Easter & Spring Carrot Vegetable Tray

Easter & Spring Carrot Vegetable Tray.

It’s not always that hard to be creative and fun with your food for holidays and special occasions.

For our Easter celebration this year, I made a veggie tray in the shape of a carrot with carrots and other vegetables.  A meat serving platter is a great shaped tray for creating this “design.”

We dipped our veggies in hummus.

You could also make a ranch or dill or spinach dip or whatever you like, but have fun with your food and make it a little festive with quick and easy simple touches like this!

My favorite is the sugar snap peas.  What is your favorite crudite?

Cheers & Hugs,
Jodi

 

Kicked Up Scalloped Potatoes (with Roasted Tomatoes, Peppers, & Onions)


Kicked Up Scalloped Potatoes (with Roasted Tomatoes, Peppers, & Onions).

Our family celebrated Easter a week early this year by getting together yesterday.  With the traditional ham, I made a kicked up version of scalloped potatoes.

Roasted tomatoes, sweet yellow, orange, and red peppers, and sweet onions….

layered in with creamy, cheesy potatoes

made for an amazing potato casserole!

To add a bit more “zip,” I kicked it up even more by using jalepeno havarti cheese instead of plain gruyere or havarti.

We loved it!

If you are looking for a new way with potatoes to go with your Easter ham or with roast beef or pork or chicken or even by itself for any other special occasion (like Monday night dinner), this scalloped potato recipe is worth the little bit of extra effort.

Hope you’ll give it a try.

Kicked Up Scalloped Potatoes with Roasted Tomatoes, Peppers, & Onions*

Ingredients:

  • 4 large egg yolks
  • 3 cups half & half
  • 1 tsp freshly ground nutmeg
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp pepper
  • 5 cloves minced garlic
  • 4 bay leaves
  • 2 lbs. yukon gold potatoes (or your favorite) sliced thinly
  • 2 cups jalepeno havarti cheese (or your favorite), grated
  • 8 campari tomatoes, sliced 1/2″ thick
  • 2 sweet bell peppers (red, yellow, or orange or combination), cut into strips
  • 1 large sweet onion, cut in half and sliced 1/2″ thick
  • 2 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 3 Tsp. herbes de Provence (sweet French herbs and flowery lavender with Italian herbs and fennel that includes: rosemary, cracked fennel, thyme, savory, basil, French tarragon, dill weed, Turkish oregano, lavender, chervil and marjoram.
  • 1 cup Panko bread crumbs
  • 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, grated

Directions:

Whisk egg yolks and 1 cup half and half in small bowl.  Set aside.  In large pot, combine 1 1/2 cups half and half, nutmeg, salt, pepper, garlic and bay leaves.  Bring to a boil.  Reduce heat to medium-low, add the sliced potatoes.  Simmer until halfway cooked, about 8 minutes.  Remove from heat.  Stir in egg-milk mixture and cheese.  Cover and keep warm.

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.  Put the sliced tomatoes, peppers and onions on a baking sheet in separate piles.  Drizzle with olive oi and sprinkle with salt, pepper and herbes de Provence.  Bake 10-15 minutes until tender and charred around edges.

Reduce oven to 375 degrees F.  Spray 9×13 baking dish with Pam cooking spray.  Sprinkle half the panko bread crumbs in bottom of the baking dish.  Spoon half of the potato mixture into the dish.  Top with half of the roasted vegetables.  Layer the remaining half of potatoes then remaining roasted vegetables.

Bake until potatoes are tender – 50-60 minutes.

Remove from oven and drizzle with remaining 1/2 cup half and half.  Sprinkle with remaining panko bread crumbs and 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese.  Return to oven and bake for an additional 5 minutes or until cheese melts.  Let rest for 10-15 minutes before serving.

Enjoy!

Cheers & Hugs,
Jodi

*slightly adapted from Food Network

Un Stuffed Pepper Casserole

Un-Stuffed Pepper Casserole.  It’s what’s for dinner…

I love stuffed peppers, but for some reason, I don’t make them very often.  Not sure why.  But on a recent visit to our local John’s Bar, the dinner special was stuffed pepper casserole.  I nabbed the last one – much to some of our friends at the bar’s dismay.

I really enjoyed it and thought it must be simple to make.  And it occurred to me that we usually end up chopping up our stuffed peppers on our plate to eat, so why not deconstruct them in a casserole?!

I did a bit of googling, and I took some ideas from some recipes I found, combined them with my stuffed pepper recipe and thoughts of what I would like, and I came up with this yummy quick and easy skillet supper.

It was windy and rainy off and  on yesterday, so it was a perfect evening for a comfort-type dish.  I served ours over mashed potatoes (mainly because that’s how we like to eat our stuffed peppers too), but it is totally not necessary.  You can sprinkle some shredded cheese on top – or not – again – up to you.  You can tweak it up even healthier if you like by using ground turkey instead of ground beef and brown rice or even quinoa or your favorite grain instead of the rice.

If you’ve been hanging around here for any amount of time, you know I’m the queen of improvising on recipes.  I rarely measure, and I love experimenting.  If it calls for “this,” why not try “that.”  And cooking is really not brain surgery or rocket science, so if you add a smidge instead of a dash – who cares!  The palm of my hand is my measuring spoon.  Sometimes it works good – sometimes it’s just so-so, but as long as I am having fun creating – whether it’s food or photography or art – it’s all good.

Yep – that’s what it’s about here – being creative “in between” the times when we have to do the routine.

Hope you’ll give this yummy dish a try.  Do it my way – or do it your way.  Just have fun creating it!.

Un-Stuffed Pepper Casserole

Ingredients:

  • I Tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 large sweet onion, chopped
  • 3 bell peppers, chopped (I used one red, one orange, and one yellow)
  • 1 1/2 – 2 lbs. ground beef (my package had 1 3/4 lb. in it)
  • 2 tsp. smoked paprika (oh how I adore the SMOKED paprika!)
  • 1 tsp. garlic powder
  • Salt and Black Pepper to taste ( I used about 1 tsp of each)
  • 1 cup cooked rice (I used Jasmine – I love Uncle Ben’s Ready Rice – it’s NO FAIL and so easily ready in 90 seconds)
  • 1  10 3/4 oz. can condensed tomato soup & 1 can water
  • 1 14.5 oz can diced tomatoes
  • 1 cup shredded cheddar cheese, optional
  • 1/4 cup chopped green onions for garnish, optional

Directions:

In a large skillet over high heat, heat the olive oil.  Add chopped onions and peppers and salt to taste.  Once limp and onions are translucent after a few minutes, add ground beef and brown until no longer pink.  Add smoked paprika, garlic powder, salt and pepper.  Stir in cooked rice, soup, water, and diced tomatoes.  Cook for additional 10-15 minutes.

Sprinkle with cheese (if desired) and garnish with chopped green onions.  

Enjoy!

Cheers & Hugs,
Jodi

Carrot Cake Thumbprint Cookies

Carrot Cake Thumbprint Cookies.

I tried a new cookie recipe this weekend to add to the wedding cookie table.

And OMG – if you ever dreamed you could have your cake and eat it in a cookie too – well – your dream has come true with this recipe.  Seriously… carrot cake delightfulness in a cookie!

The frosting filling alone…… well…. all I can say is it makes me think of what a cloud might taste like in heaven….  sweet creamy, buttery, cream cheesey delight with a swirl of apricot.  Can you even imagine?!

A nutty, crunchy, shortbread-like cookie with a delightful apricot cream cheese filling.  If you are looking for a beautiful, sweet treat for a special occasion like perhaps – a wedding cookie table – these lovely little morsels are just the ticket!

Carrot Cake Thumbprint Cookies

Ingredients:

  • 4 sticks butter, melted, plus 2 sticks, room temperature, for frosting
  • 1 1/3 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 1 1/3 cup sugar
  • 4 large egg yolks
  • 4 cups all purpose flour
  • 2 tsp ground ginger
  • 2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 3 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
  • 3 cups finely grated carrots
  • 1 cup chopped dried apricots or golden raisins
  • 2 cups chopped walnuts or pecans
  • 1 cup confectioner’s sugar
  • 8 oz cream cheese, softened to room temperature
  • 6 tsp. apricot jam

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

In a large mixing bowl, beat melted butter, sugars, and egg yolks until light and creamy.  Blend in ginger, cinnamon, and salt.  gradually beat in flour.  Mix in oats, carrots, and chopped apricots or raisins.  Cover and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.

Roll dough into 1 1/2 inch balls.  Roll into chopped nuts.  Place on baking stone or cookie sheet, and bake for 8 minutes.  Remove from oven, and quickly press an indentation into center of each cookie ball.  Return to oven and bake for 8 more minutes until lightly golden brown.

Transfer to a cooking rack and cool completely.

In a mixing bowl, beat remaining 2 sticks of softened butter and confectioner’s sugar until light and fluffy.  Beat in cream cheese.  Gently swirl in apricot jam.

Place frosting in large Ziploc bag.  Snip corner and pipe into each cooled cookie.

Enjoy!

Cheers & Hugs,
Jodi

*Adapted from Martha Stewart

 

Jodi’s Best Ever Chocolate Chip Cookies

Jodi’s Best Ever Chocolate Chip Cookies.

Wedding cookie baking continues; and I think if my son Nick had his way, the wedding cookie table would be completely covered with chocolate chip cookies.

I often vary this basic chocolate chip cookie recipe up by substituting a portion of the chocolate chips with dried tart cherries (Nick’s current fave) or half the chocolate chips with peanut butter chips, or making them with white chocolate chips and dried blueberries, or half chocolate chips and half chopped Girl Scout Thin Mint cookies, but this is my classic, stand-by best ever chocolate chip cookie recipe, and I made three batches for the upcoming wedding.

A couple tips for those that ask how I make these: always refrigerate the dough for at least a few hours before baking, roll dough into large balls, bake on baking stones (no greater investment for baking!), electric convection ovens are the best for baking cookies.

Best Ever Chocolate Chip Cookies

Ingredients:

4 sticks (1 lb.) butter, softened
1 1/2 cups packed brown sugar
1 1/2 cups white granulated sugar
2 tsp vanilla
4 eggs
2 tsp baking soda
2 tsp salt
5 cups all purpose flour
2 12-oz bags Nestle Chocolate Chunk Morsels (or your favorite)

Directions:

With electric mixer, beat butter and sugar together until completely incorporated. Add vanilla and eggs, and beat until light and fluffy. Add baking soda and salt, and mix another minute. Gradually add flour and beat until well incorporated, but do not overbeat.

Fold in chocolate chunk morsels.  Refrigerate dough for at least 2 hours or up to 2 days.

When ready to bake, preheat oven to 375 degrees F. With your hands, form a cookie dough ball about 1-1/2 inches in diameter.  Place on baking stone. Bake for 8-10 minutes. Do not overbake. Allow to cool on baking stone for 2-3 minutes, then remove to cooling rack to cool completely.

Happy Baking!

Cheers & Hugs,
Jodi

Lemon Garlic Herb Marinated Pork Tenderloin

Lemon Garlic Herb Marinated Pork Tenderloin.

It’s what’s for dinner!

If you are a pork fan, like I am fast becoming, this marinated tenderloin is a MUST try!

It turns out tender and juicy with a fresh citrusy herb flavor that pairs great with potatoes and fresh vegetables for a delicious, easy weeknight dinner.

Prepare and marinade the meat the night before, then all you have to do is throw it on the grill for 10-15 minutes for dinner.

Leftovers are great sliced thinly for sandwiches or tossed in a stir-fry.  Such a bonus to get a couple completely different meals from one easy recipe.

Hope you will give it a try, and hope you enjoy as much as we did.

Lemon Garlic Herb Marinated Pork Tenderloin

Ingredients:

  • 4 Fresh Ripe Lemons, Juiced and Zest from one
  • 1/2 cup Olive Oil
  • 6 cloves Garlic, minced
  • 2 Tbsp chopped fresh Rosemary
  • 1  Tbsp chopped fresh Thyme (or 1 tsp dried)
  • 2 Tbsp Dijon Mustard
  • 1 tsp Salt
  • 1 tsp ground Black Pepper
  • 2 Pork Tenderloins (approx. 1 lb each)

Directions:

Make marinade by whisking together first 8 ingredients.  Pour into large Ziploc bag.  Add the pork tenderloins and coat.  Marinade overnight in refrigerator or at least 8 hours.

Preheat grill to 400 degrees F.   Place tenderloins on grill.  Discard excess marinade.  Grill 10-15 minutes or until meat reaches 135 degrees F.  Allow to rest 5-10 minutes.  Cut into thin slices to serve.

Enjoy with roasted new potatoes and steamed broccoli or your favorite vegetable.

Cheers & Hugs,
Jodi

 

*Recipe slightly adapted from Ina Garten’s Herb Marinated Pork Tenderloin

A Brunch & Bubbly Bridal Shower

I had the joy and privilege of hosting a Brunch & Bubbly Bridal Shower for my bright and bubbly daughter-in-law to be this past weekend.

I had fun decorating and preparing for our girly party!

Thanks to Matron of Honor and beautiful sister, Laura, and loving, gentle mom, Pat for co-hosting with me.

(And a super special thanks to my BFF Jill for taking all of these photos as well as helping with anything else needed while I was busy hosting.)

Liz was surrounded by the love of her Mom and three sisters…

and there is another beautiful girl on the way to add to this gang!

First things first – the Bubbly!

and a toast to the bride-to-be.

Friends and family attended.

Families mingled meeting and getting to know each other…

and several generations shared in the joy and love.

New moms and great grandmoms…

and moms with babies on the way,

and moms who get to share ❤ .

Then there was brunch.

Where we served a buffet of Chicken  Salad on Sliced Crostini, Crispy Veggies with Hummus, Fresh Fruit and Honey Walnut Brie, along with…

Mini BLTs served on Heart-shaped biscuits,

Loaded Deviled Eggs,

and a Strawberry Spinach Salad with Feta Cheese and Candied Pecans.

Aunt Kathy made the MOST amazing cupcakes I’ve every tasted!  Strawberry Lemon with Swiss Meringue Buttercream Frosting,

My friend, Pam who makes the most amazingly beautiful sugar cookiedoodles, made these gorgeous and delicious treats that we served along with my cookie pops.

The guests brought and shared amazing gifts for our newlyweds to be.

We played a few games.  Pretty simple ones really… Like guess the number of corks and gave away prizes when a timer went off during gift opening.

Some sweet and funny stories were shared when guests filled out a “Mad Lib” story…

and then chose to share with the group.

And then the groom-to-be (my son, Nick) arrived with flowers, smiles, and a tight hug.

Favors of Homemade Lavender Sugar Scrub were given to guests as a thank you before leaving.

A kiss and an “I love you” at the end of the day, but the beginning of a lifetime.  (with a little bit of sweet granddaughter drool on my shoulder)

It was a great day to celebrate a great young lady!

Love you Liz!

Cheers & Hugs,
Jodi

Thanks Jill!

Party Supplies:
Toasting Flutes for Mimosa Bar
Juice Carafes for Mimosa Bar
Tissue Paper Tassel Garland
Tissue Paper Pom Poms
Tissue Paper Honeycomb Balls

Five-Minute Homemade Rustic Artisan Bread

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Five-Minute Homemade Rustic Artisan Bread.

Aren’t these loaves beautiful?!  I recently found this recipe that makes homemade bread so easy!

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You can mix this dough together in five minutes.  Then it just needs to rest for two hours while you go about doing something… anything else.  After that, throw it in the fridge – for up to 14 days!  Whenever you want a fresh loaf of bread, grab a hunk of dough, and bake it.  Super simple, super delicious!

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So… disclaimer… you obviously can’t make it from start to finish in five minutes, but that really is all the longer the dough takes to mix together, and there is no kneading, so it really is a simple way to make warm, fresh, delicious homemade bread quickly and easily with just a few simple staple ingredients!

Five-Minute Homemade Rustic Artisan Bread

  • Servings: 4 1 lb loaves
  • Print

Ingredients:bread-5-minute-rustic-artisan-bread

  • 3 cups lukewarm water (approx. 100 degrees F)
  • 1 Tbsp active dry yeast
  • 1 1/2 Tbsp coarse salt (I love using Maldon Sea Salt Flakes)
  • 6 1/2 cups flour

Directions:

Pour water in large bowl.  Sprinkle with yeast and salt, and mix until dissolved.  Add flour all at once, and mix until completely incorporated.  That’s it!  Five minutes.  No kneading.

Place a clean kitchen towel over the bowl and let it sit for two hours.

After two hours, cover bowl with saran wrap (but not too tight as it needs a little vent for gases to escape), and throw it in the fridge.

Your dough is ready to use at anytime in the next 14 days.

When you are ready to bake a loaf, preheat oven to 450 degrees F.  Grab a hunk of dough with floured hands.  Do not punch it down, and do not knead or overwork it.  Gently shape as desired into a ball, loaf, rolls – whatever you like.  Place on a baking stone. (I bake absolutely EVERYthing on baking stones – cookies, bread, roasted vegetables, meatloaf, french fries – they are all I use in the oven – and the results are awesome!) You can let it rest for 30-40 minutes or bake right away – depending on the density you desire.  Dust top of dough with flour (and salt if desired).  Slash a few cuts in the dough with a serrated knife.

Place an empty metal broiler pan on bottom rack of oven and fill with warm water right before placing dough in oven.

Bake for 20-30 minutes until the crust is a rich brown color and firm to the touch.  Remove from oven and cool on wire rack.

Enjoy!

Cheers & Hugs,
Jodi

*original recipe found at Leite’s Culinara

Yellow & Green Grilled Chicken Spring Mix Salad

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Yellow & Green Grilled Chicken & Spring Mix Salad.

They say it is important to balance colors in our diet.

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I love to make salads from whatever I can find in the fridge and pantry – especially at lunch time – when it is only me, and I can make it whatever way I want!

I often make a large batch of grilled chicken during the week so I can have leftovers for salads and snacks.

I love mixing veggies and proteins and fruits and nuts in a beautiful, colorful meal.

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This yellow and green salad just “happened.”  I had not planned it to be yellow and green, but when it ended it up that way, I marveled at it’s beauty as well as it’s deliciousness.

For this “springy” lunch time salad in the middle of February – when the temperatures in our part of the world have been more spring-like than wintry – I found myself topping a bed of Spring Mix greens with beautiful yellows.

Enjoying yellows and greens not only in my salad, but in the air here in Mars in this beautiful stretch of Spring in February.

Yellow & Green Grilled Chicken & Spring Mix Salad

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups mixed greens -Spring Mix
  • 1/4 cup sliced Vidalia sweet onion
  • 1/2 cup yellow cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 1/4 cup shredded cheddar cheese
  • Handful of golden raisins
  • 1 grilled chicken breast, sliced
  • Balsamic Viniagrette Dressing
  • Salt & Pepper to taste

Directions:

Place Spring Mix salad greens in large salad bowl.

Add onion, tomatoes, shredded cheese, golden raisins and chicken.  A handful of walnuts and/or pumpkin or sunflower seeds  would be great too!

Drizzle with Balsamic Viniagrette and a dash of salt and pepper.

Enjoy!

Cheers & Hugs,
Jodi

Creamy Cauliflower Soup

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Creamy Cauliflower Soup.

Does anything warm you up more wonderfully on cold winter days than a steamy, creamy bowl of soup?

I made this yummy creamy, cheesy cauliflower soup one day this past week, and we absolutely loved it.

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When hubby, who typically prefers to eat lunch out during the work week, asked for a serving to take for lunch the next day, I knew I had a real winner on hand!

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It is chock full of delicious vegetables simmered in broth and then creamed by adding an easy cheesy roux and blending a bit.  You could completely cream it if you like, but I like to cream about half and leave plenty of hearty chunks of the cauliflower, celery, carrots and sweet red peppers.

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Fresh thyme really adds a fabulous fragrance and taste, and hot sauce is a great way to kick it up just a bit!

Imagine serving this with some crusty french or chewy ciabatta bread to dunk in it or alongside a sandwich or salad.

Hope you’ll give it a try, and hope you enjoy it as much as we did!

Creamy Cauliflower Soup

Ingredients:creamy-cauliflower-soup-4

  • I head cauliflower, broken into florets (5-6 cups)
  • 1 cup finely chopped carrot
  • 1/2 cup chopped celery
  • 1/2 cup chopped sweet onion
  • 1/2 cup chopped sweet red pepper
  • 1 tsp freshly chopped thyme
  • 3 cups chicken broth (I made from water and 3 tsp. chicken base)
  • 3 Tbsp butter
  • 3 Tbsp flour
  • Dash of salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 cups half and half or milk
  • 1 cup freshly grated sharp cheddar cheese (do not use pre-grated)
  • 2 tsp Cholula Hot Sauce (or you can use Sriracha or your favorite or none)

Directions:

  • Combine all vegetables, thyme, and chicken broth in a large pot.  Cover and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat, and simmer for 15 minutes.
  • In a medium saucepan, melt butter, then add flour, salt and pepper to create a roux.  Whisk half and half in slowly.  Bring to a boil over medium-high heat.  Cook and continue whisking for 2 minutes until thickened and smooth.  Turn heat off and stir in shredded cheese until melted.  Add hot sauce (if desired).
  • Pour creamy cheese mixture into vegetables and broth.  Stir until completely combined.
  • Puree to desired consistency using Immersion Blender leaving chunks of vegetables, but creating a creamy texture.
  • Ladle into bowls to serve.  

Cheers & Hugs,
Jodi