Thursday, July 28, 2011

Super Quick Refrigerator Pickles

Refrigerator Pickles

2 lbs cucumbers, sliced ½ inch thick on the diagonal
1 medium Vidalia onion, sliced ¼ inch thick
2 celery stalks, sliced ½ inch thick on the diagonal
coarse salt
2 cups sugar
1 cup cider vinegar
1 tsp celery seed
1 tsp mustard seed

In a colander toss cucumbers, onion and celery with 1 ½ tsp of salt. Set aside, tossing occasionally.
In a small bowl, combine sugar, vinegar, celery seed and mustard seed. Stir until sugar dissolves.
Divide cuke mixture among 3-4 clean jars or airtight containers and pour vinegar mixture over. Refrigerate 8 hours or up to 2 weeks before enjoying.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Mall of America

The kids (well, mostly Matt) had been bugging us for awhile to visit the Mall of America. Actually, they just wanted to go to Nickelodeon Universe (the theme park located inside the center of the mall). So we packed up the kids, and drove 6 hours to Bloomington, Minnesota.

The mall was smaller than I thought it was going to be. For some reason, I thought it would be spread out more, rather than stacked into 4 floors. The 3rd level was made up of lots of restaurants and a giant food court. We ate at a little Kokomo Cafe with some good spicy sweet potato fries.

The kids enjoyed going on the crazy roller coasters and thrill rides. Zoey loved meeting the Wonder Pets, Blues Clues, Sponge Bob and Patrick.

I liked shopping while Zoey slept. They had a nice Archivers, Old Navy and Aeropostale where I made some purchases.

We stayed at the Water Park of America.  It claims to be the largest indoor water park, but I am sure that I have been to larger indoor water parks before, so I wasn't so impressed.  The kids didn't care! They had a lot of fun! The family water slide was the biggest hit. All 5 of us went down the giant water slide on an tube. I was nervous because it felt like our tube was going to tip over, didn't! Haha

On our last day, we visited the Sea Life Aquarium, located in the basement of the Mall of America.  It was a really neat place. 

 The jellyfish exhibit was amazing!

Lily liked the sea horses...

  I did not get any good shark pictures...mostly because I was scared to death walking through the glass tunnel. I didn't like the feeling of sharks swimming inches above me. It was so wild!

Overall it was a good trip. Don't think we'll be back, because there wasn't a whole lot to do there, but we can say we went! Perhaps it would have been better for a mid-winter trip rather than a mid-summer trip.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

No Bake Summer Lasagna

No Bake Summer Lasagna
½ cup ricotta cheese
3 Tbsp grated parmesan
3 Tbsp EVOO, plus 2 tsp
salt and pepper
8 lasagna noodles, broken in half
1 clove of garlic, minced
2 pints of yellow or red grape tomatoes, halved
2 zucchini, thinly sliced
1 Tbsp torn fresh basil

1. In a small bowl, combine ricotta, Parmesan and 2 tsp EVOO. Season with salt and pepper. Prepare lasagna noodles as directed and drain.

2. In a large skillet, heat 2 Tbsp EVOO. Add garlic and tomatoes, season lightly. Cook, stirring about 3 minutes. Transfer tomatoes to a bowl. Add 1 more Tbsp of oil to pan and cook zucchini until tender, about 5 minutes. Stir in basil.

3. Place some tomatoes on four plates. Top each with a noodle half and small spoonfuls of ricotta, zucchini and more tomatoes. Repeat layering twice, then top with remaining noodles and tomatoes. Garnish with basil.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Black Bean Salsa

This is one of those recipes where you just throw all of the ingredients together and stir. This is a delicious salsa, served with crunchy tortilla chips!
Black Bean Salsa
2 cans black beans, drained
2 cans Rotelle tomatoes with jalapenos
1 can sweet corn
1 red onion, diced
2 tomatoes, diced
.5 green pepper, diced
Lime juice from 2 limes
Salt to taste

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Pizza Salad

For Jack's birthday barbecue, he requested an "All-sausage" theme. I served Italian sausage and peppers, Polish sausage and kraut, Lithuanian sausage, German Beer Brats and good ol' American sausage - hot dogs! So, to keep with the theme, I found this recipe for a pizza salad which includes pepperoni, another great sausage! It was delish!

Pizza Salad
8 oz. mixed greens and 8 oz. romaine
4 cups grape or cherry tomatoes
.5 red onion, sliced
1 jar roasted red peppers, drained and sliced into bite-size chunks
1 15oz can of white kidney beans (drained & rinsed)
6 oz. pepperoni, sliced
4 oz. fresh mozarella, chunked
Italian dressing

Mix, dress, add croutons and serve.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Strawberry Sangria

The picture isn't the greatest, but it tasted so so good!

Strawberry Sangria
.5 cup sugar
8 fresh mint sprigs
2 bottles dry, white wine
4 cups sliced strawberries
.5 cup brandy

In a large pitcher, combine the sugar and mint, pressing mint leaves with the back of the spoon to release flavors. Add wine, strawberries and brandy. Chill for 2 hours. Serve over ice.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Asparagus-Snap Pea StirFry

Asparagus-Snap Pea StirFry
1 tsp soy sauce
1 tsp rice vinegar
1 tsp sugar
¾ lb boneless New York strip steak, thinly sliced
1 Tbsp vegetable oil
1 bunch asparagus, trimmed into 2 inch pieces
6 oz. snap peas
1 garlic clove, minced
1 Tbsp fresh ginger, minced
1 tsp lemon juice
2 Tbsp fresh basil, torn
Cooked brown rice

  1. In a small bowl, combine soy sauce, vinegar and sugar. Set aside. Season steak with salt and heat in a large skillet that has a tbsp of oil in it. Cook steak about 2 minutes on one side, flip and cook until cooked through. Transfer to a bowl.
  2. Add asparagus, snap peas, garlic, and ginger to skillet. Cook, stirring constantly, about 4 minutes. Add a little water if the pan gets too dark. Add soy mixture and cook about 30 more seconds. REmove skillet from heat. Stir in lemon juice, basil and steak. Serve over cooked rice.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Lily CAM

What happens when you put a camera into the hands of a seven year old? Craziness ensues...

And when she learns how to create a video...OH MY!!!

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Whatta Weekend!?!?

My busy weekend began with a fabulous dinner that made me feel really, really old. Two of my former students (actually, they were in the very first class I ever taught -- 4th grade at Maria Saucedo) are now teachers! They are both mothers to little girls and I am so very proud of them! We met up for dinner and drinks and talked about old times! It was so nice!

On Saturday Jack turned the big "3-9." Yep, one more year until that unGodly birthday that he and I are both dreading. LOL  In the meantime, we celebrated well with homemade Sangria, a barbecue and lots of wonderful company to share in the good times! Some people swam, we all ate and had lots of laughs and drinks!! He said it was a wonderful birthday!

On the Fourth of July we started the day in good old fashioned American style by going blueberry picking in Indiana.

It was really, really hot so we didn't stay long. We usually pick about $40 worth of blueberries and this year I think we spent $6. LOL...Jack and I made a pact that we WILL go back again before the end of the season! We love blueberries and like to freeze them so we can enjoy them year round.

Finally, we spent the afternoon/evening of the fourth at a family barbecue. We spent some time at the park district's fabulous party and enjoyed the fireworks under the stars! (It's an annual tradition!)

What a great way to celebrate our country's independence and freedom! Happy July!!!

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Another grilling tip

This is one of my favorite simple and easy side dishes in the summer. Whether we are having grilled hot dogs, hamburgers, steaks, pork or chicken, this will go wonderfully.

Peel and slice two sweet potatoes (I also use regular potatoes when I don't have sweet on hand) into french fry sized strips. I like to also add some chopped sweet onion. You might also want to add some bell pepper strips.  Place them on a square piece of aluminum foil.  Drizzle with olive oil, salt and pepper.  Fold up the aluminum foil so that it is in a nice tight pouch.  Place over indirect heat (like the top rack) of your grill or off to the side, away from the flame for about 15-20 minutes, turning often.

It's difficult to give an exact time for this. You'll have to experiment with your own grill because temperatures vary greatly from grill to grill. I have found 15 minutes works well for my grill and I turn the pouches often.  A few times I've over cooked them and the potatoes got mushy, but were still very tasty!  I'd rather have them overcooked than raw, I suppose.

Experiment with other veggies too! Zucchini and Squash are super yummy grilled and you don't have to worry about messy clean up!

Friday, July 1, 2011

Lemon Basil Chicken and Steak Kabobs

A few days ago I told you about my super easy lemon basil marinade.  Well, here is another idea about how to use it. I took two gallon size ziploc bags.  In one bag I put a pound of steak and a half pound of chicken and added the marinade (olive oil, lemon basil, squeeze of lemon, salt and pepper). I added the marinade to the other bag along with some onion, green peppers and mushrooms.  I zipped the bags, shook them up and left them in the fridge for three hours.  Then I took them out, skewered everything onto some metal skewers. I like to keep the meats on seperate skewers. They tend to need more time than the veggies, and it's probably safer to not mix raw veggies with raw meats. I grilled them all over low heat for about 15 minutes, turning often.

I served the finished product over some couscous with a side salad. It is a refreshing, lemony, summer meal!


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