Tears, Fears, Dreams, and Cream

My life has been full of these things lately! I have always, always been a crier. But I promise, I have been crying more lately than I ever have before! I mean happy, sad, sweet, anything and everything can bring me to tears. I cried at two OnStar radio commercials. RADIO! It didn’t even have a visual. I cried on a McDonald’s tv commercial. I cried when my coworkers jokingly hurt my feelings. I cried on several Food Network shows, and the Food Network was the only channel that didn’t make me cry. I cried about a Camp Rock 2 song. Even though I’ve seen Gilmore Girls in it’s entirety, every episode of every season, at least twice, and this particular episode even more, I cried. Cinnamon, the cat, died and I cried. I don’t even like cats! And I knew the cat died! I’ve seen the cat die like 12 times. My car air conditioner broke in my car (and will cost a fortune to fix) and I cried. I had to ask my daddy for help and I cried. I chop onions and I cry. I chop my fingers while chopping onions and I cry (okay not really, I just scream and jump around). I cry! I have discovered this weekend that I think I have been more emotional since starting birth control for the Poly Cystic Ovary Syndrome. Which, duh, makes sense. It has hormones. I am guessing this is normal. Maybe this is how I was supposed to be? All I know is I should be loosing weight with all the fluid that is leaving my body through my eyes. I even cried when I baby sat Macy and rocked her to sleep. As she finally fell asleep, I had an emotional break down and cried for 30 minutes! I’ve rocked lots of babies to sleep and never cried!

Now the Macy tears, actually stem from my greatest fear. Fears are funny things. Sometimes they drive us to action. Sometimes they cause us to be paralyzed from action. There are some culinary things I’ve always been afraid of. These fears are driving me to action. How silly to be afraid to make something because it seems fancy or like only grandmothers can do it. I’ve conquered my fear of whipped cream, homemade biscuits, and gumbo (recipe coming soon). I, in my silly quirkiness, am afraid of many things. I don’t like bugs, dark, animals, snakes, spiders, scary movies, and I’m okay with not conquering these fears. Other fears are not so easy to overcome. I’m afraid of boys. That one, not so easy to conquer. But my greatest fear can’t really be conquered. I just have to find peace to stifle the fear, which is almost as hard as finding courage to conquer conquerable fears. My greatest fear is that I’ll never get to be a wife and mother, the two things I want more than anything else in the world. The good thing about fears is when they get to you enough, it drives you to dependence on and hope in God, which is really what you should have had all along. Because this fear is so big for me, I rarely let myself even pray about it. I don’t want to be disappointed, so I don’t even ask God for it or talk to Him about it. Well, as I held that precious baby that I adore and had another one of my many emotional break downs, I finally did. I was just honest and told God I was scared and wanted this more than anything. It felt nice.

When God brings peace to fears, dreams are fed. The next day, after my emotional break down and honesty with God, something really cool happened that I have to believe was God’s way of telling me not to be scared! I was assigned yet another new client, which I was totally not excited about. The client has pretty severe dementia and slept the whole time, but his daughter and son-in-law were great. They are believers and were excited I was one as well. They happened to live in a neighborhood that I used to live in, in Slidell. I never mentioned my marital status, but I guess when I mentioned living there with a bad roommate they picked up on it. As I was leaving, my client’s son-in-law asked if I minded if they started praying that God would send me a Godly husband. Of course I said not at all, pray all you want, PLEASE! He asked if they could pray for me before I left. They held my hands and prayed over me that God would send me a Godly husband. Strangers! I felt peace. I knew it had to be God telling me to not worry. So for now my dream to be a wife and mother remains. And that is just one dream. Every time I cook and blog and receive encouragement from others affirming the things I love to do, my dreams just bubble and fluff inside me. Fluff just like the whipped cream I conquered and that you will see in some of the following recipes!

Stuffed Bell Peppers

This is a recipe I got from one of Amy Ogea’s cookbooks two years ago. Due to aforementioned car troubles, I ended up at the Ogea home on Monday night. Andrew had band practice, so since I had already prepared the peppers and they were ready to cook, I brought them over over and cooked dinner for Amy, Macy, and me! Yes, even Macy had a few bites of our yummy peppers!

6 Bell Peppers of any color (I used 4 because I wanted to have leftover mixture for my omelet for later in the week. I wanted to do one of each color, but they only had red and green. So I did two red, two green. Pick out fat ones that have a bottom that will stand easily. Don’t be afraid to try them out in the store. It is allowed!)
1 lb ground meat (Usually ground beef, I used ground turkey because it’s healthier and tastes just as good.)
1 cup cooked rice
1/2 medium onion, chopped (I used red, could use any.)
2 cloves of garlic, chopped or minced
1 can tomato sauce
1 tsp salt
Pepper to taste
Seasoning (I use Season All, but you can use Tony’s or any all purpose seasoning.)
Mozzarella (Calls for shredded but I used fresh.)

1. Cut a thin slice from steam end of bell peppers to remove top (think pumpkin carving). Remove seeds and membranes, rinse. Blanch peppers (stock pot, cover with water, bring to boil, let boil 5 minutes, remove from hot water).

2. Cook meat and onions in frying pan over medium heat for about 8-10 minutes until pink is gone. Season meat with your all purpose seasoning of choice, especially if you are using turkey. The key to disguising ground turkey as ground beef is season season season! It, by nature, is not as flavorful, but if you season it correctly you really can’t tell the difference and it’s healthier. Drain and mix with rice, garlic, salt, pepper, and 1 cup of the tomato sauce.

3. Heat oven to 350. Stuff peppers with mixture. Pour remaining tomato sauce over peppers. Cover tightly with tinfoil and bake for 45 minutes. Uncover and top with mozzarella. Bake for 15 more minutes until cheese is melted.

This recipe has several steps, but can be really easy if you do some prep work the night before. I use my handy rice cooker to cook rice the night before and went ahead and made my meat mixture and stuffed the peppers. I put them in my casserole dish and covered them with foil so the next day they were ready to go in the oven. Even if you do it all the day of, it’s still not overwhelming. Sides can be simple because you have a starch and meat in the pepper. I peeled a cucumber. De-seeded half of it and left the other with seeds in. Chopped it up small. Mixed it with 1/4 of a chopped red onion. Finely chopped 5 good size basil leaves (lay them flat, roll them into a tight little log, and chop). Halved a handful of grape tomatoes. Added salt, pepper, a little Italian dressing. I didn’t, but had I been serving more than just me and Amy, I would have served the meal with some french bread or focaccia bread to make the meal more complete.

Banana Pudding

So, when Amy and I hang out, we only watch two channels. The Disney Channel (to catch new episodes of Jonas of course and yes we are both adults) or the Food Network. Since no new episodes of Jonas were playing, the Food Network it was! People always say, “How do you watch the Food Network all the time and not get hungry?” There is only one show that makes me hungry! The Best Thing I Ever Ate is a horribly wonderful show! The way they talk about all their favorite things just makes me drool. This episode featured things with fruit. So I just had to make something! I had bananas starting to spot and then realized I had everything else to make banana pudding! I made mine in three containers. One to bring to the Ogea’s, one to bring to work, and one little small one for me. Like I’ve stated in a previous blog, just because you bake (or make) doesn’t mean you have to eat it all! Enjoy the stress relief and accomplishment of it, then give it away! There is just something about a task with an end, and a good end at that, that just makes you feel good about yourself. AND this one involves making your own whipped cream. Which sadly I must admit, this was my first time! I’ve always made banana pudding with cool whip. Doing my own whipped cream was always a scary task to me. But I’ve decided I’m taking on all of those cooking tasks I’ve though to be scary. It was sooo easy! Open, pour, whip, yum! I will never buy cool whip again (well I probably will, but I will never be afraid of whipped cream again).

1  pint whipping cream
1 (3 1/2 ounce) package instant vanilla pudding
1 1/2 cups water
1 (12 ounce) packages vanilla wafers
6 bananas, ripe and sliced in lemon juice (I used 5)
1 (14 ounce) can sweetened condensed milk 

Whip cream until thick. In separate bowl, beat sweet condensed milk, water and pudding with a wire whisk. Chill 5 minutes. Fold in cream. Put 1 cup pudding mixture in bottom of a large glass bowl. Now a layer of cookies. Now a layer of sliced bananas. Repeat layers with cookies on top. Chill 24 hours.

Rolled Rice Omelet with Peaches and Cream

Okay, so I know “rice omelet” sounds weird. It did to me the first time too. But I really do love this. You might not, but I do! My brother and I cooked for ourselves a lot growing up. Eggs were always something we ate. One day in high school, our friend Joey introduced us to rice omelets. We had leftover rice, we browned ground beef, mixed it with the rice and ketchup. I used the left over turkey, rice, and tomato sauce mixture. I decided to try a rolled omelet verses the traditional. You can use any filling you like: ham and cheese, just cheese, spinach and mushrooms, etc. It’s a cool way to make an omelet that can feed lots of people.

6 eggs
1 cup milk
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1 cup rice, meat mixture (or any filling you want!)
1 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese
(I also added 1 chopped green onion and a few chopped basil leaves.)

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Beat eggs and milk until fluffy. Add flour, salt and pepper and beat or whisk until smooth. (I added green onions and basil at this point as well.) Pour into a buttered or greased 9 x 13 baking dish or pan (I used spray and mine stuck a bit, I’d actually grease it next time with butter or shortening). Bake for 10 – 15 minutes or until eggs are just about set (Keep an eye on them at the 6 minute mark – depending on your oven, they could set that fast!). Sprinkle with whatever your filling is going to be. Sprinkle with cheese. Bake for about 5 minutes more or until cheese is melted. Starting at short side, roll up omelet while still in pan. Place seam side down on serving dish. Cut into slices.

This is a fun way to serve breakfast to a family. It fed me a dinner portion 3 times easily. With small portions it could feed 6 people with other sides. I chopped up two market peaches and whipped some cream to top the peaches. Breakfast for dinner is always yummy!

Chili Cheese Tomato Dogs

This was a quick and simple meal. I saw this, once again, on Best Thing I Ever Ate and it was something I wanted to try. It was the classics episode. One of them were talking about a chili cheese dog topped with a big slice of tomato. When planning meals, I decided I’d try it. It was okay because hotdogs are just okay anyway you make them for me. But the tomato was my favorite part! I used vine ripened tomatoes from the farmer’s market. I used turkey hot dogs and turkey chili. I toasted my hot dog buns. Topped with a little cheddar, the chili, few chopped onions, mustard, and the tomato. Nice kid friendly meal made healthier. You really can’t taste a difference in the turkey hotdogs and chili and once again, the healthier choice!

I hope you enjoy at least one yummy recipe. Maybe you get some meal ideas from my meal ideas. AND I hope you are inspired to conquer your cooking fears! But more importantly, I hope you are inspired to have hope, to dream, and to not be trapped by the fear of anything. God did not give us a spirit of fear.

Chopsticks and Cheesecake

You know how I love to make things over? Well, any time I have a meal with just plain white rice, I always plan to make extra and later that week make chicken fried rice. So, when I was planning my meals and knew I wanted roast with rice and gravy, I knew the following cooking night I’d make chicken fried rice. I learned to make fried rice from Tyler Florence and watching them do it at hibachi grills. It was a trial and error process that I think I’ve perfected pretty well. My friend Molly loves it, and I always invite her over when I make it now. So I invited Molly, and her boyfriend was in town, so then it was a dinner party! Hey… three can be a party. In the words of my dear friend Stacy, “If there is dip, it’s a party.” And there was!

So me, in all my perfectionistic, over-achieving wonder, just had to try my best to impress and out do myself. Had it just been me, or just me and Molly, chicken fried rice would have been plenty. But that would just not do for MY dinner party! I found it a challenging task to figure out what to serve with chicken fried rice as an entree. Meat and starch are covered in the entree. I didn’t want to do stir fry veggies because fried rice is sort of stir fry, AND I just don’t have that many skillets (now accepting hand me down skillets, or any kitchen tool, donations, hehe). Other chinese-y/asian-y things are fried (egg rolls, wontons, crab ragoon, etc), and I just hate frying. A. Frying is greasy and fatty. B. Grease pops and hurts! C. Your entire house ends up smelling fried. I will shallow fry on occasion and just air freshen my house like crazy and wear a full body protective suit (I exaggerate a tad). You can get egg rolls and such prepackaged and bake them, but it’s just not as impressive when they ask how you made it to say, “Oh, I just bought it and heated it.” FYI, I am not dissing prepackaged stuff at all! Works great, yummy stuff, easy, I use it often. I just wanted to make my dinner party impressive. I haven’t gotten to entertain in a while and I just had to!


I tossed around a few things, but the final menu was:

Entree: Chicken fried rice
Side: Roasted mini vegetable kabobs with fresh pineapple, zucchini, red onion, and red, green and orange bell pepper marinaded in pineapple and lime juice with chopped garlic, soy, salt and pepper
Sauce: Homemade sweet and sour
Appetizer/Side: Crab ragoon dip with baked parmesan wonton chips
Dessert: Mini cheesecakes alternately topped with mini semi sweet chocolate chips, mini white chocolate chips, and homemade caramel sauce
Utensils: CHOPSTICKS! I found chop sticks for cheap at the grocery store!


Everything came out so good! It was so fun to cook. I actually took the day off of work to cook all day! I have to use my vaca days before the end of September anyway and it was a fun use of time for me. And don’t be intimidated, it wasn’t an all day meal. I just wanted to spend a relaxing day cleaning, doing food prep, watching the Food Network, etc. Most of my recipes came from food.com. For those recipes, to save your eyes from miles and miles of my typing, I’ll post links and note changes. If it’s pink, it’s a link (and it rhymes just on time)! *It’s late and I’ve written a lot today. What can I say, I’m cheesy and can’t pass up a rhyme.*


Chicken Fried Rice

Okay. This is going to be a very “little of this little of that” recipe. I tried to pay attention to how much of what I used, but really have no idea. It will have to be a to your taste trial and error project for you too :).

Make rice the day before! It makes the process much quicker. I use a rice cooker. Cheap tool that makes perfect and effortless rice. Use how ever much you want to make. I made ALOT this time to take to work the next day. I used about 9 cups of cooked rice and it made about 12 servings. You probably don’t want that much unless you’re feeding an army. I’d probably use 4ish cups of rice if you are making it for an entree for your family. Think 1ish cups of cooked rice per person. Just use your eyes. Consider your eyes your best measuring tool for this dish.

This really can be whatever you want it to be! You can add anything you like. Doesn’t have to be chicken fried rice, can just be fried rice, vegetable fried rice, shrimp, whatever! I always use chicken or just veggies. Use the amount of chicken (or ingredients) that you want. I usually think 1/2 to 3/4ths of a boneless chicken breast per person cut into little bite size pieces. I always use carrots. You want them to be finely chopped. You should know by now, I hate chopping carrots and chop them no other way than with my mini-food-chopper-processor-thingy. Again its to your taste. I usually do 1/4th whatever the amount of rice you have ratio. Always always use onions, chopped. I do about equal amount of onion and carrot. 2-3 gloves of garlic chopped. I start the onions, garlic, and carrots in a little olive oil in the biggest skillet (or wok, which I don’t have) that you have. Salt and pepper them. Then add your chicken. I add Chicken Magic seasoning. Cook until chicken is done. It’s perfect okay and yummy for the veggies to maintain some crunch.

While chicken is cooking, add a little vegetable oil in a separate pan and get it hot. Wisk 3-4 eggs in a bowl, pour in hot oil and scramble. Set to side. Add some butter, margarine, or oil to the chicken veggie pan (I do a little smart balance). Dump the rice in. Add soy. Again, use your eyes. You want it a light brown color, light! Don’t add too much, people can add their own. Aim for the color of fried rice that you’ve had. Constantly stir, this is the “frying” the rice process. If it seems too dry, add more butter.

Taste and add salt, pepper, soy, whatever you think it needs. Add in scrambled eggs once you think it tastes good and stir. Turn off pan and pour in about a handful of frozen peas and stir. The heat of the rice cooks them just enough, you don’t want them mushy. Stir in 2-3 chopped green onions, saving some of the tops. I top with sesame seeds and green onion and done!


Mini Veggie Kabobs

I found mini skewers at the grocery store. I soaked them. And added a piece of onion, fresh pineapple, either red, green, or orange bell pepper, and zucchini, all cut into 1/2-ish inch pieces. I just poured some pineapple juice, probably about 1 cup, the juice of one small lime, zest of half of the lime, little soy, few cloves of chopped garlic in a bowl. I poured the mixer over the kabobs in a baking dish and sprinkled with sea salt and cracked pepper. I marinaded them for a few hours. I roasted them at 375 until they were roasty, still crunchy but the edges getting soft and toasty.


Crab Ragoon Dip with Baked Parmesan Wonton Chips

This is so good! It was Molly and Shawn’s favorite part. It’s basically the inside of those yummy fried crab ragoon things you get at chinese restaurants, but healthier (because it’s not fried). I made it exactly like the recipe in my Kitchenaid mixer. I tossed it all in and just kept mixing until the crab was pretty finely mixed in. Get the flaky crab and not the sticks. I saved out a few pinches of green onion tops to add on the top. I didn’t put sweet and sour sauce on top, that was weird to me and it didn’t need it at all. I separated it in mini individual bowls and heated those right before serving. I topped with green onion tops.

I sliced the wonton wrappers in half diagonally to make triangles instead of strips. Sprayed the pan, sprayed the chips, sprinkled on shredded parmesan and sea salt. You really only have to cook them for 5 minutes like it says. They really do make great chips! I think I like them better than homemade pita chips because they are so thin and crispy.


Sweet and Sour Sauce

Ignore the chicken part of the recipe and just skip to the sauce, though the chicken looks like a good recipe too, but fried and I hate frying! This sauce would be really good on chicken nuggets. Made it exactly as directed. I dipped my veggies in it. You could also put it on your rice.


Mini Cheesecakes

These are so good and perfect! I didn’t use the fruit topping because I don’t really like canned fruit toppings. I topped mine with either mini semi sweet chocolate chips, mini white chocolate chip, or homemade caramel sauce (which was super easy to make and soooo yummy!). Note that it says 1 16 oz package of cream cheese. I just saw the 1 package part and didn’t have enough. Had to run to the store. I’ve never seen a 16 oz package, so 2 – 8 oz packages. I doubled it and took them to work. Foil liners work best I think and they mold best if you actually use your muffin tin. I did one batch in the muffin tin and one on a cookie sheet because I only had one muffin tin. They were all yummy, but the muffin tin ones were prettier and perfect. If you use the mini chips, I sprinkled them on right when the cakes came out. With fruit or caramel wait until they cool. Cooling for an hour before eating is vital! They really set and are super yummy!


Whew! That’s a lot to digest (literally hehe). The entire meal is good for a dinner party, but the individual parts are great alone, with other meals, etc. If you make anything, make the cheesecake and crap ragoon dip! SO so good. Entertaining is so fun, IF you don’t get stressed out. To prevent the day of party stress, make a cooking itinerary. I did it! Be specific with every detail: cut up veggies for rice, cut up veggies for kabobs, make tea, etc. Sit down with your recipes and plan it out before hand. It will all come out and be ready at the same time if you do this. Do prep work in advance. Veggies can always be cut the night before and many things can be made, mixed, cut, or prepped the day before. Make it fun! Add special simple touches like chopsticks. It will cause you be more excited about your meal. Be confident in your cooking and if you mess up, you are the only one that cares! So don’t fret over it. Enjoy it! Feel good about your work, and then rest your feet!

stressed spelled backwards…

DESSERTS!

You know you’ve heard it at least once, if not many times. You’ve probably even used it as an excuse to indulge yourself! How many times have you wanted chocolate chip cookies, brownies, ice cream, orange cinnamon rolls (okay maybe that’s just me) or just something sweet and yummy when you just had the most stressful day?! For me when I am stressed, sure I too crave that something sweet, but mostly I just want to bake! The methodology and creativity of it is complete stress relief for me. So when I am stressed, I bake! And then bring it to work so I don’t eat it all. My co-workers hate when I’m stressed hehe. They say I make them fat. I say… I just bring it, you don’t have to eat it. But of course they do! I mean it’s yummy! And I feed their stress need of eating sweets and mine for baking them! Sounds win win to me.

Tonight I made strawberry shortcake! Super easy easy! And though I love those little sponge cakes, WAY better. Found the recipe on the Heart Healthy Bisquick! So it’s heart healthy too! And did I mention REALLY easy.

Strawberry Shortcake

The recipe makes 4 cakes, but I doubled it to make 8. Figured they’d make yummy breakfast with a little jam.

1 cup Heart Healthy Bisquick
2/3 cup skim milk
2 tbsp sugar
1 pint strawberries
1/4 cup sugar

Slice strawberries, add sugar, stir, refrigerate. Preheat oven to 425. Mix Bisquick, sugar and milk together to form a soft dough. Drop 4 spoonfuls of dough onto baking sheet. Cook for 10/12 minutes or until slightly brown. Let cool, split cake, add strawberries and coolwhip/whipped topping.

Great light and fluffy summer dessert!

And last week I was in a stress baking mood too. I made a homemade yellow cake. I wasn’t too crazy about the recipe. I’ll try another one sometime. BUT the icing recipe I found… WOW. Best chocolate icing I have ever had. I will NEVER buy store icing again. AND it’s easy too! The recipe is from food.com (the old recipezaar.com, my fav recipe website). It’s by one of the famous recipe posters there, Kittencal.

Chocolate Buttercream Frosting
 
1/2 cup butter, soften
2 3/4 cups confectioners’ sugar, sifted (I didn’t sift)
1/2 cup half-and-half cream (I used 1/4 cup skim milk and 1/4 cup cream)
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
1/2 – 3/4 cup cocoa powder (Depends on the richness you want. I did 1/2 and it was a creamy milk chocolatey frosting)

Cream butter. Mix in other ingredients alternating wet and dry until a desired consistency is reached. Can be refrigerated for up to 2 weeks.

Don’t be stressed! Turn it around into something constructive. Bake! Eat a little. Then give the rest away!