Thursday, July 28, 2011

Corn salsa a.k.a Cowboy Caviar

This is my go-to pantry appetizer. I love it because I always have the supplies on hand and I can whip it up in a matter of minutes and everybody loves it with some crunchy corn chips...or even by the spoonful! I've even been known to take a gallon of it to the church coffee hour and return home with an empty bowl...and I never even got a bite of it!

Corn Salsa
1/2 bag frozen corn...I like the tender and sweet white and yellow mixed variety
1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
1/2 red onion, chopped
1/2 red onion, chopped
1 jalapeno pepper, minced
1 avocado, diced
1 lime
cilantro
1 tsp chili pepper
1 tsp cumin
salt

Mix everything together in a large bowl. Stir to combine. Add more seasoning, depending on your taste. Try to make ahead at least 2 hours so the flavors have time to develop. This will easily keep for a few days in the refrigerator.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Carnitas

These carnitas are so easy and super delicious! This makes the best party food...it basically cooks itself and everyone can assemble their own tacos. I usually set it up buffet style and have a "taco bar" set up with all sorts of toppings from guac to sour cream, pickled jalapenos, and fresh cilantro. It is always a crowd pleaser!

Carnitas
One 4-5 pound Boston Butt (bone-in pork shoulder)
salt and pepper
3-4 cups water or chicken broth
2 onions
1 T dried oregano
1 t cumin
1 teaspoon smoked paprika

Heat a large heavy, oven safe pot on medium heat. Add onions to bottom of pan. Coat meat with salt and pepper and place on top of onions. Add liquid and stir in remaining seasonings. Bring to a boil and then transfer to a 350 degree oven for about 4 hours or until tender.
Remove pot and transfer meat to a large sheet pan. Discard any fat or pieces of bone and break up meat to managible chunks. Return to pot and cook over medium heat, stirring until meat is broken up and liquid is evaporated.
Serve with warm tortillas and toppings of your choice!

Friday, July 22, 2011

Candy Bar Trifle

This dessert has been a family favorite for years and years. I've made so many variations of it over the years and it is always a favorite wherever I take it. Really, who wouldn't like all of that chocolate?? It is also the simplest dessert I know of, but it looks party-worthy when you bring it to the table.
Our exchange student enjoyed making these with me.
It makes for the perfect dessert to make with your kids. With simple ingredients like a boxed cake mix, instant pudding, whipped cream, and candy bars the kids can easily assemble everything themselves.
You can let them fancy it up and decorate it with shaved chocolate, fruit, a drizzle of chocolate, or throw on lots and lots of candy bar chunks. They will surely have fun making it and eating it!1 boxed cake mix, baked and cooled
2 boxes instant chocolate pudding, made per box directions
1 large tub cool whip
3-4 large candy bars of your choice (our favorites are reese's peanut butter cups, snickers, heath, and butterfinger)
Cut cake into 1 inch pieces. Layer them in your bowl or cup. Spread enough pudding on to make a thick layer. Spread an equal amount of cool whip on top. Make sure you spread it out carefully so as not to let the pudding show through. Sprinkle with cut-up chunks of candy bar. Put a little more than you might think, it is the best part and adds a lot of texture to an otherwise soft dessert. Repeat as necessary.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Flower Cupcakes - Fun in the Kitchen

There is nothing my kids love more than doing something funky with a cupcake! So when we got this new cookbook they went nuts over it. Everyday they would pull it off the shelf and drool over all of the wonderful pictures and creations. We were just waiting for the right occasion to attempt a batch of these yummy cupcakes.
So, we finally made these fun cupcakes for my mother-in-law's birthday. The kids thought that placing 44 pieces of colored marshmallow on one cupcake was too much fun. I won't lie, this one is a bit time consuming, but easy...really!
This recipe is simple enough...we doctored up a cake mix and used canned frosting. This time it was all about the decorations!

1 box cake mix
1 cup buttermilk - use in place of the water
Vegetable oil - same as listed on box
4 eggs

Mix and bake according to box instructions.

1 cup canned white frosting
1 bag mini-marshmallows
decorating sugar

Frost cooled cupcakes with vanilla frosting. Use kitchen shears to cut 22 mini-marshmallows on a diagonal. Dip the cut side of each marshmallow into the colored decorating sugar. Start on the outer edge of the cupcake and place the marshmallows sugar side up, close enough together to touch. Repeat for 2 more rows with the same color petals. Repeat for all of the remaining cupcakes.

Thursday, July 07, 2011

American Flag Cake

We hope you had a happy Fourth of July! We had a wonderful holiday with family and friends and were lucky enough to celebrate multiple times over the long weekend. We are currently hosting a foreign exchange student from Spain for the month and we are trying to fit in as much "American" culture as possible. She came just at the right time!We've eaten hot dogs, burgers, fries, potato salad, marshmallows, watermelon and more. We've also attended a birthday party, 2 t-ball games, played beach volleyball, watched fireworks, went to a carnival, sprayed each other with the hose, went to Target, picked raspberries, went to a farm, went fishing, and made a big batch of chocolate chip cookies...all in 6 days. That is a lot of "America." Last week we made this flag cake to take to the exchange student "Welcome Party." I thought this was the perfect occasion for this American-style cake. It is definitely a cake you want to make when serving a crowd since it is about the size of a football field! This is also a project to do with the kids. The 3 kids, ages 3, 5, and 14, loved helping me decorate this monster cake. I thought it turned out pretty good for having so much "help!"Flag Cake
adapted from Barefoot Contessa Family Style by Ina Garten


18 Tablespoons butter at room temperature
2 1/2 cups sugar (I reduced this from the 3 she listed)
6 eggs
1 cup sour cream
1 1/2 t vanilla
3 cups all-purpose flour
1/3 cup cornstarch
1 t salt
1 t baking soda

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Spray a full sheet pan with cooking spray. Cream the butter and sugar in your mixer with a paddle attachment on high speed. On medium speed, add the eggs one at a time and then the sour cream. Sift the dry ingedients together and add them on low speed. Mix until just incorporated. Spread into prepared pan and bake 20-30 minutes or until toothpick comes out of center clean.

Frosting
4 sticks butter, room temperature
1 1/2 lbs. cream cheese
1 lb confectioners' sugar, plus more
1 1/2 t vanilla

Mix all ingredients with an electric mixer until smooth and creamy. Add additional powdered sugar if frosting seems too thin.

Spread a thin layer of frosting over the entire cake. Then use a toothpick to draw a flag design on the cake. Place blueberries in the top corner and then place two rows of raspberries near the top. Pipe two rows of icing, using a large star tip. Repeat for remaining cake. Pipe stars on top of blueberries to finish off the cake.

Friday, July 01, 2011

Kitchen Renovation Reveal

Ok, so I am waaaayyy behind schedule...but that is life. I took a longer-than-planned hiatus, but it was much needed. The actual renovation was finished right on schedule, but it led to so many other small projects. Now my entire home is clean, organized, and refreshed. I love it! So, now I'm ready to share it with you! Here we go, get ready for some eye candy!This first pic is the view from the living room. To the left is the kitchen sink and the door in the middle-left leads to the garage. The second pic is the view when walking in from the front door. The layout of the cabinetry is similar to before but so much better! Everything fits the space and utilizes every square inch. We added so much overhead and under cabinet lighting which makes the kitchen feel bright, clean, and fresh!Now I've walked into the kitchen and I'm facing the backyard. I have always liked our big window...but it looks so much better with the light's built in above and framing it with cabinetry made such a big difference.
Another angle from the living room. We decided to extend the island and eliminate the kitchen table. Everyone gathers around the island and everything flows much better than before.
This is the view when walking in from the back deck. The island has a bookshelf on the far end, a wine/beverage cooler (which is pretty awesome!!!), a pull out with trash and recycle bins, and an angled cabinet.
Another view with the angle on the island showing. Here you can see the refinished floors. We left the existing wood in the kitchen and then replaced all of the carpeting on the main level with new wood. You cannot tell the old from the new...and the darker finish is so beautiful.Walking in from the garage. Now I have a place for all of my cookbooks!Entertaining is especially enjoyable with a the new beverage cooler. Kids and adults love it and I love having everything ready and accessible.
This wall turned out to be super functional. We closed the doorway between the dining room and kitchen and replaced it with the microwave wall. We designed extra deep cabinets to give the fridge a built-in look and I added the desk area for peace of mind and organization. I had doubts about this area during the build...I was worried I wasted space, but it turns out to be the perfect addition. The deep drawers add so much needed space for paperwork that always seems to land on the kitchen counters. We put an outlet in the cabinet so we could charge phones, ipods, etc. but keep them out of view.
The new dishwasher is so quiet...I'm in love with that. It also fits so much more stuff, the dishes actually come out clean, and dry! I love the corner cabinets that we designed with deep corner shelves rather than a lazy susan...I've never liked those. I decided to put granite in the window sill as well...I think it looks so much nicer than the drywall ledge before. I couldn't sleep the night before this granite went in because I was so nervous. Once the first piece was installed I was instantly relieved. We love, love, love it!
We have a few extra features in the kitchen and my last minute addition was this pot filler. I knew I wanted it from day one but I felt guilty adding to the budget...in the end I went online and ordered a faucet and had it delivered a week before the project started. I love it. I know it isn't hard to fill my pots with the faucet five feet away, but it is nice to have the ability to fill them on the stove!!  It also adds interest to the big space above the range.

The organizational aspects of the kitchen are incredible. Everything has a place and looks stylish at the same time. We did pull outs for every cabinet and soft close drawers.

I got a few baskets and I was able to stash tons of stuff in them. It helps to be able to pull out the whole bin off of the high shelves rather than having to use a stool all of the time.

I can't believe that this project I having been dreaming about for years is actually complete. I'm also thrilled and relieved that everything turned out even better than I had imagined. I had my doubts along the way, but I am happy with every finish, knob, and tile we chose. It definitely took a lot of planning, sweat, tears, and driving all over town for months looking at samples, but it was all worth it. We are blessed.

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