Sunday, April 20, 2014

Another Easter in the Books

Every holiday I pretty much make the same things either ham or turkey. We had an 11 pounder bone in ham this year.I scored the ham in a checkerboard pattern and then inserted cloves into the centers of those squares. I adorned the ham with three slices of pineapple in a Mickey Mouse pattern and fastened them to the ham with cloves. Roasted pineapple is delicious and we always fight over who gets to eat it.   I always use the same glaze of pineapple juice, ginger ale, and orange juice and baste the ham about every half hour. I let it roast for around 3 hours in a 325 degree oven. I ended up covering it half way through because the sugar was really caramelizing.

I also made fluff which is a pack of orange Jell-o, 1 container cottage cheese, 1 container Cool Whip, and 1 can crushed pineapple drained. This is a pretty versatile dessert and can also be made with mandarin orange or any flavor Jell-o.

The mashed potatoes I make with cream cheese or sour cream, butter, milk, garlic, and salt and pepper along with some dinner rolls that always go quick.  The devilled eggs I always do the night before. We have a vegetable. Today I made some broccoli in the microwave that I had in the freezer.

My husband found a mold that was my Mother-in-laws of a sheep cake. It didn't turn out as well as I would have liked and I think I may cut the sugar down from one cup to 1/2 cup. Here is what I made:

Yellow Cake
This can be made in 2 9x13's or a mold filled twice.

2 cups flour
2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup sugar
3 large eggs
2 tsp vanilla
3/4 cup milk

Set the oven to 350 degrees. Sift together all of the dry ingredients and then add the wet. Blend until all is incorporated. Butter and flour a 9x13 pan. Bake for 25-35 minutes or until a toothpick or knife comes clean. I only had one half of this mold so I made it twice and but frosting between each layer. I frosted with store bought frosting.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Multi-Colored Devilled Eggs

I am going to trust you with my prized Devilled Egg recipe. The eggs should be older (I have no idea why this works) Mine eggs are from about a week ago. The eggs are brought to a boil with enough water to cover them. Once they start boiling, set a timer for 15 minutes. Then turn the heat off and let them sit in the warm water for 15 more minutes. Pour out the hot water and cover with cool tap water. Let cool and replace the water one more time. Then move them to the fridge for further cooling.

Next crack the eggs on a counter. I like to smash them all over. Carefully remove the peel and throw away. Then run them under cold water one more time to make sure they are shell free. Then slice the eggs in half and scoop out the insides into a bowl. Here is the creative part. You can either make your own egg dyes with a few drops of food coloring and 3 TBSP vinegar or use the box PAAS kind. Plop the egg halves in the dye and let sit for a few minutes. I found that blue didn't do as well as I would have liked. Next run the whites under water. You will be eating these after all and don't want a vinegar flavor.

Now back to the yolks. Mash the yolks with a fork. Next add 1/4 cup Miracle Whip or Mayo, 1 tsp. ground Mustard, a squirt of yellow mustard,  a pinch of Cayenne, and 1/4 tsp salt. The mixture should be creamy. Taste for seasoning. Next scoop with a tsp. into the egg whites. Cover with plastic wrap and hide in a undisclosed location until party time. Sprinkle the tops with Paprika if you like.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Ay Dios Mio! Chicken en Mole' without Ancho Peppers

I go to make chicken en Mole' sauce tonight. Mole's are a sauce popular in Mexico and can be very simple or complex. Mine only takes about a hour total with the chicken. I usually have my pantry pretty well stocked but was out of dried Ancho chillies and chiles en Adobo.  With a little improv, I was able to pull off the dinner. Here's what I did.

Simple Chicken en Mole' Sauce

4-6 chicken thighs or drum sticks
14 oz chicken broth
1 14 oz can of chicken broth
1/4 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. ground cloves
1/2 tsp. Cayenne pepper
1 tsp. pepper flakes
1 box raisins
2 TBSP's sesame seeds
80-85% cacao chocolate 2 medium pieces
1/4 cup Peanut Butter
hot sauce to taste
salt and pepper
Rice for serving

In a large sauce pan add the chicken broth, cinnamon, cloves, Cayenne, pepper flakes, raisins, sesame seeds, chocolate and peanut butter. Bring to a boil and then add the chocolate. Mix until incorporated. Turn the heat to low and simmer for 20 minutes. Remove from heat and use a hand blender to smooth the sauce or put in a regular blender, just remove the middle piece and cover with a paper towel.

 Season the chicken with the skin on and place in the Mole. Cover with a lid and let cook for 15 minutes. Remove the lid and turn the chicken over. Cook for another 15-30 minutes or until the chickens internal temp is 165. Taste for seasoning and add hot sauce if needed. Here you can either rip the chicken off the bones or serve whole over rice with the sauce. If breaking down the chicken, you can serve with tortillas.

Note: I have made this several times. Today I used New Mexico dried chilies. Simply heat up a dry frying pan and press the chilies down. Warm them up on each side for about 2 minutes. Cool, make a slit down the middle, and shake out the seeds. Cut in rings.

This recipe can also be made in the crock pot which I am doing today. Just all all of the ingredients. I am using frozen chicken breasts so I am giving this 5-6 hours on high. I will be shredding the meat with a fork and serving with tortillas.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Our Chicago Mini Trip using Groupon and a Budget of Under $200.00 Spending Money

We spent Monday and Tuesday of this week in the "Windy City." We are from Wisconsin and are used to the cold weather. Even though it was raining the first day, we still walked everywhere we went. Our first stop from Union Station was directly down Adams to the Art Institute. I research every part of our trip before we go. I read that kids 14 and younger are free. Yet my 14 year old was charged full price? I still plan on taking this up with the museum. I suppose I could have lied about her age but I am a honest person. So a trip for the four of us was $57.00. The highlight was going across the street to eat at Pret A Manger. This is a chain of locally sourced fresh ready made sandwiches, soups, and salads. The four of us ate for just under $30.00. My chicken and avocado sandwich was delicious and my daughter had the pesto and cheese panini. I am in love with this place.

One thing you can do which is free is walk to Grant and Millenium parks. There is blocks and blocks full of public art and the famous Bean. I took some really beautiful shots at night and love this place. There is also the Buckingham fountain which has a light show after 8 o'clock. Only in the warmer months. We walked all the way there and the fountain was drained.

A must see is the Bean at night. It is beautiful! All of the walking makes the kids sleep really good too. Chicago has a different fell at night. During the day is bustling with people. At night it's still busy but a bit easier to get around.
We walked from Union Station. We took the Amtrak in but you can save more money by taking the Metra Train from Kenosha. Union Station is also right by the old Sears/Willis tower. We haven't been to the top yet but I hear it's cool. We tried to stick to the free things. We still had a great time on a budget.

Our hotel was the Hard Rock which I found on Groupon. is a site where you can find discounted activities and dining no matter what city you are in. Just click and paste this link so they know i sent you! . Thi

The Hard Rock was centrally located and we liked it.  The theming on each floor is a rock star. We had Led Zepplin. Unfortunately there was construction directly across from our room and we had a pretty good view of the construction workers. We had a few problems like a $50/ per night charge held on your credit card. This overdrew our checking account. I had budgeted down to the penny and this was a real issue. Luckily Zack at the front desk helped us. And luckily I found the problem before I incurred overdraft fees for those charges. I had to run to chase down the block and deposit just to be safe. We got this hotel on a Groupon too. The site has some pretty good travel deals. There is also a cool bus system but we walked everywhere to save on money. We only took a cab once to Navy Pier.

Eating on the cheap can be done. We had a Subway two doors down and they had $3.00 subs of the day. This worked out perfect. My hubby also gets a discount at Walgreens as a employee and we purchased soda and snacks there. Also 7-11 is everywhere. We got a pizza for under $6.00 the second night. One of our favorite places to go is L'Appetito. It's located below the John Hancock building. You can have a hearty breakfast for $5.50. My family loved it too.

We walked down to Navy Pier and it was a real mess. They are re-doing the entire Pier and it was very boring. There was a cool free stained glass museum inside.

I purchased a  tea tasting at Adagio Tea for my oldest and I. I paid ahead of time and it was really inexpensive. We got to choose and taste three different teas and I asked a ton of questions. My hubby and youngest went to Mcdonald's right down the street while we went in. And we each got a free tea pot too.   Here is my Yelp review of the tea tasting. Yelp! is a online forum that is free and helps you find cool new places and events:

I had purchased the Groupon for my 15 year old daughter and I so we could have a girls day out. We took a wrong turn somewhere and ended up taking the scenic route of State Street. This shop is tucked in with a few others off of Ohio and State.

We made it for our two o'clock appointment and were warmly greeted. We began by choosing three teas. They are arranged in clear jars from white teas to the darkest. It smells amazing in there! We learned all about different types of teas and how they are made, also what temps to make the tea at. Each tea reacts differently to hot water. Some require a longer steeping time to extract their full flavor. 

We were seated in the middle of the shop and our tasting began with a mango tea. There were three different tea infused cookies for us to eat also. Our person (I believe her name was Amanda) was willing to answer all of our questions. I think our tasting went on for 45 minutes. (We Yelpers ask a ton of questions) We also sampled a oolong and chai tea. 

We each got to pick out our own tea pot too and purchased some of the teas we liked. They sell loose leaf by the ounce, in packs with bags or loose, and a variety of tea infused products.  The prices are pretty reasonable. This was a fun event for the two of us and the price was really inexpensive.

So my tips are: use Yelp! to research. look for Groupons you can use to cut down on costs, price places, and always expect some hickups. 

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Banana Foot Scrub and Omelets

It's a very hectic week for me and on the weekends besides going for a long walk, I like to go treat myself. We had a huge bag of clearance bananas and had been enjoying bananas foster and banana bread all week. This morning  I made a foot scrub with them. This is great for all of those dried feet in preparation for sandals.

 All you have to do is mush them up with a fork into a paste. I used 3. Next get a basin and put a towel under it. Have a towel ready to wipe off your feet when you get out. Stick your feet in and have a timer set for 15 minutes. Not only does it feel good, it smells good too! Then wash off your feet with cold water and then warm. Use a pumice stone to remove any dry skin, apply a good lotion, and stick on some socks.

Breakfast for me during the week 99% of the time is oatmeal. On Saturday's I like to enjoy a egg beater omelet. The cool thing is that on WW most of all veggies are free points. I add a pinch of Feta cheese too for some added flavor. These omelets are pretty big and filling and under 3 points.

 First saute' veggies with a bit of water until they are semi-soft. Season with salt and pepper.  Heat a egg pan and spray some PAM. Then add the Egg Beaters (1/4 cup) Let the sides begin to form little crusts. Then with your spatula, push the eggs in so the liquid eggs are on the sides. Let it set for about 2 minutes and then very carefully, flip the omelet over. Now add the veggies and cheese and fold in half. I love this meal. It's pretty filling!