Sunday, March 29, 2015

Perfectly Simple Egg Salad {+ a bonus recipe-How to Boil the Perfect Egg!}

It is almost Easter and time to decorate those Easter eggs. I don't know about your kids, but mine require at least a dozen eggs each to color.  And who am I kidding I love to decorate them too! But who is going to eat 2-3 dozen hard boiled eggs? Not me...

Well, here is my idea.... egg salad. Yep. It sounds simple-but that is the point. A simply delicious venue for all of those beautifully colored eggs.

Listen-it is absolutely delicious and you can serve it for just about anything, even as an appetizer or snack.

Every Easter Sunday we go to my Aunt Mary's house. She makes the best egg salad and serves it as an appetizer, it is truly so delicious and the best part?  It is super easy. I am lucky enough to have the recipe (thanks Aunt Mary!).

Hosting Easter or need something to bring to your gathering somewhere else? Give this a try. Or, save it all for yourself and make the perfect egg salad sandwich to enjoy.

It is your lucky day, because I am actually giving you two recipes in one here. The first one will come in handy this time of year while you are boiling zillions of eggs to decorate. The second is for that egg salad I have been talking to you so much about (see above if you forgot!).

This first one here is my recipe for the perfect hard boiled egg. Not a spec of green in sight. The green around the yolk is ok to eat, I just prefer it not be there.


Directions for Perfect Hard Boiled Eggs

Place eggs in pot and cover eggs with cold water. Place the lid on the pot, put in stove and bring to a boil. Once the water comes to a boil, remove pot from heat and let the eggs sit covered for 10 minutes. Once the 10 minutes are over, drain the eggs and run them under cold water until cool enough to handle. At this point you can eat the eggs, use them for your recipe or put them in the fridge. You should use these eggs within 5 days.

Egg Salad Recipe

6 hard boiled eggs
3-4 tablespoons of mayo
2 tablespoons of minced onion ( I usually do this in a food processor)
1 tablespoon of minced celery (in food processor)
1/4 teaspoon of freshly ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon of salt

First chop hard boiled eggs. Then mix in the rest of the ingredients.
If you would like a smoother egg salad, just mash up the eggs instead of chopping.
Serve with small pieces of toast or crackers.  This recipe serves about 4 people as an appetizer.

Happy Easter!

Friday, March 27, 2015

Rosemary Cheddar Au Gratin Potatoes

Are you ready for the best Easter side dish you have ever had in your life?

Yes? Then please proceed because you are just about to read all about it.

I am a huge potato fan. Like, an obsessed fan.  Like an "I can eat potatoes every day for every meal" type of fan.

Crazy huh?

The funny thing, I wasn't always like that. When I was pregnant with my first child, I went through that stage where every food you thought you liked turned you off and cravings of oranges, white flour bread and pasta, and, most of all, POTATOES, took over my life!

Fried, roasted, mashed, baked...give them to me in any preparation and I was all over it. Like my pregnancy hatred of onions and garlic, I thought it would subside over time after I had my baby.

Here I am. Ten years later. Still in love with potatoes.

So, of course, when someone gave me this recipe a few years back, it made our rotation more than it should have due to its very decadent nature. It was actually sent to me in one of those recipe chain letters. Did you ever do one of those? I hate chain letters in general, especially as an adult. I mean, it feels weird to take part in something like that as an adult, let's be honest! Anyways, because this was a recipe one, it intrigued me. I was promised something like 48 recipes from people! How could I say no?

I received one. One recipe. O-N-E.

Well, the light at the end of that tunnel was that it was seriously the best recipe in the world with one of my favorite ingredients. Did you guess potatoes? If so, I now know you pay attention to what I write! Thank you!

This recipe soon fell off of my meal rotation because it is so decadent, it truly deserves a place at a holiday table. I am not a fan of ham, but it goes perfectly with a baked ham or roast chicken dinner. It would be great for Thanksgiving as well in the place of the traditional mashed potatoes.

Leftovers? Toss with ham and broccoli for another meal ready to go! Serve with eggs for a cheesy egg dish. Toss in some thawed, frozen peas and cooked crumbled bacon for a twist on the side dish.

You can make this in a large casserole dish, or in small little ramekins. Whatever floats your boat works for this versatile dish that is sure to please!

Hope you enjoy it as much as I do!

Rosemary Cheddar Au Gratin Potatoes

Butter, for baking dish
4 lbs of Yukon Gold Potatoes, peeled, sliced very thin
2 large shallots, sliced thin
2 tbsp fresh rosemary, chopped
2 cups heavy cream
2 tsp salt
1 tsp black pepper
3 cups freshly grated cheddar cheese

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a medium bowl, whisk together cream, shallots, rosemary, salt and pepper. In a single layer in a buttered 13x9 baking dish, arrange potato slices. Sprinkle 1 1/2 cups shredded cheese over top. Layer with another layer of potatoes. Pour cream mixture over the top. Cover with foil. Bake for 1 hour, covered. Remove foil and sprinkle with remaining cheese. Bake for 40 minutes more until cheese is melted and potatoes are tender. If you like it extra browned on top, put under the broiler for 3-5 minutes before taking it out of the oven. Remove from oven and let sit for five minutes before serving.

Your dish will look like this picture very soon after serving. This is what it looks like when the kids love dinner.  Oh, there were other things to eat too. This took top billing, as you can see from the remains! This makes a lot though, so we still had plenty of leftovers! 

What is your favorite side dish for Easter? 
Let me know in the comments!

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Easter Yard Signs {Pottery Barn Hack!}

I am a lover of Pottery Barn and Pottery Barn Kids, but a lot of the time, not a lover of their prices. A couple years back my sister-in-law saw these adorable Easter signs (sorry the originals are no longer on the Pottery Barn kids website)...and then she saw the price! If my memory serves right, they were around $40 per sign.


But have no fear! We can make them and for about $5 per yard sign, less if you already have the paint. They are an adorable way to get your yard ready for Easter and can be personalized easily for you and your family. 

Here is what you'll need:

-Wood: I bought one 3/4"x9"x8' board (you'll need more or less depending on how many signs you are making)  For the taller signs I cut the boards to 13" so the signs ended up being 9"x13". The wider pink chick sign was made from a piece of scrap wood I had lying around and is 12"x13"

-Paint and paint brushes: I used both spray paint (Rust-oleum American Accents) and acrylic/craft paint for the actual design

-Chosen design picture printed off or traced/drawn on a paper: Here's the fun part. I looked all over the internet for cute Easter ideas. For Crew's sign I used an Easter Basket from clipart. For Ryder's I found a picture of Peter Rabbit that I adored. You get the idea, find something you love and use it!

-A pen and some tape to transfer the image to your wood

-Polyacrylic clear coat spray

-Garden stakes or larger paint stirring sticks. ( I bought a pack of garden stakes and my sister-in-law used paint sticks. The garden stakes are more heavy duty and can be found at your local hardware store.)

Now lets get crafting!

Step 1: Cut your wood or have the wood department at your local hardware store cut the wood to the desired length. Again my taller signs were 9"x13" and my wider sign was 12"x13". Sand the edges if necessary.

Step 2: Paint your sign(s). I used spray paint to paint the base of each of my signs but craft paint would work just as well.

Step 3: While your sign is drying, print of the image you would like to paint on your sign. Clip art  is a good source to find some cute easy designs. Simplicity is actually quite chic.

Step 4: Place your paper on top of your wood and tape it in place. You don't want it moving while you are making your indentations. Grab your pen and with moderate pressure trace along the lines of your image. this will create a faint indention on your wood allowing you to then "color inside the lines". Repeat this step with any words/names to personalize your signs  If you don't like this method you could use transfer paper or simply freehand the image.

Just a regular ball point pen works great for making the indentations

Can you see the little indentations? Now you just paint inside the lines and add as much or as little detail as you want.

If your house is like my house and you don't always get the crafting done during naptime, the kiddos always want to be involved too!

The finished product. 

Step 5: Spray your sign with a protective clear coat. This sign is going to be outside in the elements so make sure you spray it with a clear coat of polyacrylic. You don't want April showers washing away all of that hard work.

Step 6: Screw or nail the garden stake to your sign. Make sure you don't go crazy with the screwdriver. You don't want to split your sign in half. Now stake that adorable sign in your yard and enjoy a Happy Easter.

Here are all the signs we have made together, one for each of our kiddos and a couple extra for fun.

 I can't wait to see what you'll come up with!

Do you have a fun craft planned for Easter? Please share in the comments below!

Friday, March 20, 2015

Baked Ziti

My children happen to be picky eaters (not fun for me!) and there are very few things they all like.  So when I need a no fuss, no meltdown night, our meal usually includes some sort of pasta. My children love spaghetti and anything even remotely close to it, so this recipe is always a hit.

The best part?  Adults love it too!

This can be prepared early in the day for less stress later, and freezes beautifully.

Not a meat eater? This recipe easily adapts to vegetarian and tastes great even without the meat.

I am sure this will become a family favorite in your home too. And then, you will  thank me for that very rare, meltdown free dinner time with your family.

You're welcome!

Baked Ziti

1 lb. ground beef,  ground turkey, or Italian sausage - (sometimes I use a combination of beef and sausage) - omit if making the vegetarian version
1 medium onion, chopped, only if using meat version
1 pound part skim ricotta or1% cottage cheese, small curd
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
3 ounces grated parmesan cheese, 1 1/2 cups
1 pound ziti or similar pasta like penne
2 tablespoons olive oil
5 medium garlic cloves, finely minced, about 5 teaspoons
1 (28 ounce) can tomato sauce
1 (14.5) can diced tomatoes
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 tablespoon dried basil
1 teaspoon honey (or sugar)
salt and pepper to taste
1 teaspoon cornstarch
1 cup heavy cream or whole milk ( if using whole milk instead of cream increase cornstarch to 2 teaspoons and the cooking time by 1-2 minutes)
8-12 ounces grated mozzarella cheese

1. Place oven rack in the middle of oven at 350 degrees. If using ground beef or turkey cook in skillet with the chopped onion and 1/2 tsp salt. Set aside.

2. Whisk ricotta or cottage cheese, eggs, and 1 cup of parmesan cheese together and set aside.  Bring 4 quarts of water to boil in large pot. Stir in 2 teaspoons salt and pasta; stir occasionally and cook until pasta begins to soften but not cooked all the way through, approx. 7 minutes. Drain pasta and leave in colander. The pasta will finish cooking in the oven. Set pot aside to use later.

3. While pasta is cooking, heat oil and garlic in a large skillet over medium heat until garlic is fragrant but not browned, approx. 2 minutes.  Stir in tomato sauce, diced tomoatoes, honey, basil and oregano. Simmer until thickened, about 10 minutes, Take off heat and salt and pepper to taste.

4. Mix cornstarch into heavy cream and transfer to the empty pot the pasta cooked in.  Set the pot over medium heat, bring to a simmer and cook until thickened, approx. 3-4 minutes.  Remove pot from heat and add cottage cheese mixture, 1 cup of the simmered tomato sauce, and half the mozzarella cheese, then stir to combine.  (If using meat  add at this time) Add pasta and stir until pasta is thoroughly coated.

5.  To transfer mixture to a 9x13 inch baking dish  pour half the mixture in dish and half the remaining tomato sauce and mozzarella cheese, then repeat. Sprinkle the remaining mozzarella and parmesan cheese over the top. Cover the dish with foil that has been lightly sprayed with cooking spray and bake for 30 minutes.

6. Remove foil and continue cooking until cheese is browning and bubbling. Approx. 30 minutes more.  Remove from oven and cool for 10 minutes before serving.

*This can also be divided into two 8X8 baking dishes.  I like to do this and freeze one to either have another time or to bring to another family*


Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Rosemary + Garlic Scented Popcorn with Parmesan

I love popcorn.

Not the kind that comes in microwave packages. (Don't eat that!) I don't really care for the kind in bags at the grocery store either. It is just...missing something. I prefer to make mine on the stove. Popcorn seeds with a little bit of oil and salt is all you really need, and you have an amazingly delicious snack. It's so easy.

What's better than THIS popcorn? The popcorn recipe that I am about to share. It is pretty much my classic popcorn recipe, but trashed up with a bunch of delicious other things that I love.

This particular popcorn recipe takes just a little prep and time, but is requested a lot around here. It is pretty much a staple at our book club meetings, and is a fabulous addition to any movie night or party.

Who am I kidding? It is also great to make when you are home watching a movie, alone, and you are hungry.

It really is addicting, so you may thank me, or you may hate me for passing this along. Regardless, it is worth tucking away.

I love recipes like this. The recipes that are so easy, but seem like you discovered some amazing technique to make something THIS delicious.

Make sure you read through the recipe. The Rosemary Garlic Oil should sit at least two days. I keep a bottle around at all times. It is perfect to use for this popcorn or for marinating fish and chicken. It is also delicious drizzled over grilled vegetables or for roasting potatoes.

Rosemary Garlic Oil

1 cup canola oil
1/2 cup olive oil (do NOT use extra virgin)
3-4 sprigs of fresh rosemary
6 garlic cloves, peeled

Combine all ingredients in a large glass jar. Seal tightly and keep at room temperature for at least 48 hours.

Rosemary + Garlic Scented Popcorn with Parmesan

3/4 cup rosemary garlic oil (only the oil--do not pour the rosemary sprigs or garlic into the pot)
1/2 cup popcorn seeds
popcorn salt
freshly grated parmagiano-reggiano cheese

Heat oil in a heavy duty saucepan with a lid. Add seeds. Seeds should be covered lightly in oil. Add another teaspoon or so of oil if that is not the case. Sprinkle lightly with salt. Cover pot tightly with lid and let it heat. Once you hear the first kernel pop, using oven mitts, start shaking the pot over the fire to toss the popcorn around. Keep doing that until you hear the popping slow down. Once popping has slowed to one or two pops, turn off flame. Keep it covered until you are sure that popping has ceased. Remove the lid, pour popcorn into bowl. Sprinkle parmesan over hot popcorn. Sprinkle with more salt if desired.