrup, about 4 Tbsp
1 cup Quick Grits
1 cup Cheddar Cheese, shredded
Fresh Cracked Pepper, to taste

Cook the quick grits according to package instructions.  Meanwhile, warm up the oil, sage, and maple syrup on medium high heat.  Once it's warm, Add the apples and sausage, mix well and saute until it sizzles and begins to lightly brown, about 10 minutes.  You want your apples to remain crisp.

Serve over the grits, crack some pepper and add a sprinkle of cheese.  Serves 4.

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Spring Dinner Outside

We've had ridiculous weather this year, especially over the last couple of weeks.  Crazy heat, roller coaster temperatures, and I think there's been about 10 inches of rain at our house over the last 2 weeks.  But pollen season seems to be long past us, and today was absolutely one of the most beautiful days so far.  It was only 80 degrees outside in the hottest part of the day.  It wasn't humid, the bugs weren't out in full force, and the grass wasn't so wet that we couldn't walk on it.

So needless to say, we fired up the grill, put the umbrella up, tablecloth on and enjoyed dinner outside.

I did a very simple boneless chicken breasts in olive oil, onion powder and Italian seasoning, letting them sit for 20 minutes while the grill was warmed up.  My husband grilled them to perfection, along with the apricots.
 I whipped up a simple mixed greens salad, and some delicious strawberry lemonade.

Strawberry Lemonade

2 cups water plus 2 quarts water
Zest of 1 lemon
3/4 cup sugar
2 pints of strawberries, hulled and rinsed
Juice of 5 lemons (about 3/4 cup)

First, warm the sugar and zest on high heat with 2 cups of water in a medium saucepan.  Boil and stir until the mixture is clear and the sugar is no longer grainy.

Blend your strawberries in a food processor.  Then in your drink pitcher, combine the berries, lemon juice, sugar water, and additional 2 quarts water.  Then add ice to cool it down.

Serve over ice.

Now sit back and enjoy the effort!

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Patriotic Mesh Wreath

I like making mesh wreaths, but sometimes I just don't have the time to make the ones I imagine myself making.  I've been pondering the design and creation a patriotic wreath for months now, and haven't been able to commit the time.

It just so happened that (on our way home from camping last weekend) we were driving through the small town of Siler City, NC and decided to stop for dinner.  We pondered over where to eat, considering the slim number of choices , and then decided on a locally-owned restaurant that had a gift shop attached.  That is when I fell in love... with this wreath.

It was perfect.  Not exactly what I would have made, but better in some ways.  Simple, yet almost just like a large flag.  It's large, but with my tucked-in porch it is very visible from the road, which is what I wanted.  One less thing to worry about having the time to do.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Camping Trip - Memorial Day Weekend 2012

We had a lovely Memorial Day weekend.  We started early, by loading up the car and heading to the American Heritage Girls Inaugural NC Camporee.  We camped out in Carthage, NC at Camp Durant.  It was a nice camp and the kids had fun.  My oldest daughter got to shoot BB's, make a paracord bracelet, and learned more about first aid.  We all had our share of hiking and roasted marshmallows.  It was nice to have some down time, away from everything.  I used my smartphone as a clock and nothing else, disconnected from the world.
One of the things I took pride in during the camping trip was the food.  I tried to keep it camp-like, but still  good and healthy.  Here was our menu:

Friday dinner: 
Grilled chicken (marinated in Italian dressing)
Brown Rice (the pre-cooked in a bag kind)
Black Beans
Mixed Veggies
The latter 3 were cooked together in 1 pot for ease.

Saturday Breakfast:
Scrambled Eggs
Apple Slices

Saturday Lunch:
PB&J on wheat
Carrot Sticks and Red Bell Pepper slices

(Saturday's dinner provided by the camporee staff consisted of hot dogs and chips.)

 Sunday Breakfast:
Pancakes with Pure Maple Syrup
Fresh Blueberries

Trail Mix

The food turned out great. The chicken and fresh fruits/veggies were all prepped in advance. We had more than enough room in the cooler for other things, and there was plenty of food to cover lunch on Sunday (more PB&J).  I also had in the cooler the Horizon milks that are individual-sized for both breakfasts.  We brought a separate water cooler and drank water and Nuun tablet drinks during lunches and dinners (we tried the pink lemonade, orange and fruit punch tablets).

Tip: You can keep pre-mixed pancake mix (ready to pour) in a cooler for several days.  I used the mix we keep on hand in the pantry, which has oatmeal, cinnamon, whole wheat flour, etc.  YUM!

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Teacher Appreciation

Teachers are an extension of you.  You depend on them to direct your child in their learning when they are not at home.  Great teachers are those who positively influence your child, beyond the book knowledge.  We have been so thankful to have such wonderful teachers at my oldest daughter's school.

This year, for teacher appreciation week, we gave her this:

Apparently we ruined a perfectly good mascara day.  I know how that can be.  We, especially my daughter, will sincerely miss being in her class.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Reorganizing your counters

Sometimes all it takes is moving a couple of things around to make you wonder why you never thought to do it before.  I moved my toaster oven to another counter to allow a larger workspace by the fridge, where I was also storing knives and cutting boards.  Now I can also fit my food processor when I need to get it out. I also have more space when I am packing lunches and doing other food prep.

Why did it take me almost 6 years to think of this?

We have a section in our kitchen with mini-cabinets (less depth) and a counter.  I store my food processor, stand mixer, blender and some cookbooks there.  They're at a comfortable level for picking up and moving to a workspace, but out of the way when I don't need them.

What are your counter-top organization tips?

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Zucchini Pasta

I was reading a recipe on Whole Living lately that was meant to be vegan.  I chose to change it up a bit, to fit our family's style, and thought it may be a way for my kids to actually enjoy zucchini, which has been a hard sell.  When my youngest saw zucchini in the fridge, she got excited and said "Yay, zucchini bread!"  LOL  I had to try very hard not to disappoint.

Before I share the easy way to make this meal, let me tell you about my excitement to hear that Consumer Reports named my food processor, the Breville Sous Chef, the best out there.  I had a nice Kitchen Aid that lasted me for about 13 years, but it was on it's last leg, and so I replaced it late last year.  The Sous Chef makes me happy.

To make the Zucchini Pasta, I took 2 large zucchini and cut them in half lengthwise and also in half the other way.  Then I used my french fry attachment to cut them.  For us, I boiled 1 cup of whole wheat penne.  While that was boiling, I sauteed the zucchini with 1 minced fresh garlic clove and fresh cracked pepper in about 2 Tbsp olive oil, over medium heat.  It took about 12 minutes for both the pasta and the zucchini.  I did cover the zucchini some, so that it would be tender-crisp.  I served with our favorite marinara sauce and some fresh parmigiano reggiano cheese.
What a healthy meal!  The zucchini was good enough to replace pasta, but I have to ease my family in, and there's no harm in a little bit of whole wheat pasta.  The kids ate the zucchini, and even said it was good, and that's good enough for me!

Friday, March 30, 2012

The Scullery, and the Felafel Burger

I have loved a locally owned restaurant for a while now. The Scullery is a quaint cafe and coffee shop in "Uptown" Greenville, NC. The food is fresh, tables are painted in chalkboard paint (and come with a little cup of chalk), and the owners are very friendly! They also make fresh homemade ice cream that is irresistible. Parts of the menu change with the seasons.  See what a local photographer wrote up in her blog here.

The felafel burger is on our list of favorites. Just the right amount of garlic and herbs. Crispy on the outside, warm deliciousness on the inside.  Their description says "Ours is made fresh every day with chick peas, herbs, lemon and garlic, pan fried and served with basil mayo, lettuce, tomato and mozzarella on delicious bread baked at The Scullery."

A great place to eat healthy, fresh foods.  Do you have a local place you love to go?   If so, what do you love to eat there?

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Short Absence, Pussywillow Tree

I've been busy.  Besides typical stuff, I'm working hard preparing for a professional certification, which I'll be soon testing for.  I'm hoping to be posting more soon.  Until then, an up close and personal view of a picture I took this weekend, a pussy-willow tree.  Reminds me of my childhood, although I can't pinpoint a specific memory.
“Unless you people see signs and wonders,” Jesus told him, “you will never believe.”
John 4:48

Have a wonder-filled week!

Monday, February 13, 2012

Chocolate Orange Mousse

Happy Valentine's Day to all of my faithful readers!  Have you ever had a Chocolate Orange?  You know, the candy?  So, I've only had it twice, but YUM!  Here's what I whipped up for my family for a Valentine's dessert.  This would be great to serve dinner guests!

Chocolate Orange Mousse

1 bag semisweet chocolate chips
1/2 cup whole milk
Zest of 2 clementines plus juice of 1/2 clementine (to equal 1Tbsp of zest/juice)
1 1/4 cups heavy whipping cream

Melt chocolate chips and milk in a warm double boiler.  Stir frequently until chocolate is completely melted.  Cool completely, then completely stir the zest/juice in.  Whip up the cream until stiff peaks form.  Set aside about 1/2 cup cream.  Fold the cream into the chocolate mixture until completely blended.  Put into dessert dish(es) and refrigerate for several hours or overnight.  Serve with a small dollop of the reserved whipped cream.
Serves 8

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Sugar Free Valentines

Valentine's Day is a fun day for kids, giving cards and treats to friends and receiving the same in return.  But who says the treats have to be filled with sugar?

This year we did glow bracelets.  I chose to make expressions like "You light up my life!" and "You make my heart glow!"  I found a similar idea on Pinterest.  To make the hearts 'pop' we used pop-up glue dots.

We turned it into family craft time, which the kids love.  It puts more meaning into the message.
I've been under the weather this weekend, so I haven't accomplished anything that I had planned other than these.  What have you been up to this weekend?

Friday, February 10, 2012

Piano and Sheet Music

My grandfather passed away last summer, but a few years ago, when they were downsizing, he and my grandmother decided to pass the piano on to future generations.  Grandpa was a magnificent piano player, you could tell he had played almost all of his life, and he loved to sit down and play.  His love for music became a legacy that lived on.  His two sons both became professional pianists and currently teach music in different capacities at the university level.

My kids are now opening up to playing, and I'm excited that they will have that opportunity.

The bench is FULL of sheet music, some dating back before The Great Depression.  A lot of it is show tunes, but there's certainly a variety.  I decided that I'd like to display it, but I also want to preserve it, since I'm not sure if it's of value.  So for now I've tied up a small stack of the music and placed it on the piano, until I figure out what to do with the rest.

What would you do with the sheet music?

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Book Exchange Birthday Party

After discussing some birthday ideas with my almost-7 year old, such as a craft party, etc, she settled on a book exchange.  We have harder times with ideas for her, since the weather here is so unpredictable in January.  She absolutely LOVES books, and goes through them very quickly.  She currently has a fixation on the Rainbow Magic books, and also still loves Magic Treehouse books (and FYI if you're not familiar with either series, there is no correlation between them even though Magic is in the series names for both).

She knew we were on a budget, and after all was said and done, we managed to keep the entire party, including our gift to her, which I'll tell you about later, under $100!
The idea behind the book exchange, which grown-ups also do for fun, is to wrap a gently used book that you enjoyed reading.  At the end of the party you each go home with a different book.   This is supposed to be in lieu of bringing a gift for the birthday girl.  I created the invitations in MS Word based on inspiration from Reid Girls Handmade.  It cost me only $3 for copies to be made on cardstock at the local office supply store.  Ribbon and envelopes are always on hand in my craft room, so no extra $ spent there.
We did a game that was like Dirty Santa, but only 1 girl stole from another, so I'm not sure these young girls understood the game part.  (LOL)  It was great watching the girls see their new book in the end, there was a lot of excitement in the room!  Each girl filled out a simple card to place inside that told who brought it and what they enjoyed about the book (see above pic).

I did some very simple decorations.  My daughter didn't want any balloons, so I used green and blue buckets (her favorite colors) to hold flowers and drape ribbon.  The ribbon tied in with the bookmarks that they made.
I bought jumbo paper clips for them to tie ribbon on.  The girls ended up recruiting their moms to help.  I had a bucket of small ribbon pieces, told them to pick out about 10 each, and tie them to the top of the clip.  I thought it was such a cute idea, and the ribbon was no extra cost for me, since I have a TON of it upstairs in my craft room.
Lastly, we had an ice cream social.  The birthday girl did not want cake, since she doesn't like frosting.  So, per her request, we had ice cream, homemade whipped cream, and fresh fruit- a selection of fresh blueberries, sliced strawberries, and sliced bananas.

It was a nice relaxing party, no hustle and bustle, and the girls all had a great time.  Best of all, it didn't break the bank.

Our gift to her was an LED book light that has a charging station (and the special edition book Belle the Birthday Fairy).  We let the girls read at bedtime (we encourage reading), and feel it gives them flexibility and not 'feeling' forced to lay there when they're not yet tired.  We've used glow bracelets in the past to provide them the extra light.  The book light was definitely something she loved- my husband even found her using it in a dark room in the middle of the day one day!

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Veggie Quiche

I grew up knowing this as Broccoli Quiche, but think there's enough veggies in this one to call it a veggie quiche.  I just love it because it's full of veggies, where many quiches are mostly egg.  I usually throw in some extra broccoli because that's just how I like it.

I also grew up with Bisquick in the original recipe.  I don't use the stuff, I think it's scary, at best, and prefer to use ingredients that I know how to say and know what is in them.  That's why I used an Olive Oil Crust recipe.  After eating some, I recommend only using half of the olive oil crust recipe, making for a thin crust layer, but this week I used the full crust (and just didn't eat all of the crust).


Veggie Quiche

10 oz (2-3 cups) frozen broccoli florets, thawed
1 bell pepper, diced
1/3 cup onion, chopped or diced
1 cup cheddar cheese, shredded
3 eggs
1 tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp fresh cracked pepper
1 cup milk

Prepare your crust in a pie dish.  Evenly spread out your broccoli, bell pepper, onion, and cheese.  In a separate bowl, blend together remaining ingredients until eggs are well beaten.  (You can use a blender, whisk, beater...)  Pour liquid mixture over the veggies.  Bake at 375 for 40 minutes or until a knife comes out clean when inserted in the center.

I made this for myself to eat for lunches this week, but my 7 year old tasted it and decided that she'd also like some in her lunchbox.  That's my girl!

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Leftover French Toast

If you've made too much... layer your pancakes, waffles, or french toast in parchment and place them in a freezer safe Ziploc bag.  You can defrost in the microwave for a minute, then if you like them a little crispier, you can stick it in the toaster oven for a couple of minutes.

Sometimes I make too much on purpose.  I love the leftovers on random mornings.  I also like to plan a special breakfast into our busy work/school week, the time saved, by preparing ahead, allows us to do this.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Up Close & Personal with Butterflies

A couple of weeks ago we took a short trip to Raleigh, NC.  We were going to be meeting family for dinner, but decided to spend the afternoon doing something fun with the kids.  So we decided to head to the NC Museum of Natural Sciences, a free museum with many exhibits!
I had heard about one of the permanent exhibits, a living conservatory, where live butterflies accompany you through the room that "recreates the sights, sounds and smells of a dry tropical forest."  There was also a sloth, although he was in a protected area, of course!

We were in awe of the butterflies, they flew all around, even inches from your face, at times.  There were several beautiful types, and here are some that we saw.  One thing that was interesting is that sometimes it seemed as if you were looking at different butterflies, but then would realize after a simple movement that it was the same.  They had different patterns and colors on the other sides of their wings!

We had a fun trip and a nice dinner with the family, and we will definitely be making another trip to that museum!

If you look closely, you can see that this is the other side of the wings on the blue butterfly!

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Peaceful decor

Just a simple plan for decorating the bar.  A tray, a picture,a terrarium, some inverted wine glasses, and candles.  All things I had in the house.

Terrariums are very simple to make, I made this one in a small hurricane and inverted a chunky candle holder as the lid.  I've had this one going since last spring, and have only added a bit of water once.  If you look closely enough, you can see my daughter's green ceramic turtle sitting on the soil. ;)
In the same way, let your light shine before men, 
that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven. 
-Matthew 5:16

Saturday, January 14, 2012

20 minutes of peace

I spent just a short time outside this afternoon, right after my youngest daughter went down for her nap.  I got to see some of our 'pets' in the backyard.  I love getting up close and personal with wild birds, they are so beautiful, and I love listening to them.  As a bonus, as the sun was setting this afternoon, we spotted another beauty.  Hope you enjoy these as much as I do!
Sparrow (we named him Bubba, he's a fatty)
Black-Capped Chickadee
Eastern Bluebird
Red-Bellied Woodpecker
Eastern Bluebirds
Cooper's Hawk (What a beauty!)
Have an awe-inspiring weekend!