April 28, 2013

Simple Spinach and Parmesan Pasta

What an easy yet flavorful meal for a quick weeknight dinner.  If only everything that cooked in 15 minutes tasted so good!  Thanks to Naturally Ella for this one.

  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 sprigs thyme
  • 1/2 bag baby spinach (I get the 6-oz bags)
  • 3 ounces (2 servings) pasta (I love it with spaghetti)
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  1. Bring a pot of generously salted water to a boil.  Add pasta and cook according to package instructions.  
  2. While pasta is cooking, melt butter in a saucepan over medium-low heat.  Add garlic and saute for 1 minute, then add thyme and saute another minute.  Stir in spinach and cook until wilted, 2-3 minutes.  Remove from  heat and set aside until pasta is done.
  3. Drain pasta and toss with the spinach mixture.  Stir in Parmesan.
  4. Serve with extra Parmesan and thyme on top.

April 27, 2013

Bacon Grilled Cheese

There really isn't much to say about this.  Indulgence is excellent sometimes.

Cook bacon.  Make grilled cheese in the same pan.  Stick bacon inside grilled cheese sandwich.  Devour.

Brussels Sprouts Breakfast Hash

How Sweet It Is is taking over my weekly dinner menu, as well as the sweets recipe book for pot lucks, bake sales, etc.  This latest meal was right up my alley, and so chock full of vegetables hidden by delicious bacon-ness I refuse to feel guilty about eating it.  This would be a fantastic vegetarian dish swapped out with some Morningstar bacon.
And it's totally fine to make this for dinner.  Doesn't even feel like a cop out like when all I have energy for is pancakes for dinner.  This is legit.  :)

  • 4 slices thick-cut bacon, chopped
  • 1/2 red onion, diced
  • 1 sweet potato, peeled and cut into 1/2 inch cubes
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 10-12 Brussels sprouts, stems removed and sliced
  • 3-4 large eggs (one per serving)
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  1. Heat a large skillet over medium heat and add bacon.  Cook until crispy, remove with a slotted spoon, and drain on a paper towel.
  2. Reduce the heat a little and saute the onion and sweet potato in the bacon fat.  Cook until the sweet potato has softened, about 6-8 minutes.  Stir in the garlic and cook for 30 seconds.
  3. Add sliced Brussels sprouts, stirring to combine well.  Cook until soft and have that caramel fragrance (5-10 minutes).  Prepare eggs as desired while sprouts are cooking.  Serve with toast for extra comforty goodness.
Look at all that awesome stuff going on.  Veggie hash, the eggs, and bacon in its lil bowl off to the side.  MMM.

April 17, 2013

Teriyaki Chicken Kabobs

I honestly don't remember how I came across this recipe.  I think I may have had it on a calendar, and then tracked down the recipe online.  Either way, this recipe has been good to me, and is so super simple.  Betty Crocker makes it easier on you with canned pineapple chunks, but I like the real deal fresh stuff.  And more of everything.  But it's essentially the same recipe.

  • 2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 1-2 red bell peppers, cut into 1-inch pieces (I always wish I'd opted for 2 when I just have 1 on hand)
  • 1-2 cups of pineapple chunks, either from a can or cut fresh
  • 1 cup Teriyaki sauce
  • Marinate chicken in Teriyaki sauce for 30 minutes in refrigerator.  
  • Heat grill to medium-high if using gas, or just pile on the briquettes for charcoal. 
  • Discard marinade, and skewer chicken, peppers, and pineapples.  I prefer metal skewers.
  • Cook about 4 minutes per side with the grill cover closed.  Serve when chicken is cooked through.

You'll get 2 servings out of this, and it's so easy to bump up the portions.  I'd say 1 1/2 skewers with a side salad is enough for an adult serving; 1 skewer for a kid.  And seriously, my son devours these kabobs.  Mister fickle picky eater himself is a fanatic for grill food.  Never mind how healthy this meal is for him- he polished off two servings.

April 13, 2013

Fruit Salad with Honey Lime Dressing

Let's talk about easy and tasty for a minute.  Now, fruit salad on its own is a tasty and simple mash up of fresh, good-for-you things, but add on just a bit of something extra and wow.  That's what the honey and lime do with this one!  So give it a try as the weather warms up, and see if you're not converted.

  • 1 1/2 bunches of grapes (about 2 cups)
  • 1 pint container of strawberries
  • 1 pint container of blueberries
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • Juice from 2 limes
  1. Rinse all of the fruit.  Place the grapes and blueberries in a mixing bowl.  Hull the strawberries (removing the white middle), cut into quarters (or even eighths if you have jumbo strawberries like I did), and add to the bowl.
  2. Spray a measuring cup with Pam, and measure out the honey.  The Pam will make the honey slide right off of the cup, rather than being uncooperative.  Pour honey onto the fruit.  Add the lime juice.
  3. Gently stir until the fruit is evenly coated with the honey lime dressing.  Refrigerate until ready to serve (preferably the same day).
Seriously- look how gorgeous this is!

April 7, 2013

Repainting With Moroccan Stencil Accent Wall

I'm a big believer in slowly upgrading your house room by room over time.  When we first moved in, one thing I was excited to do right away was paint a scrolling stencil on the dining room wall.  It made the house feel personal and cozy right away, and I loved it for years.

Over time, though, the mustardy colored walls in the front hall and dining room started to get to me, and I decided it was time to go for something more modern.  

Bleh after 4 years.

Now, everyone loves a good before and after setup! Here we have old...

...and pretty new grey!  Gillen Shaved Ice, to be exact.


...turned nice and bright!  This pic shows the bit of blue tint to the grey.

And now for the new accent wall.  Ahhh.  Many little tubes of white paint later and this is what I have.

Now, some stencil tips from my many hours of handiwork here.
  • When painting over an old stencil, sand the old pattern down with a fine grit sand paper.  You aren't sanding to obliterate the old pattern; just to even out any raised edges or buildup from the old design.  If you skip this step or get lazy with it, you'll see the old pattern when you paint over it.
  • You don't need to use spray adhesive on the stencil!  Just use painters tape on each corner of your stencil to hold it nicely in place.
  • A small sponge roller is your best friend.  I got mine at home depot years ago, and it worked much better than the Martha Stewart one I got at Michaels.
  • Use a light coat of paint on each pass, and paint several coats.
  • I used about 16 oz of paint for this pattern on a 9' wall.  Buy a ton of paint up front, instead of making constant Michaels runs because they only had a couple bottles of the specific brand and shade of white I was using at a time.  I used the Folkart 2-oz bottles of Titanium White, and I really did love the paint.  It was a nice consistency, spread smoothly without splattering, and didn't smell bad.  I used Behr paint for the initial stencil, and while it was ok, it didn't have that thick consistency that really helped with the stenciling that the craft paint did.  So yes, I do vote to use the craft paint!

April 6, 2013

Coconut Macaroon Bird Nests

This sweet little treat has the best simplicity to wow factor ratio.  Minimal effort yields amazed smiles from your family, friends, coworkers, etc.  Can you tell I've been doing school work?  When do I ever say "yields" otherwise?!?  Anyhoo...  Adorable spring cookies await.  I can thank Pinterest for the nest idea, and Martha Stewart for my macaroon recipe, which I've already posted here.

I love how some of the eggs are speckled and adorable.

  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 2 1/2 cups unsweetened shredded coconut
  • 2 large egg whites
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • Pinch of salt
  • Nutella (about 1/4 jar)
  • Cadbury mini eggs or other egg candy (M&Ms are good, too)
  1. Preheat oven to 325°.  Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside.
  2. In a large bowl, combine ingredients.  Mix well.
  3. Dampen tablespoon with cold water.  Scoop a generous tablespoon (about 1 1/2 tablespoons) of coconut mixture and lightly tap onto the cookie sheet for mound to drop out.  Place cookies about 1 inch apart.  Moisten measuring spoon periodically so that coconut will continue to slide off of spoon instead of sticking.
  4. Using the bottom of a wooden spoon (or your finger), press down in the center of each macaroon to make a nest shape.
  5. Bake until macaroons are golden brown, 16-17 minutes, rotating halfway through.  Remove from oven, and press down in the center of each nest again (this is where the wooden spoon method is better than your fingers- hot!).
  6. Spoon about 1 teaspoon of nutella into the center of each macaroon.  Top with Cadbury mini eggs or other egg candy.  Let cool, and then store in an airtight container up to 3 days.

Seriously- so cute, and amazingly yum.  ESPECIALLY yum when still warm from the oven.

April 5, 2013

Mod Podge Notebook

It's a little late to say "It's a new year- time for a new notebook!" but I'm gonna do it anyway.  My old notebook at work got filled up, so it was time for a new one.  While I liked the size of my new handy dandy notebook, its color left a lot to be desired.  It was a free book from a tour of the printer my company uses for our books, and I have no earthly idea why someone would decide on baby poo yellowish brown as a color to use on marketing products.  Maybe it was a case of:

Person A: "We have a box of baby poo color for book covers- what in the world do we use these for?"
Person B: "I feel vomitous just looking at those.  I don't care what you do- just get them out of here."
Person A: "So just throw them away?"
Person B: "No, that would be wasteful.  Make them into something, but something that will eventually leave this building."

Anyway- I decided some Mod Podge and scrapbook paper would do the trick, and they didn't let me down.

Front cover

Back cover

Ta da!


  • Old, plain notebook
  • Matte Mod Podge (the yellow bottle)
  • Sponge brush
  • 2-3 sheets of scrapbook paper, or leftover scraps, for a 5x7 size notebook
  • Scissors
  1. Open up book and lay face down on scrap newspaper paper (this project gets messy).  Arrange your scrapbook paper in roughly the final arrangement you want to use.  Allow pieces to overlap, and definitely extend the paper beyond the edges of the book.  You'll fold them over and glue to the inside covers so that you have paper covering the edges for a nice, clean look.
  2. Set aside the scrapbook paper (trying to keep an eye to your arrangement of papers; maybe take a pic first?) so you're working on the plain book to start.
  3. Apply Mod Podge in a thin layer to front cover of book.  Lay down first layer of scrapbook paper, then apply another layer of Mod Podge.  While your paper can extend over the edges and spine of the book, don't worry about getting those parts right just yet.  Keep applying Mod Podge and scrapbook paper layers until front of book is covered.  Let dry.
  4. Close your book, then apply a thin layer of Mod Podge to the spine.  If you leave it propped open (like I did) your cover won't want to stay closed after the Mod Podge has dried and tightened things up.  Press down scrapbook paper over the spine (the parts extending from the front cover) and apply more as needed to cover any gaps.  Let dry.
  5. Flip book over so that the bare, back of the book of the facing up.  Repeat with the layers of Mod Podge and scrapbook paper until covered.  Keep in mind you're going to have pieces of paper extending beyond all of the edges and looking crazy.  Let dry.
  6. Trim scrapbook paper around all of the edges of the book, leaving 1-2" extra.  That's the allowance for you to fold the excess paper over the edges and glue to the inside cover.
  7. Make a diagonal cut in the scrapbook paper at each corner of the front and back cover.  This way you can fold over the bottom/top and side pieces tightly.  In fact, your original book cover may have done the same, and you can see how it lays flat.  Also cut slits down the paper sticking out from the spine, so that you can fold the top and bottom pieces nicely against the inside covers.  Trim the excess from the spine; there is no way to fold that over and glue it cleanly.
  8. Mod Podge the edges of the inside cover, fold over scrapbook paper excess, and coat again with Mod Podge.  You'll need to smooth these pieces with your fingers so they stay put nicely.  Repeat with the back cover.