Friday, January 31, 2014

On The Hunt For A Bargain

My sister and I were out on the hunt for bargains last week.  We stopped at Kohl's and were browsing around.  Both of us were looking for active wear, for our daily walks when the weather breaks.  We were in the women's department, and of course got distracted checking out the 80% off sale racks, never pass those up, you can find great bargains on them.  I came across this jacket on the discount rack, that I fell in love with when it first appeared in the store, but would never, ever, ever pay $86.00 for.  Way too much money!  The jacket was marked down to $17.20.  Lucky for me I thought, I have a $15.00 rebate card for Kohl's that I just got in the mail, that means I will only have to pay $2.20 for the jacket.  I was excited beyond belief when I got to the register, I couldn't contain myself looking for the rebate card in my handbag.  I FORGOT IT AT HOME!  I bought the jacket anyway, then took it back, had them re-ring it and got the best deal I ever had for an article of clothing- $2.20 for an $86.00 jacket (savings of $83.80)!  This is a dress up or down, go anywhere, go with anything jacket, that I will get a lot of use out of.  So, what are you waiting for, go, go, go to Kohl's, right now!

Black and white stripe tweed drape front jacket, with besom pockets.
 Tweed print up close, and the original tag on the jacket.

Thursday, January 30, 2014

You Can Have Your Cake And Eat It Too - Chocolate Speckled Angel Food Cake

Changing food habits is so hard, but I am doing it and am very proud of myself.  One thing hard to give up - the junk food - cakes, cookies, pies, all the good things, that taste so good!  I didn't want to give them up, but I had to.  I have to rethink the foods I like to eat in different ways, how to have my sweets and and eat them too.  Angel Food Cake is always a staple in the house, but the boxed version, as well as the store bought version weren't cutting it for me.  You really don't know what is in the package, preservatives, fat, unknown ingredients.  So I challenged myself to make one from scratch, something I have never done before.  I always thought that making Angel Food Cake was complicated, well I found out it's not really, and it tastes so much better than boxed or store bought.  I added some grated chocolate to my cake, to give it some color, and it made me think I was eating something really sinful!  Recipe below.

Some of my ingredients, check out the egg whites in the container, makes your life easier and no wasting eggs.  My old standby, I can't live without her!
 You should use cake flour for an Angel Food Cake, it is lighter than all purpose flour.  If you do not have cake flour, check online for ratio of how to mix with all purpose flour.  Mixing in the grated chocolate, and poured into a tube pan.  My tube pan has a lift out bottom, so I put it on a baking sheet just in case it spilled out.  Thankfully it didn't.
 Baked and out of the oven,  It was so delicious served with plain berries (no sugar) and fat free whipped cream.  See, you can have your cake and eat it too!
Chocolate Speckled Angel Food Cake

1 1/3 cups of cake flour, such as Softasilk
1 1/2 cups of sifted white sugar
1 1/2 cups of (room temperature) egg whites from a 16 oz. container of egg whites, see note
1/2 teaspoon of salt
1 1/2 teaspoons of cream of tartar
1 teaspoon of vanilla extract
2 squares of semi sweet chocolate, grated fine

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Combine 1/2 cup of the sugar with the flour.  Sift the mixture together twice. Set it aside.  Combine the egg whites, salt and cream of tartar in the bowl of a mixer fitted with the whisk attachment.  Beat on high until the egg mixture forms stiff peaks, this takes about 1 minute.  Reduce the speed to medium and shake the remaining 1 cup of sugar evenly over the egg whites.  Whisk until the egg whites are shiny and thick.  Mix in the vanilla and continue to whisk until all is combined. Starting with a 1/4 cup of the flour mixture, fold it into the egg whites with a large spatula.  Continue with 1/4 cup measurements, keep folding it into the mixture until all of it is incorporated. Fold in the grated chocolate.  Pour into an ungreased 10 inch tube pan.  Smooth out the batter on the top.  Bake for 40-45 minutes or until the top is browned and springs back when touched.  Remove from the oven and invert on a wire rack.  DO NOT TRY TO REMOVE THE CAKE FROM THE PAN, but you can run a knife around the edge to loosen all the crispy crust.  The cake will fall out of the pan on its own.  Transfer to a serving plate when cooled.

NOTE:  The grocery store now sells egg whites in a carton in the dairy section.  No need to crack all those eggs and waste them!  

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Can't Pass Up A Sale

My sister and I were on a mission at Walmart for some things, we entered the door at the nursery end of the store, there is always great parking there.  What a surprise!  That section had all the leftover Christmas decorations on sale at 75% off, and of course I couldn't pass it by.  I had my eye on these 5 foot collapsible tinsel trees when they were full price and didn't want to pay that much for them, $17.97 each, wasn't worth it to me, I needed two.  I wanted them for both sides of the fireplace to match all my other Christmas decorations that are silver.  Lucky me, I got them for $4.49 each and couldn't be happier.  Great savings  -  originally the cost for 2 trees would have been $38.10, this is including the tax.  I paid $9.52 including the tax, for both trees. A savings of $28.58!  I packed them away and can't wait to put them out next year.

The trees came in green, red, dark teal and silver.  They are collapsible and fit neatly into the sturdy box.
 Stand clips on the pole, the pole slides into place on the stand.
 The collapsible tree slides down the pole and clips into the top to hold it in place. Voila! instant tree.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Skirt Steak Tacos

This is my new favorite way to make beef tacos, no more ground meat for me.  Skirt steak, if you have never tried it, is a thin, tender, inexpensive cut of beef.  I seasoned it with taco seasoning and lime juice then grilled it in a grill pan.  Slice it down and it becomes this flavorful, wonderful piece of meat.

Seasoned skirt steak.  Grilled up and caramelized.
 Out of the pan, give it rest, then thinly slice for your soft tacos.
 Chop up tomato, lettuce, red onion and cilantro.  I use LaTortilla High Fiber Soft Wraps.  Stuffed them with my meat and veggies, topped with fat free Mexican blend cheese and taco sauce.
 Rolled up and dinner is served! So yummy.

Monday, January 27, 2014

Veggie Pasta Salad

You've all heard of pasta salad with vegetables in it, right?  Well, I made a veggie salad with pasta.  To cut down on the carbs and to make it healthier for my family, I used less pasta and more vegetables.  I started with a protein and fiber packed multigrain pasta and lots of fresh vegetables.  Recipe below.

I tossed everything in a large bowl with some fresh fat free mozzarella cheese, then added the cooked pasta. 
Chopped up some fresh flat leaf parsley and basil, then tossed with this dressing.  It's pretty because of all the colors, light on calories and it's good for you!
Vegetable Salad with Pasta

2 cups Barilla Plus dry pasta of your choice
1 1/2 cups small broccoli florets
1 1/2 cups of small cauliflower florets
1 /2 cup chopped red onion
1/2 English cucumber, peeled, halved and sliced
1/2 bag of broccoli slaw
1 cup of whole cherry tomatoes
1 cup of chopped baby carrots
3 ribs celery, sliced
3 radishes, sliced
1/2 cup chopped red bell pepper
1/2 ball of fresh fat free mozzarella cheese, cut into cubes
2 tablespoons of chopped flat leaf parsley
5 basil leaves sliced
1/2 cup of Ken's Lite Caesar Dressing

Bring 8 cups of salted water to a boil.  While the water is coming to a boil, prepare all the vegetables and add to a large bowl. When the water is ready, add the pasta and stir.  Continue to cook until al dente.  When the pasta is done, drain and rinse under cold water. Add to the bowl and toss with the vegetables. Add the cheese, parsley and basil.  Pour on the dressing and toss to coat.  Makes 8 servings.  

Sunday, January 26, 2014

It's Winter, Think Tropical!

Pineapple is a wonderful fruit that you can also cook with.  When selecting a pineapple, look for one that is plump and fresh looking, and the leaves on the crown should be green and fresh, not brown and curled.  My mother always made her baked ham with pineapple, maraschino cherries neatly placed inside the pineapple center, orange juice, ginger ale, brown sugar and cloves.  It was so tasty when it came out of the oven.  A health benefit of eating pineapple is that it is loaded with vitamin C, so it not only tastes good it's also good for you.  I buy a pineapple, or two, every week to snack on or to cook with.  I made salmon this week and made a chunky pineapple salsa as a side dish.  This is how I made it. Recipe below.

My fresh, topped and peeled pineapple.  I cut into chunks and added diced red pepper, matchstick carrots and chopped cilantro.  Then I tossed it with 2 tablespoons of brown sugar.
Grilled it up in a grill pan.   This is my asparagus, ready to be roasted.
The salmon - seasoned pepper.  No salt needed!
The salmon and salsa are ready and caramelized from the brown sugar and maple syrup.  The asparagus roasted with fresh thyme, and fresh roasted sweet potatoes with sea salt
Look how pretty.  My whole dinner was made with fresh food, nothing frozen.  And it was so good!
Salmon with Fresh Pineapple Salsa

Cooking Spray
4 salmon fillets, about 3-4 oz each
cracked black pepper
1/2 large pineapple, topped, peeled and cored
1/2 cup matchstick carrots
1/2 of a red bell pepper, diced
2 Tablespoon fresh cilantro, chopped
2 Tablespoons dark brown sugar
1/4 cup pure maple syrup

Spray a grill pan with the cooking spray.  Season the fillets with pepper, set aside.  Cut up the pineapple in small to medium size chunks and put into a large bowl.  Add the carrots, diced red bell pepper, chopped cilantro and brown sugar.  Toss together to coat.  Heat the grill pan on medium high heat.  Pour the fruit into the frying pan and cook just until tender.  Transfer to a bowl.  Don't clean the pan, but respray it with cooking spray.  Reduce heat to medium, add the seasoned salmon fillets.  Cook on one side until lightly brown, then carefully flip to the other side (takes about 5-7 minutes to cook, total).  Use 2 tablespoons of the maple syrup and drizzle over the salmon fillets. Continue cooking until they start to caramelize.  Transfer to a plate.  Pour the fruit back into the grill pan, drizzle the remaining syrup over the fruit, cook until it caramelizes then transfer to a bowl.  Serve with your favorite side dishes.

Roasted Sweet Potato Fries
3 large sweet potatoes, washed, leave the skin on
Kosher salt
Cracked black pepper
2 teaspoons of extra virgin olive oil

Cut the potatoes French fry style and place on a baking sheet.   Season with salt and pepper, drizzle with olive oil and toss to coat.  Spread the fries out on the sheet.  Bake at 375 degrees for 25 minutes or until crispy and brown.  Serves 4

Roasted Asparagus
2 bunches asparagus
Kosher salt
Cracked black pepper
1/2 teaspoon of fresh Thyme
2 teaspoons of extra virgin olive oil

Preheat oven to  375 degrees.  Snap the ends off of each asparagus stalk.  Place on a baking sheet.  Season with salt, pepper and thyme. Drizzle with olive oil, toss to coat and spread spears out on the baking sheet. Roast in the oven for 15 minutes. Serves 4.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

I've Got The Beets!

Ever since I was little I have loved eating red beets.  It's a weird vegetable for a kid to like, most kids don't like vegetables, let alone beets.  I would eat them cold right out of the can, hot with butter on them, in salads, pickled beets, harvard beets, however they were prepared I would eat them. Some of the benefits of eating beets are that they are a great source of healthy nutrients and minerals.  While browsing my local Costco, I came across Love Beets.  Love Beets are precooked, ready to use right out of the package, and are sweet and tender.  Now I have beets ready to use all the time, and they are so delicious! 
I made a veggie salad with hard boiled egg and my Love Beets, tossed it up with a little extra virgin olive oil, balsamic vinegar and seasoned with sea salt and cracked black pepper.

Friday, January 24, 2014

Recycle and Reuse - Make A Pretty Wreath

I have a lot of these old piano music books that my husband held on to, he took piano lessons when he was a kid.  They are a little worn and yellowed and perfect for arts and crafts.  Since Christmas is over and now there is no wreath on the door, I decided to make one.  While cleaning out the basement with my nephew the other day (a huge task), I found an old ratty grapevine wreath tucked away on a shelf.  Instead of throwing it away, I dusted it off and recycled it.  I tore all the old stuff off of it and brought it back to life.  I used a roll of burlap for a simple bow, and folded the music sheets to make a rosette. I then placed a metal flower with a rhinestone center in the middle of the rosette, and rolled some music sheets up as accents.  I sprayed the paper with polyurethane, to help it withstand the snow we are getting, as it hangs on the outside of the front door.

Cleaned up grapevine wreath, roll of burlap (Michael's), floral wire, scissors and wire cutters. Don't use your scissors to cut wire it will ruin them!
 Simple burlap bow.  You will also need tape, and a glue gun.  To make the rolls - Rip the music sheets into quarters and roll on an angle from the corner, hot glue or tape it to hold it.  I made four but make as many as you like, let the inner creativness come out!
Rolled up sheet music.  Forming the rosette -Fold the paper (2 quarters) accordion style to form two sides and tape or hot glue them together.
 Two sides folded and then taped together.
 Wire on the bow.  Hot glue the metal flower in the center of the rosette, and glue onto the bow, place the rolled music behind the bow and glue.  It's a simple style wreath with a rustic flair and can be hung anywhere in your home.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Avocado Salad

I had two avocados that were getting pretty ripe sitting on the counter and decided to make a salad out of them.  I never tried this before and can only describe it as tasting just like guacamole.  I cut the avocados in half, seeded them, cut them down the middle, then sliced them across and scooped them out of their skins into a bowl.  I sqeezed half a lemon over it, cut tthree Campari tomatoes into quarters, added sliced red onion, seasoned with salt and pepper and drizzled olive oil over the top and tossed.  Nice, light, colorful lunch for me tomorrow!

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Eat Your Veggies!

So, being on this eat better food regiment is not so bad.  Reading labels and finding new things to eat is kind of fun.  I never tried veggie burgers before, so  my sister bought Morningstar Farms Veggie Burgers and shared them with me.  I grilled two of them up for my son and I, it was a regular beef burger for the hubby, he refuses to cross over to the other side.  My veggie burger was served on an Arnold Whole Wheat Sandwich Thin, 1 slice of fat free cheese, 1 teaspoon each of mayo, ketchup and mustard,  iceberg lettuce, tomato and red onion.  My son didn't ask "where's the beef?" and neither did I. It tasted great!  

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Goodbye Pine Needles!

I finally got all of the Christmas decorations down, put away, and the whole house is somewhat free of pine needles.  Yippee!  I love Christmas, but do not like the cleanup afterwards, it's always a mess.  I am usually still finding needles stuck somewhere, into the summer.  I redecorated some of the rooms by moving things around and only purchased just one thing for the kitchen.  Moving around the things that you decorate your home with and placing them in different rooms, will give your home a fresh new look for the coming Spring. I am starting to minimize, and donating things I do not use anymore, it gets rid of the clutter and makes the house look fresher.

This bowl is what I purchased, at Kirkland's.  Never visited this store before, my sister told me about it and her and I went.  Her quick eyes spotted this large metal, footed rustic bowl on a sale rack, there was a small stack of them.  It was originally $26.99.  We both picked one up - sale price $9.97. Couldn't pass that deal up!  I filled it with 2 garlands, 1 smaller candle ring and a candle with a timer on it.  I used it in the center of my kitchen table.  You all know I love the birds, I picked this little guy up, ceramic with metal feet, at the same store for $2.99.  They sell all home decor type things and they had a lot on sale.  Great store, check them out online.
 Two foot long red metal rooster, redecorated with lemons, limes, a potted plant and a candle, now sits on the kitchen island.
Ceramic rooster in a large white bowl, with lemons, limes, potted plant, flowers, grapevine balls and moss covered balls.
 The rooster sits on the Dining Room table with two candle lanterns with timers.
 Christmas tree down and all holiday decor gone, fresh clean look.
Corner of the Dining Room, all cleaned and garlands off the railing.
Foyer, garlands down, Santa's gone.  Living Room put back together.
Mantel redo - I asked for a framed group shot of the kids for Christmas, so they got together and had one done for me.  My sister and her husband had the sign made for us as a gift.  I used Command Hooks to hang the sign so no holes in the wood mantel.  They are great to use, easy to remove, and leave no marks.  I keep the little cricket on the right on the mantel for good luck, all the other things I had elsewhere in the house.  
In the Family Room, big Christmas tree, outta there!  It's time for a fresh new start, I'm happy and can't wait until Spring!  I will be painting a bathroom and a couple of bedrooms this year so stayed tuned for that.  Colors are changing, I have to keep up! It's always a lot of work when you do it yourself, my hubby is not a painter, and I am the only one who cares what it looks like, so I do it all.