Wednesday, August 29, 2012

What I Love Wednesday {No. 83}

i love letter writing.
it is the time with free hands that escapes me.
i actually daydream about what i want to write to friends and family.
then months later i find the time.
i'm thinking i need to carve out a weekly or daily letter writing routine.

how about you?
do you like getting letters in the mail?
and what do you love today?

how does 'what i love wednesday' work?

Monday, August 27, 2012

This Week's Dinner Menu Planner {week 15}

i am so excited for these fun dinners this week:
tomato and goat cheese tart, individual shepard's pie, pepperoni pizza monkey bread, and more! 

Grilled New England Seafood "Bake"

2 tablespoons butter, room temperature
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh dill, plus more for garnish
1 small garlic clove, minced
Coarse salt and ground pepper
8 ounces red new potatoes, scrubbed and thinly sliced
1 pound skinless cod fillet, cut into four equal pieces
8 ounces frozen uncooked medium shrimp (peeled and deveined), thawed
2 ears corn, quartered
1 lemon, thinly sliced
2 hard rolls, halved

Heat grill to medium. In a small bowl, combine butter, dill, and garlic; season with salt and pepper. Set aside.
Fold four 14-inch squares of heavy-duty aluminum foil in half, forming 4 rectangles. Assemble packets: On one half of each of four folded pieces of heavy-duty foil, dividing ingredients evenly, arrange potatoes in a single layer; top with cod, then shrimp. Place 2 pieces of corn on the side. Season with salt and pepper. Add a dollop of the butter mixture and two lemon slices. Fold foil over ingredients, and crimp edges tightly to seal.
Place packets on grill, with potato layer on the bottom. Cook, rotating (but not flipping) packets occasionally, until fish is just cooked through and potatoes are tender, 12 to 14 minutes.
Remove from grill. Slit packets open, and transfer contents to serving bowls. Garnish with dill sprigs; serve with rolls.
Image and recipe source: Martha Stewart Everyday Food July/August 2007

Chicken Enchilada Pasta

12 ounce package dried jumbo shell macaroni
3 large green and/or red sweet peppers, chopped
1 1/2 cups chopped red onion
1 fresh jalapeno chile pepper, seeded and chopped
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 cups chopped cooked chicken
16 ounce can refried beans
3 Tbsp taco seasoning mix
2 10 ounce can enchilada sauce
8 ounce shredded Mexican-style four-cheese blend
1 cup sliced green onions
2 cups nacho cheese-flavored tortilla chips, crushed (2 oz.)
Avocado dip and/or sour cream

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Cook pasta according to package directions; drain. Rinse; drain and set aside.
2. In skillet cook sweet peppers, onion, jalapeno, and 1/4 tsp. salt in hot oil over medium heat for 5 minutes or until tender. Stir in chicken, beans, taco seasoning mix, and 1/2 cup enchilada sauce. Cook and stir 5 minutes. Stir in 1/2 cup each of the cheese and green onions.
3. Divide filling among shells. Spread 1 cup of the remaining enchilada sauce in 3-quart rectangular baking dish. Arrange shells atop sauce. Drizzle with remaining enchilada sauce.
4. Bake, covered, for 30 minutes. Uncover; sprinkle with remaining cheese. Bake 5 minutes more or until cheese is melted. Sprinkle with chips and remaining green onions. Serve with avocado dip and/or sour cream. Makes 8 to 10 servings.
Image and recipe source: Better Homes and Gardens, October 2010

Individual Shepard's Pie

600g lean organic beef mince (ground beef)
1 brown onion, finely diced
3 large cloves garlic, minced
2 cups beef or chicken stock
1½ tablespoons tomato paste
1/3 cup Worcester sauce
3 tablespoons HP sauce
3 tablespoons BBQ sauce
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
4 sprigs fresh thyme leaves
Salt & freshly ground black pepper
Olive or canola oil for frying
For the topping:
3 large cloves garlic, whole, skin on
5 evenly-sized large floury potatoes, peeled, washed and cut into halves
2 tablespoons Natural Greek yoghurt
1/3 cup milk
50g Parmesan, finely grated
A few extra fresh thyme sprigs
Extra Parmesan for topping and serving

Preheat oven to 180˚C (350˚F).
Place garlic cloves onto a small baking tray and roast in the oven for 30 minutes or until soft on the inside (test with a small , sharp knife) remove and allow to cool then squeeze out pulp and discard outer paper.

Fill a medium-large pot half-full with cold water, add a good pinch of salt then add in the halved potatoes. Bring to the boil over high heat then reduce heat to medium-high and cook at a high simmer until potatoes as fully soft in the middle when tested with a knife. Note: to ensure really creamy mash, always make sure your potatoes are thoroughly cooked, if they remain even ever so slightly firm in the middle you’ll never get them smooth, as you’ll just end up with tiny lumps dotted throughout the mash.

Drain potatoes, tip them back into the pot and using a potato masher, break up the cooked potatoes, then pass through a Tamil sieve or the finest setting on a potato ricer until totally smooth. Add in the milk, yoghurt, cooled roasted garlic pulp, and grated Parmesan and whip together to combine thoroughly along with a very good seasoning of salt and black pepper. Transfer to a large piping bag fitted with a star-shaped nozzle (the one I used measured 1cm/0.4”) and set aside until required.

Heat 1 tablespoon of oil in a large, deep frying pan or saucepan. Add the onion and fry gently for 5 minutes, then add the garlic and continue to sauté over medium heat for a further 5-7 minutes before adding in the beef, break the mince up using the end of a spatula and combine all together. Fry until meat has browned then add the stock; tomato paste; HP sauce; Worcester sauce, fresh thyme leaves and stir all together. Cook for 30-40 minutes to infuse all flavours together and sauce has thickened. Fill baking dishes (this quantity will fill a single dish measuring 24 x 18cm/7 x 9.5” or 4 smaller 10cm/4” ramekin-style pots).

Pipe mashed potato onto top of meat filling, sprinkle with a little extra grated Parmesan, a seasoning of black pepper and a garnish of a fresh thyme sprig, then bake in the oven for 40-50 minutes or until top of piped potato is golden brown.
Serve hot with extra grated Parmesan (optional).
Serves 4

Tomato and Goat Cheese Tart

All-purpose flour, for rolling
1 sheet frozen puff pastry, thawed
1 tablespoon sour cream
1 teaspoon grainy mustard
Coarse salt and ground pepper
2 large leeks, white and light-green parts only
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
3/4 pound grape or cherry tomatoes, halved if large, or plum or beefsteak tomatoes, sliced 1/4 inch thick, or a combination
2 ounces fresh goat cheese, crumbled
2 teaspoons fresh thyme or basil leaves

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. On a lightly floured work surface, roll out puff pastry to a 12-inch square; transfer to a parchment-lined baking sheet. In a small bowl, stir together sour cream and mustard and season with salt and pepper. Spread sour cream mixture evenly over pastry. Fold over 1/2-inch border on all sides and press edges to seal. Refrigerate 10 minutes.
Meanwhile, halve leeks lengthwise; rinse thoroughly, pat dry, and slice 1/4-inch thick. In a large skillet, melt butter over medium-high. Add leeks, season with salt and pepper, and cook, stirring frequently, until soft, 3 minutes. Reduce heat to medium and cook, stirring frequently, until leeks are very soft, 5 minutes. Arrange leeks evenly over sour cream mixture on pastry. Top with tomatoes and season with salt and pepper. Bake until pastry is golden brown and crisp, 25 minutes. Let cool slightly. Top with goat cheese and herbs before cutting into squares. Serve warm or at room temperature.
Image and recipe source: Martha Stewart Everyday Food, September 2010

Chicken Taco Casserole

Nonstick cooking spray
12 ounces chicken breast strips for stir-frying
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon chili powder
2 teaspoons canola oil
1 medium onion, halved and thinly sliced
3/4 cup chopped red or green sweet pepper (1 medium)
10 ounce package frozen chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed dry
1 1/2 cups purchased salsa
4  6 inch corn tortillas, coarsely torn
3 ounces reduced-fat Monterey Jack cheese, shredded (3/4 cup)
1/2 cup cherry tomatoes, quartered or chopped (optional)
1/2 of an avocado, halved, seeded, peeled, and chopped (optional)
Corn chips, baked tortilla chips, or broken taco shells (optional)

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Coat an unheated large nonstick skillet with cooking spray. Preheat skillet over medium-high heat. In a medium bowl toss together chicken, garlic, and chili powder. Add to hot skillet. Cook for 4 to 6 minutes or until chicken is no longer pink, stirring frequently. Remove chicken from skillet; set aside.
2. Add canola oil to skillet. Add onion and sweet pepper. Cook over medium heat about 5 minutes or until tender, stirring occasionally. Stir in spinach.
3. Coat a 2-quart square baking dish with cooking spray. Spread about 1/2 cup of the salsa in the baking dish. Top with half of the tortilla pieces, half of the chicken mixture, and half of the vegetable mixture. Pour half of the remaining salsa over the vegetables and top with half of the cheese. Repeat layers once, except do not top with the remaining cheese.
4. Bake, covered, for 30 to 35 minutes or until heated through. Sprinkle with the remaining cheese. Let stand for 5 minutes before serving. If desired, garnish with cherry tomatoes, chopped avocado, and/or corn chips.
Image and Recipe source: Better Homes and Gardens

Seared-Chicken Salad with Green Beans, Almonds, and Dried Cherries

3 tablespoons olive oil
1 pound chicken breast cutlets (about 6)
Coarse salt and ground pepper
1/2 pound green beans, trimmed
3 tablespoons red-wine vinegar
1 tablespoon apricot jam
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
5 ounces baby arugula
1 head radicchio, cored and shredded
1/3 cup dried cherries
1/4 cup sliced almonds

In a large skillet, heat 1 tablespoon oil over high; season chicken with salt and pepper. In two batches, cook chicken until opaque throughout, 1 to 2 minutes per side; transfer to a plate. When cool enough to handle, slice chicken crosswise.
In a medium saucepan, bring 2 inches salted water to a boil. Add green beans; cover and cook until crisp-tender, 4 to 6 minutes. Rinse under cold water until cool; drain well.
Make dressing: In a small bowl, whisk together vinegar, jam, mustard, and remaining 2 tablespoons oil; season with salt and pepper.
In a large bowl, toss arugula and radicchio with all but 1 tablespoon dressing. Divide salad among four plates; arrange chicken, green beans, cherries, and almonds on top. Drizzle with remaining dressing; serve immediately.
Image and recipe source: Martha Stewart Everyday Food, January 2008

Pepperoni Pizza Monkey Bread

2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
4 Tbsp butter
2 lbs pizza dough (I used this recipe because it makes enough for two pizza)
6 oz mozzarella cheese, cut into small cubes (you'll need ~48 pieces)
48 slices of Turkey pepperoni (from 1 package)
2-3 cups marinara sauce, warmed, for serving
Heat garlic and butter over medium heat just until the garlic begins to brown. 
Remove from heat and let sit.
Lightly brush the inside of a bundt pan (or other oven-safe dish) with garlic butter.
Pull off large marble-sized balls of dough and flatten (~2/3 of an ounce, a kitchen scale makes this very easy). 
Top with a slice of pepperoni and a cube of mozzarella.
Wrap the dough around the pepperoni and cheese, pinching well to seal.
Very lightly brush the pizza ball with garlic butter and place into the bundt pan (I dabbed the pizza balls on a butter-dipped silicon brush to keep butter use low - there will be 1+ Tbsp leftover - and my hands butter free. Buttery hands make it hard to get the pizza balls to seal).
Repeat until all of the dough is used.
Cover and let sit for 30 minutes, while preheating the oven to 400.
Bake for ~35 minutes, until the top is very brown.
Remove from the oven and let sit for 10 minutes.
Turn out onto a platter and serve with warmed marinara sauce for dipping.
.   .   .   .   .   .   .   .   .   .   .   .   .   .   .   .   .   .   .   .   .   .   .   .
what is your family's favorite dinner?

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Supplies & Decor {back-to-school week}

i love back-to-school and office supplies so much half the time i don't even know what something is for, however, i want it... like a columnar pad?!! i guess it fits well with my paper obsession and calendar addiction.

here are some sweet supplies:
i love crayons, mostly the way they smell.
 how cute are these paperclips?

pens, pencils, paintbrushes, twine - tin caddy tutorial from Cynthia Shaffer

these are actually school themed wedding invites


don't you love their school house boards; chalk, paint, bulletin?

pottery barn is so spot on. they kill me.


um, yes, please.

 little owl backpack from Target
which are your favorites?
have a happy thursday!

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

What I Love Wednesday {No. 82}

this week is back-to-school week on the blog.
let's share some of our favorite back-to-school loves!

i love vintage back-to-school wares!
{from poppytalkhandmade home}
download the alphabet printable here :)

can't wait to see yours!


how does 'what i love wednesday' work?

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Get Organized {back-to-school week}

some things i would like to do before school starts are:
get the girls hair cuts
organize clothing into easy to grab outfits (mine too)
organize in general to keep things running smoothly
to motivate me and the girls
i also plan to do lots of these fun ideas...

make a back-to-school centerpiece
via pinterest (no link found)

here are some ideas from that one lady, Martha Stewart - 
you might have heard of her? anyway...

and in the shop get your playdate cards just in time for back-to-school!
save 20% off with this code!

happy organizing!

Monday, August 20, 2012

weekly menu planner {back-to-school week}

this week i am doing a back-to-school series on the blog!
i get excited every year at this time, even though i am sad to say goodbye to summer, i look forward to more structured days and weeks. the new beginnings with new classes, books, teachers, and friends. + i love the crisp orangy beauty of fall.

here are some super fun lunch ideas for all ages just in time for back-to-school!
(click the photos for links)


sandwich on a stick

ocean theme

bento box ideas

chicken salad pitas

fruit and yogurt parfaits

easy apple sandwiches

taco salad wraps

creative ways to serve lunches

personal pizzas recipe!!!
These handheld pizzas are the perfect snack or fast meal. Have your young chefs pair the Breville pie maker with ready-made marinara sauce, grated cheese, a bit of meat or vegetables and pie dough—they can create their own favorite combos!
1 batch basic pie dough (see related recipe at left)
3/4 cup grated mozzarella cheese
1/2 cup tomato sauce
3/4 cup assorted prepared pizza toppings (diced pepperoni, cooked and drained sausage, sautéed onions, peppers or mushrooms, and/or black olives)
Divide the pie dough in half, shape each into a disk and wrap separately with plastic wrap. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours or up to overnight.
In a small bowl, combine the cheese, tomato sauce and desired toppings. Set the filling aside.
Preheat a Breville electric pie maker according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
Let the dough stand at room temperature for 5 minutes. On a floured surface, roll out the dough into a round about 1/8 inch thick. Using the larger side of the circle cutter, cut out 4 rounds, rolling out the remaining dough disk and rerolling the scraps as needed. Transfer the dough rounds to the parchment-lined baking sheet. If they become too warm or soft, refrigerate for 10 to 15 minutes.
Open the pie maker and assemble the pizzas according to the manufacturer’s instructions, using the dough rounds for the base of each pizza and 1/3 cup filling per pizza. Close the lid on the pie maker, ensuring the latch clicks into place, and bake until the dough is cooked through and golden brown, about 10 minutes. Using a mini-pie lifter, a nonstick heatproof spatula or tongs, carefully transfer the pizzas to a wire rack and let cool slightly, about 5 minutes, before serving. Makes 4 individual pizzas.
courtesy Williams-Sonoma Kitchen

teens and grown ups:

whole living has a vast array of yummy sandwiches for school or work
here i will share two mouth watering lunch bundles for you to nosh
+ a few other healthy lunches you can make ahead and easily take it to go...

Peach, Tomato, and Ricotta Sandwich
2 tablespoons ricotta
2 slices whole-grain bread, toasted
3 slices tomato
3 slices peach
2 slices red onion
Sea salt
Extra-virgin olive oil
Fresh basil

Spread ricotta on bread and top with tomato, peach, and onion. Sprinkle with salt and drizzle with oil. Top with basil.
Image: Johnny Miller Recipe: Whole Living July/August 2012

Crisp Prosciutto, Lettuce, and Tomato Sandwich
2 slices prosciutto, each torn into 4-inch pieces
1 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
2 slices seven-grain bread, toasted
2 lettuce leaves
2 slices tomato
1/4 avocado, sliced

Heat oven to 400 degrees. Arrange prosciutto pieces in a single layer on a baking sheet. Brush with oil and bake until crisp and deep golden brown, about 9 minutes, rotating halfway through.

Top one slice of toast with lettuce, tomato, avocado, and prosciutto. Top with second slice.
Image and recipe source: Whole Living, July/August 2012

Vegetarian Greek Salad
1 lb tomatoes
6 oz vegetarian feta cheese
3 tbsp olive oil
salt and pepper
half a cucumber, peeled
10 black olives, halved
1/4 red onion
1 tbsp white wine vinegar
2 tbsp chopped marjoram

1. Quarter the tomatoes, slice the cucumber and dice the cheese.
2. Place in a bowl with the rest of the ingredients and stir well.
Image and recipe source: Vegetarian Recipe Network

Quinoa, Butternut Squash & Kale Salad
Makes 4 to 6 servings as a main dish.

1 1/2 cups quinoa
3 cups water
2 teaspoons olive oil, divided
1 onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 1/2 cups peeled, cored and diced butternut squash
1 1/2 cups roughly chopped kale (previously washed and cleaned)
2 teaspoons fresh thyme, chopped
vinaigrette (recipe here)

In a large pot, bring the quinoa and water to a boil, reduce the heat and simmer, covered until all the water has been absorbed (about 20 minutes). Remove from the heat, fluff with a for and place in a large bowl to cool for 20 minutes.
In the meantime, heat one teaspoons olive oil in a large skillet, add the onion and cook until it turns translucid. Add the garlic, butternut squash and kale. Cover with a lid and cook for about 10 minutes on medium-low heat. Remove the lid, check that the butternut squash is tender but not mushy or hard when you poke a piece with a knife. Add the thyme and continue cooking until the all the liquid creating by the cover has evaporated.
Let cool to room temperature. Gently fold the cooked quinoa and the cooked vegetables together along with the vinaigrette.
Serve room temperature or cold.

Strawberry and Avocado Spinach Salad
1 clove garlic (grated)
1 teaspoon honey
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon raspberry vinegar
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoon olive oil
1 5 ounce bag baby spinach
2 handfuls strawberries (sliced)
1 avocado (peeled, pitted, sliced)
1 handful fresh peas (optional)
2 slices bacon (cooked and crumbled, optional)
1 handful blue cheese (crumbled)
1 handful pecans (chopped)

1. Mix the garlic, honey, mustard, vinegar and oil.
2. Assemble the salad and toss with the dressing.
Image and recipe source: Closet Cooking, July 2008

are you hungry now?
i sure am!!
happy packing :)