Saturday, April 30, 2011

Scrub Those Floors

Graphic via Graphics Fairy

Cleaning is not my favorite aspect of being a homemaker.  Sure, I clean my house every week, but I have to keep my attitude in check while doing it.  Within about 10 minutes of cleaning, something will inevitably get dirty again, right?  Does this happen in your house?  Well, recently I decided to get on my hands and knees and give the floor in my bathroom a good scrub.  It didn't take very long at all!   Do you know what I realized?  There's something oddly satisfying about being that close to the grit and grime on the floor and watching it be wiped away by your own hands.  The swiffer and mop don't always cut it.

When was the last time you got down and scrubbed your floors?  Give it a try and you might find out that it also gives you deep sense of satisfaction (well, maybe not a deep sense, but at least some sense of satisfaction).

Happy Saturday!

Friday, April 29, 2011

Friday's Fail (?): Strawberry Cake

The other day I decided to make up a strawberry cake recipe.  I've always wanted to try and figure out the science of baking a cake, so I did some research and got to work.  The batter tasted awesome; it baked pretty evenly; and it even pulled away from the pan while cooling.  We had company for dinner that night, so I decided to have some friends try it and give me their honest feedback.  They said it was good, maybe a little denser than they had anticipated, but the taste was great.  My friend Callie even said it could make it on the blog, and not as a fail, I might add!

Later that evening, after everyone had left and the kids were in bed, I decided to give it a try.  It was good!  But it wasn't so good that I would necessarily want to make it again.  This is why I have a question mark behind this fail post.  If you bite into a piece of cake that you've made and don't know if you like it well enough to make it again, would you consider that a fail?  I'll post the recipe, in case you want to give it a try, but do so knowing that I've given a thorough disclaimer.  If you do try it, let me know what you think!

Until I decide whether or not to add this recipe to my collection, I'm on the hunt for a great fresh strawberry cake!

Strawberry Cake:
1 cup butter, softened
1 1/2 cups sugar
3 eggs
1 cup crushed strawberries (mash sliced strawberries so that some chunks remain)
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon of salt
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla

    In a large bowl cream the butter, then add sugar.  Mix until well blended.  Add the eggs and beat until fluffy. Stir in strawberries.   Add flour, salt, and baking powder and beat, scraping the sides of the bowl until everything is well combined.  Next, add the milk and vanilla and beat again for about 2 minutes.

    Pour batter evenly into 2 greased and floured 8-inch round cake pans.  Bake at 350 for 25-30 minutes.  Cool in the pans for about 5 minutes, and then turn the cakes out onto wire racks to finish cooling.  When cake has completely cooled, ice with Strawberry Cream Cheese Frosting (which, by the way, is definitely not a fail!).   Garnish with sliced strawberries and fresh mint leaves.

Strawberry Cream Cheese Frosting

This would be a great frosting for a strawberry cake, yellow cake, or even chocolate, if you like the chocolate/strawberry combination.   It makes enough to frost a 2 layer, 9-inch cake.

8 oz. cream cheese, softened
4 1/2 cups powdered sugar
3 tablespoons crushed strawberries, with juice
1 teaspoon vanilla

Cream the butter and sugar in a large mixing bowl.  Add the strawberries and vanilla; mix to combine.  Spread onto your favorite cake.  Refrigerate remaining frosting.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Strawberry Jam

Yesterday the girls and I went strawberry picking.  Here are a few pictures from our day together:

Bountiful Strawberry Bushes
Strawberry Picker

Yummy Berries

love strawberries and making strawberry jam has become a spring tradition in our household.  You see, Bradley has given me a few requirements, if you will, in our marriage (some I may mention at a later time), and one of them was that I must learn how to make jam; nothing store bought would cut it for him.  I willingly obliged, and my mother-in-law (who I might add is an outstanding cook!) taught me how to make jam that first spring we were married.

Don't let the thought of making your own jam scare you.  It really is super easy and it can be done in less than hour.  Seriously.  So, find a strawberry patch near you, or look for great deals on berries in your grocery store over the next few weeks, and give it a try!

Here's what you need to pick up at the store (all of this you can buy at Wal-Mart):
-Sure Jell, fruit pectin (you will find this in the aisle with the jello, or sometimes they have a special section in the kitchen supplies during the spring/summer where you can find jars and canning supplies).

Fruit Pectin
-Mason jars (these come in various sizes, so you just need to determine what size you want and how much jam you're going to make.  One batch of the recipe below will fill 5 - 8oz jars).
-Four cups of Sugar
-2 pints of strawberries

The recipe that I'm posting can also be found inside of the box of pectin, along with several other jam recipes.  I'll type it here, though, so you can see how easy it is before you go and buy your supplies.

Strawberry Freezer Jam:
1. Rinse the strawberries and remove the stems.  I used the small end of a melon baller this time, but you can also use your fingers or the end of a vegetable peeler.  They should look something like this when the stems are removed:

 2. Place the de-stemmed berries in a large bowl and mash with a potato masher.  (You can also use a food processor, but you don't want to puree your fruit).

The potato masher at work

3. Measure exactly 2 cups of crushed strawberries, and add exactly 4 cups of sugar.  Stir this to combine and let it sit for 10 minutes.

4. While the berries and sugar are sitting, grab a small saucepan.  Add the bag of pectin and 3/4 cup of water.  Place it on the stove and cook on high heat, stirring constantly until it boils.  Once it boils, stir and cook for 1 more minute.

5.  Remove it from the heat, and add it to the fruit mixture.

6. Stir together for about 3 minutes, until the sugar dissolves.

7.  Pour the mixture into the jars, leaving about 1/2 inch at the top so that it can expand when it's in the freezer.   (If you have a funnel, you may want to use it for this step, unless your bowl has a small sized pouring spout.  I used a 1/4 cup measuring cup this time and it worked pretty well).  Be sure to wipe off any stray jam that may have spilled onto the outside of the jar.  You don't want sticky jars in your freezer!

8.  Tightly screw the lids onto the jars and let them sit on the counter for 24 hours.  Then, place them in your freezer for up to a year.  When you're ready to use some, just pull it out of the freezer, let it thaw in the fridge, and enjoy.

I've been making jam now for four years and except for our most recent move, I've never had to purchase store bought strawberry jam!

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Fabric Art

Finding art for our home is always an arduous process, mainly for two reasons:  Bradley and I have differing tastes, and we don't have money to buy nice pieces.  As I'm trying to decorate our new home, I have to be creative with ways to decorate the walls. So far, I think we have three different things hanging on the walls, and we've lived here for three months.  Pathetic.

Remember this pillow I made?   Well, it's designer fabric and one of the things that I love about it is that it comes with a built-in color palette.  This is prefect for people like me who like colors, but don't always know how to put the right colors together in a room   Check this out:

This specific fabric has 13 colors in it, more than enough to choose from!  I just take this piece of the selvage with me when I shop so I can match it up perfectly.  Number 7 is the color on the walls, and number 11 (which you can't really see in this picture) is the color I'm using for some chairs (post coming soon on this!).

Because I love this fabric so much, I decided to use it for some framed art.  Here's what I did:

I bought some frames from Jo-Ann Fabrics in the clearance aisle for $1.97 a piece.  (Just like I've mentioned before about always looking at trash piles on the side of the road, ALWAYS look in the clearance aisle of stores for great finds).

Frame detail with the clearance sticker.  Love a good deal!

I took some linen that I had used for my drapery panels.

I cut three pieces of linen to fit the size of the frames, using the paper picture that came inside the frame.

I then cut out three pieces of fabric, trying to use flower shapes that had the colors I most liked from the palette.

Next, I placed a cutout flower on top of the linen and covered it with spray adhesive, doing this with each separate piece of linen and flower.

I placed the finished fabric in the frame and now I have some framed art to put on my walls!

Even though I now have some more 'art' to add to our collection, these have not been hung on the wall yet.  We still just have three things hanging up in our house.  We'll get there eventually!

Monday, April 25, 2011

Uses for Hard Boiled Eggs: Egg Salad

We had a great Easter weekend with my sister Sherri and her husband.  The girls loved spending time with their aunt and uncle, and Bradley enjoyed some help with his never-ending projects.  I was grateful to have family here and enjoyed every minute of it!

 Here's two pictures of the girls in their dresses, as promised.

Dying eggs has been a tradition in our family since I can remember, and I'm glad we have incorporated it into our family because my girls loved it!  If you're like me, though, you probably have something similar to this in your fridge now:

Egg Salad is a great way to use up those eggs!  I know it can be prepared in various ways, but my mom's recipe has always been my favorite.

4 hard boiled eggs
2 tablespoons mayonnaise
1/2 teaspoon mustard
1 tablespoon sugar
pinch of salt
dash of freshly ground pepper

Remove the shells from the eggs and rinse in cold water to make sure all of the shell pieces are gone.  Using an egg slicer, place the egg in the slicer one way, slice.

Remove egg, rotate and place in the slicer the opposite way, slice again.

This will give you nicely chopped eggs.  (If you don't have an egg slicer, just use a knife to finely chop your eggs).  Repeat with all four eggs.

In a small mixing bowl, combine eggs, mayonnaise, mustard, sugar, salt and pepper.

Spread onto your favorite bread, place in a pita, put a dollop on a cracker, or just eat it plain.  Refrigerate remaining salad.

Chicken Pot Pie

My family loves chicken pot pie.  In fact, when I tell Isabella that's what we're having for dinner, she starts giggling out of excitement.  One of the things that I appreciate about it, is that it's a one dish meal, which means less dishes to clean after dinner!

6 Tablespoons butter
6 Tablespoons flour
2 cups chicken broth
1 cup milk
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
2 cups shredded, or cubed, cooked chicken
3/4 cup frozen peas
12 baby carrots
3 small potatoes
1 9-inch pie dough, unbaked

Make chicken broth (or use a canned version, but I really think it's better to just make your own.  It's less expensive this way, and you can make exactly what you need.  1 cup of boiling water + 1 teaspoon of bouillon = cup of broth).

This is by far my favorite bouillon and I always have it on hand.

Put water in a tea kettle and boil.  When it boils, mix two cups of the boiling water with 2 teaspoons of chicken bouillon granules.

Peel the potatoes, and then cut them into bite size pieces.  Set aside.

Bite sized potato pieces
Slice carrots and set aside.

Place carrots and potatoes into a small saucepan and cover with water.  Place on the stove and cook on high heat until it comes to a boil.  Turn down the heat to medium high, add frozen peas, and let it cook for 10-12 minutes, or until potatoes are tender, but not mushy.  When done, drain the veggies and set aside.

While these are cooking, in a medium/large saucepan, melt the butter.  When the butter has melted, remove from the heat and add the flour, stirring until smooth.

Return to heat and slowly stir in the chicken broth and milk, salt and pepper.  Continue to cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until mixture thickens.  The time on this may vary, depending on how heavy your saucepan is.  Just be sure to continue to stir, getting the spoon to the bottom of the pan, so that it doesn't become lumpy and/or stick to the bottom.

Add the veggies to the cream sauce, and then stir in the chicken.  Pour it into a 9-inch, deep dish pie plate (or use a 2 quart casserole dish), and top with the crust.  Leave enough of the crust to hang over the sides so that you can crimp it around the edges.  Cut several slits in the top of the crust to allow the heat to escape while baking.

I recommend placing a cookie sheet on the rack below the pie, so that this doesn't happen in your oven (I put mine in a little too late):

Bake at 425 for 25-30 minutes, until the crust is golden brown.

*Recipe adapted from The Fannie Farmer Cookbook.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Egg Cup Flowers

I've never done much decorating around the house for Easter, but this year my sister, Sherri, inspired me.  First of all, I guess it never really dawned on me that the egg cup existed.  Sure, I  must have seen them somewhere, but it didn't resonate with me like other things have in the past.  When my sister posted this blog entry, it finally clicked.  These would be the perfect way to bring some Easter decor into our home, plus it would possibly be a practical item because my husband loves soft boiled eggs.  (I've never made him one, mind you, but maybe one day).

I was browsing through the aisles of TJMaxx one day when I spotted a package of 6 white egg cups.  Perfect.  They would go with any color decor and I could maybe even get creative and paint something on them.  For just $4.99 I had my set of egg cups.  

On Wednesday, Sherri posted this, her ideas for decorations with egg cups, which got me thinking.  I love all of her ideas, especially the candy one, but we're trying to not eat so many sweets around here, and I didn't want to copy her.  I saw someone else's idea of putting monkey grass into eggs.  So, when I was shopping this morning, I went to the garden section of Wal-Mart, and found the perfect thing.  The small packs of annual flowers come in sets of six, so I found some vincas that looked good (I had to search to find a pack with six nice blooms), and for $1.68 I had my egg cup flowers.  

Here's my finished product

I then took a painter's pen, and wrote names on each cup, so we can use them as place cards.  

I'm hoping that I'll even be able to plant these after the weekend is over, but I did have to cut some of the root balls in order to fit them in the cups.  Even if they don't make it into the ground, it was well worth less than $2 for a table decoration.  

Friday's Fail: The Easter Dress

Most of the sewing I have done since I started sewing 4 1/2 years ago has been for our home.  Occasionally I will venture out and make something for my girls, but I always do so with fear and trepidation because I never know how it's going to turn out.  Usually I avoid patterns with buttons (making button holes is not an enjoyable process for me), and I almost ALWAYS avoid patterns that have zippers.  This is quite limiting, obviously, but I sometimes have success without using these notions.

Well, this year for Easter I decided to make the girls Easter dresses.  We're back in the south, so aren't matching outfits on your children an unspoken social requirement?  And, even better if they're handmade, right?  Well, believe it or not, even though I'm a southerner at heart, and live in the south, smocking and monograms aren't my favorite.  I know, I know, shocker.  I'm a pretty simple girl, so I found a pattern that I liked, bought some broadcloth on sale, and cut out the fabric for the girls' dresses.  The pattern I was using didn't have Mallory's size, so I originally planned on just altering a larger size so that the dresses could be matching.

The other day I started in on Isabella's dress.  I couldn't believe it when I had it finished by the next morning, zipper and all!  Feeling pretty proud of myself I didn't want to ruin my good streak by destroying Mallory's dress, so I started searching her closet for something that would coordinate.  Aha!  My mom made the girls dresses for my sister's wedding last September, and believe it or not, Mallory's still fit!  It's a white dress with a pink bow around the waist.  I figured I could easily make a sash the color of Isabella's dress and then the girls would be set.  I guess I was just a bit too excited and overjoyed at how smoothly this whole process was going because I didn't think through the whole thing so well.  When I finished making her sash, I put it around the dress and discovered the seam for the sash went right down the middle of the front of the dress.  Totally unacceptable.  Thus ended my successful streak.

It's an easy fix, I know, but a fail nonetheless.

*Sorry for no pictures; I couldn't get a good one of the fail, so you'l just have to wait for some pics of the girls in their completed dresses next week.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Pizza Dough

When I lived in Jordan, I decided I needed a cookbook for making just about anything from scratch.  So, for Christmas, my grandparents bought me The Fannie Farmer Cookbook.  This is probably the cookbook that I use the most because the recipes are basic and I can find answers for many of my cooking questions in it.  Her recipe for pizza dough is the one I always use.

Pizza Dough
1 1/3 cups warm water
1 package dry yeast
3-4 cups flour
2 T olive oil
2 t salt

In 1/3 cup warm water dissolve the yeast, and let stand for 5 minutes.  Add 2 cups of the flour, 2 tablespoons oil, 1 cup warm water and the salt; beat.  Add more flour, 1/2 cup at a time, mixing well until it holds together in a rough mass (I usually only use 3 cups of flour to this point).  Place 1/2 cup of flour on a hard surface and knead the dough until it is smooth and elastic.  Place in an oiled bowl, covered with plastic, to rise until double in size, about two hours.  Hint:  if you turn the light on above your stove (underneath the microwave, if you have one), it helps the dough to rise more quickly.  Once it has doubled, punch it down with your fist and divide into two balls.  Roll the dough out on the pizza pan, to create about a 14 inch pizza disc.  This recipe makes two discs.

(Recipe adapted from The Fannie Farmer Cookbook)

Caramelized Onion and Red Potato Pizza

You might be saying to yourself, "Potatoes on pizza??"  Well, hang with me for a few minutes, because this pizza is good.  Really good.  I must admit it came about because my husband accidentally took my car keys with him to work yesterday, so I was stuck at home.  Being stuck at home all day = making something up for dinner because we're just about out of groceries.  I looked around in the pantry and fridge and decided I would try a new kind of pizza.  We love homemade pizza, and I usually stick with our favorites, BBQ chicken and cheeseburger, but this one I made yesterday is my new favorite.  Hope you enjoy it as much as we did!

1 pizza dough disc (My favorite pizza dough recipe is here).                          
2 large onions,
1/2 cup butter, divided
1/2 t. salt
1 t. sugar
2 Red potatoes
1 t. dried rosemary
1/4 t. dried thyme
1 t. seasoned salt
3 cloves garlic, chopped
1/4 cup parmesan cheese
6-8 slices provolone cheese, or 2 cups shredded pepper jack, or a combination of both.

For the Caramelized Onions:
Cut onions in half, from top to bottom, then slice.
Sliced onions

 Melt 3 tablespoons of the butter in a medium sized pan over medium heat.  When butter has melted, add onions.  Sprinkle with 1/2 teaspoon of salt and 1 teaspoon of sugar.  Cook the onions over medium-low heat for about 40 minutes.  You need to stir these every so often, making sure to scrape the bottom of the pan.

Onions should look like this when done.
Onions are done when they turn golden brown and are very tender.

For the Potatoes:
Wash the potatoes off, but keep skins on (this adds a bit of color).  Slice potatoes, very thin.

Thinly sliced potatoes

 In a small pan, melt 2 tablespoons of butter.  Add potatoes, 1 teaspoon of rosemary, 1/4 teaspoon of thyme, and 1 teaspoon seasoned salt.

Saute these for about 10 minutes on medium heat, stirring occasionally to allow the potatoes to get slightly browned on all sides.

Potatoes should look like this when done.

You want the potatoes to be cooked all the way, but not too soft.  Remove from heat, and use pan for the butter sauce.

Butter Sauce:
Using the same pan you used for the potatoes (this will help to soak up some of the savory flavors from the potatoes), melt the remaining 3 tablespoons of butter.  Add the chopped garlic and saute over low heat for about 5-7 minutes.

To Assemble:
Place your pizza dough on the baking pan.  Top with butter sauce. Place onions and potatoes evenly over entire pizza.  Sprinkle with parmesan cheese; cover with provolone, being careful to cover entire pizza.  Bake in a 450 oven for 15-20 minutes, or until cheese is slightly browned and crust is done.

Please note:  this recipe will only make one pizza.  You will probably have some onions leftover, so look for other recipes that call for caramelized onions.  I also put leftover grilled chicken on ours, because my husband needs his protein, and it tasted great!  Get creative with your leftovers and you can come up with some great pizza toppings!

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Burlap Redemption

Have I mentioned before that I love Ballard Designs?  There are few things as relaxing to me as sitting in bed pouring over the newest catalog.  I love the European inspired decor and the fact that most of the decor they sell is timeless.

As I'm working on accessorizing our home, I've been looking for ways to recreate some of the items I see in Ballard's catalog.  These inspired me:

Ballard Designs Rowan Grainsack Boxes
I need some decorative pieces to put on top of our entertainment center, so I thought these might work, stacked on top of each other.  I'm not able to pay $99 for the set of boxes, so I decided to make a variation of my own.  Remember that burlap fail?  Well, I still have the remaining burlap sitting in a closet, so I decided it needed to redeem itself.  Stacked on top of an entertainment center, surely Mallory won't be able to reach them and have an allergic reaction.  

So, using these boxes as inspiration, and adding a fleur de lis, I came up with this:

I printed out a fleur de lis, made it into a stencil, and painted black paint onto a burlap covered box.  I'd like to still add some ribbon trim to it, but I'm pleased with how it's looking so far!  This is my first attempt at painting on fabric, and I loved it!  I'm looking forward to finishing this project and placing it in our family room!

My next burlap redemption is going to be this:

Monogrammed Linen Accessories, Ballard Designs

I stumbled upon this blog tutorial and can't wait to try it out!

Monday, April 18, 2011

Trashed Coffee Table Turned Nightstand

Of the many things I have learned from my mother-in-law, one stands out as having saved my husband and me a lot of money over the years: examine every item that you see laying by the side of the road, generally in a trash pile.  You may be required to pull over, slam on your brakes, or just do a drive by, but always, ALWAYS look; a treasure could be waiting.

I had one such find as I was getting into my car one morning in Monterey.  A neighbor was throwing away a wooden coffee table, which was missing a piece of glass in the top center, and was also quite wobbly.  I thought it could certainly be used for something, so I dragged it to our carport. It sat there for months until we packed it into a moving van, drove across the country, and moved into our new home.

My genius husband had the idea to turn it into a nightstand for the girls' room.  Their beds flank both sides of a tall window, so it has been difficult to find a nightstand that would be just right without covering up a majority of the window.  Being the loving man that he is, he has completely tackled this project without any assistance from me!  Here is a breakdown of this project:
Paint - $8
Anchor Braces - $4
1/4 " plywood (to fill in the missing glass hole) - $5
Total - $17, not too shabby for a nightstand.

Unfortunately, I don't have any before pictures of this project, but trust me, it was an eyesore!

 The girls' room has yet to be decorated so forgive me for the lack of accessories.  I can't wait to tackle their room, but the ceilings are so high that we either need to hire a painter or rent a huge ladder; neither of which we are ready to do at this time.  For now, they at least have a nightstand.  I love the fact that I picked it up off of the side of the road.  Thanks, Mom, for teaching me this great trick of the trade!

Sunday, April 17, 2011

New Upholstery Tool

My husband is one of the most giving people I know, and since I am married to him, I'm often the recipient of his generosity.  We recently started refinishing some chairs we purchased on Craigslist (I will post about them when they're complete), and we ran into a problem when my staple gun wasn't long enough to attach some of the new fabric to the back of the chair.  We decided to put the project aside until we could figure out how to solve our dilemma.  Well, the other day, my husband handed me a package from Amazon, and said it was for me.  What did I find inside?  This:

This is a heavy duty staple gun that has a one inch nose extension so I will now be able to finish my chairs! The only catch with this generous gift of a staple gun for me is that it requires an air compressor, a tool that my husband has wanted for a long time.  We're currently borrowing one from a friend, but I'm sure it won't be long before 'we' will need one of our own.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Friday's Fail: Crepe Paper Eggs

I love to read blogs that talk about home decor, crafting, and sewing.  The projects others are doing inspire me and I always come back to read more, but I often finish reading entries thinking to myself, "Am I the only one who messes up in the middle of a project, or who doesn't finish a project?  Does everybody have success on the first try with their projects?"  Thus, I came up with the idea to write a blog entry each week, on Fridays in fact, that would chronicle my project 'failures'.

This week I decided that it was time to finally work on a wreath for our front door.  I'm not a big fan of fake flowers, particularly the fake floral wreaths that are sold seasonally in all of the craft stores.  So, I've been on the hunt for ideas on how I could make a spring wreath.  I came across one that I loved, which you can find here, but I wasn't too thrilled about the idea of painting eggs.  While shopping for some already speckled craft eggs, I spotted some crepe paper in the store.  Aha!  Maybe this would work, mod podged (is that a verb?) crepe paper eggs!  Cheap, easy, and the eggs would have a neat texture.  

Well, nap time came and I began my egg project.  Granted, I had never before used Mod Podge, but this was obviously NOT going to work.  The crepe paper was dissolving, not sticking to the egg, and it looked awful!  Unfortunately, I didn't take a picture before I threw them away, but it looked more like a first grader's craft project than the makings of a wreath for a front door.  Alas, a crafting fail.  

I think I'll just buy some great looking eggs from Hobby Lobby this week and finish my wreath.  What was your crafting/cooking fail this week?

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Easter Candies

These candies are the perfect mix of salty and sweet, and they can be adapted to any holiday or special event, simply by using various seasonal M&M's (or if you want, just pull out the colors you want to use).  They don't take long to make and I've yet to meet someone who doesn't enjoy them.  Just make sure you have room in your freezer for your baking sheet, and you're good to go!

Snap pretzels (the rectangular ones with grid lines)
M&M's (I used the spring mix for these)
Wilton vanilla candy melts

1. Preheat your oven to 250
2. Place pretzels on cooking sheet.
3. Top pretzels with one candy melt.
4. Bake for approximately 2 minutes, or until the candy melts are soft enough that your finger makes a dent when you press lightly on it.
5. Place one M&M on each candy melt.  In order to make them look a bit more 'classy', be sure to place them blank side up.
6. Put the baking sheet in the freezer for 10 minutes, until candies harden.  Store in an airtight container.  These will keep for several weeks, as long as they're stored this way, and in a relatively cool place.  

*I used 2 bags of candy melts, a little more than 1 bag of pretzels, and a little less than one bag of M&M's; it made about 300 pieces.  

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Oven Fried Chicken

Between having family visiting, parents helping out, and frozen meals made by my mom, I haven't really had to cook for the past two weeks.  However, feeling re-energized last night, I decided to make a family favorite: Oven Fried Chicken.  My husband LOVES this recipe, and now my girls devour it too.  If you're hesitant to cook recipes 'from scratch', this would be an easy one to start with.  If you follow the recipe closely, and set your timer, there's really no way to ruin it!  So, pull out some of those chicken breasts in your freezer, start thawing them, and enjoy this delicious dish!

1 cup Italian bread crumbs
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
1 teaspoon seasoned salt
4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
4 tablespoons of margarine (or butter)

1. Preheat oven to 425.
2. Line baking sheet with aluminum foil and spray with non-stick cooking spray (I started doing this after making this chicken a few times because the crumbs can sometimes stick to the pan.  If you don't mind spending extra time washing dishes, don't line your pan, but if you're like me and want to clean up quickly after dinner, line it with the foil).

3. Melt margarine in saucepan on medium low heat.
4. While this is melting, mix together bread crumbs, parmesan cheese, and seasoned salt; stir to combine.
The Kitchen Help

5. Using a sharp knife, butterfly fillet each breast and cut in half entirely (this will enable the chicken to cook more quickly and evenly).

6. Dip each breast fillet into the melted butter, then dip into the crumb mixture, coating the entire breast. Place each breast on the baking sheet.

7. Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until golden brown.  (If you're unsure about whether or not they are done, just slice into one and check to make sure the meat is no longer pink).

One of the great things about this chicken is that you can serve it with any starchy side (potatoes, rice or pasta).  Just choose your favorite recipe from one of those starches, add a roasted veggie, and you have a meal!  Enjoy!

*This recipe would serve 4-6 people.  If you don't want to use 4 whole breasts, just adjust the recipe accordingly.