Monday, July 23, 2012

Surprise....

I have just returned from a surprise trip back to Massachusetts.  And I had a fantastic time!

My parents have a few pool parties every year and they had one scheduled last week for my dad's side of the family.  I usually help my mom with all the food and serving and cleaning, I guess everything.  This was going to be the first one that I would miss and I was really sad.  Especially because it was a family party.  Well, I was sad until Mr. Lucky booked me a plane ticket.  It was a one way ticket, in the hopes that my mom would send me back.  It was a big risk. 

I told no one that I was coming home except for Chelle.  Someone had to pick me up at the airport and I knew she could keep a secret.  She was so excited, almost as much as me. 

I could not wait to surprise my mom when I arrived on the morning of the party.  She literally screamed when she saw me.  She was so happy I was there!  It was great to see the family.

Here are some pictures:

My Nephew Aedan

Aedan & his daddy, my brother Jamie

My Dad

My great-aunts Lois & Marie

My cousins Jessie & Sara

Dad & his sisters Janet & Alicia

A bunch of Murphys

Lois & the newest Murphy, Oliver

My beautiful Aunt Alicia

4 generations

We had such a wonderful time.  The rest of the week I was home was great too.  I am so glad I was able to be home.  And as you probably already figured out, mom sent me home.  She didn't want to but since I will be back in about 6 weeks for a wedding she agreed.

Talk with you soon!

Friday, July 13, 2012

Inspirational Woman....

My beautiful Nana! (Sorry, it's a picture of a picture)
 Today would have been my Nana Lorraine's 84th birthday.  Sh passed away when I was 15 and I still miss her a lot.  Until I was 13 we lived right next door to her and my grandfather.  I was at their house constantly!  She did everything with us including trick or treating.  She was so much fun!

Nana as a clown.  (Another picture of a picture)
Nana was my first inspiration in the kitchen.  She was an amazing cook.  Her holidays were something to behold! She'd put a whole turkey dinner on the table for lunch and then later she'd put a whole roast beef dinner out.  Can you even imagine?   I can barely get one on the table.

I have so many memories of sitting at her table snapping green beans for summer dinners.  I think half the reason I like green beans so much is those memories. 

Happy Birthday Nana!  I love you!


Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Gadgets....

I am a cooking gadget freak.  I have tons of these things in my kitchen drawers and cabinets.  Garlic presses, zesters, knife sharpeners, food processors, bread maker, I could go on and on.

The bread machine is my current favorite.  I hadn't used it in quite awhile but dug it out the other day.  I am so glad I did.  There is nothing like the smell of bread baking in the house.  Yum!  I decided to make a country white bread.

Here is the recipe:

This recipe is from the cookbook that came with my Sunbeam bread maker.  I am pretty sure, but not 100%, it will work with other types of bread makers.

1 cup warm milk (110 - 115 degrees)
1 1/2 Tbsp butter or margarine
1 large egg
1 1/2 tsp salt
4 cups bread flour
1 1/2 Tbsp sugar
2 tsp active dry yeast

Measure and add liquid ingredients to the bread pan.  Measure and add dry ingredients (except yeast) to the bread pan.  Use your finger to form a well (hole) in the flour where you will pour the yeast.  Yeast must NEVER come into contact with a liquid when you are adding ingredients.  Measure the yeast and carefully pour it into the well.

The rest of the recipe is specific to my machine so I will skip it.  It is really just pressing buttons and letting it do it's thing.

This bread was just ok, it wasn't great but it wasn't awful either.  Mr. Lucky and I definitely ate a good amount of the loaf.  He's a carb fanatic like me.  We were meant to be together.  I am hoping to make some cinnamon raisin bread this week.  Hopefully, I will remember my camera for that one! 

Talk with you soon!

Sunday, July 8, 2012

And called it Macaroni....

The last recipe I made for the 4th of July party was a macaroni salad.  I created this recipe a few years ago for one of my Dad's pool parties.  I was usually in charge of the non-grill cooking and wanted a yummy but easy macaroni salad.  I also wanted it to be colorful so I added lots of veggies.

Here is the recipe:

2 boxes macaroni (or any short cut pasta like penne or rotini)
1 cucumber, peeled and chopped
1 yellow bell pepper, seeded and chopped
3-4 Roma tomatoes, seeded and chopped
1 small red onion, chopped
1 pkt Italian dressing mix
oil, vinegar and water (per the dressing pkt instructions)
salt & pepper to taste

Cook pasta per package instructions, drain and set aside in a large bowl.  Prepare the Italian dressing per the packet instructions and set aside.  Prepare and chop all the vegetables and put the into the bowl with the pasta, mix well.  Add the dressing to the salad and mix well, so everything is coated.  Add salt and pepper to taste. Serve chilled.

If you like more of a mayonnaise-y salad you can use the same dressing packet with a cup and a half of mayonnaise.  If you find it is too thick you can add a little milk or water to make it thinner.  Then mix it with the salad as with the dressing.

I sometimes add some Feta cheese to the salad too for a little extra flavor.  I bet some Parmesan would be good too if you aren't a fan of Feta.

This week I have a few things planned.  I think I'll keep them secret so you'll see them as I make them.

Talk with you soon!

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Gone in 60 seconds (more or less)....

The recipe for this taco dip came from my Aunt Janet.  I get a lot of my recipes and even more of my inspiration from her.  She is an amazing cook and a phenomenal woman.  I was named after her so she must be pretty awesome.  Thanks Jan!

Now for the recipe:

8 oz. sour cream
8 oz. cream cheese
1 lb. ground beef
1 pkt. taco seasoning mix
4 medium tomatoes, chopped (I use Romas)
1 cup black olives, sliced (I leave these out, I don't like olives!)
1 bunch scallions, chopped fine
8 oz. shredded Cheddar

Mix sour cream and cream cheese together.  Brown ground beef, drain and then add the taco seasoning.  Put 3/4 of the cream cheese mixture on bottom and sides of a pie plate.  Next, put a layer of hamburger, then layers of tomato, olive and scallions.  Put rest of the cream cheese mixture on top.  Cover with Cheddar cheese.  Bake for about 20 minutes at 350 degrees, until cheese is melted.  Serve with tortilla chips.

People absolutely love this dip.  It is kinda legendary with our family and friends.  I think that some of our friends only came over so they could have some.  Try it but I have to warn that you may become addicted, seriously! 

Talk with you soon!

Friday, July 6, 2012

Patriotic treats....

I haven't made anything interesting in about a week or so, until yesterday.  I think I made up for the whole week of no recipes in one day!  Mr. Lucky even helped.  I probably should have gotten a picture of that, it doesn't happen all that often. 

We were invited to a July 4th BBQ at one of Mr. Lucky's co-worker's houses.  I volunteered to make my (my Aunt Janet's) famous Taco Dip and a macaroni salad and I added a surprise "plate" at the last minute.  I also wanted to make some cupcakes for Mr. Lucky's people that had to work on the holiday.  A lot right?

All my ingredients!
Let's start with the cupcakes since that is really all I have pictures for.  So, not only is my photography shoddy but sometimes completely omitted.  I am making an effort to get better at remembering to take pictures but the quality may take awhile. 

Anyway, the cupcakes......

The cupcakes themselves were made from a white cake mix.  I added some vanilla and used whole eggs.  I didn't need it to be super white and what am I going to do with the left over egg yolks???  After the batter was mixed up I divided it into thirds and used food coloring to make one third red, one third blue and left the last third white.  See where I am going with this?


When the color was thoroughly mixed in I spooned it into the cupcake papers in the pans. It took me awhile to figure out what order I do the colors.  I finally decided on red on the bottom, white in the middle and blue on top. 

Forgot to take one with the blue on top.

Closer up, the white just spread across the top of the red.
The box of mix claims that you will get 24 cupcakes.  I have NEVER got 24 cupcakes out of one box. I got 18.  It might partly be because I fill them about 3/4 full but who knows. 

Here is how they looked once baked.

So cool!
Inside... love this!

I think these came out super cute.  I cannot wait to try this with other colors.  I think multicolored  cupcakes for a kids birthday party would be great!

The frosting recipe I used is really simple and can be halved or doubled very easily.  I hate fractions so when I can multiply or divide a recipe easily I am happy.

Here is the recipe:

1/2 cup solid vegetable shortening (Crisco)
1/2 cup butter, softened
1 tsp. Vanilla extract
2 Tbsp milk or water (you may need more or less depending on the consistency you are looking for)
1 lb. (4 cups) confectioner's sugar
Pinch of salt
2 drops Orange oil
2 drops Lemon oil (these oils are available at craft stores in the cake/candy aisles)

Cream shortening, butter, vanilla, milk, orange and lemon oils.  Add salt and sugar and mix on medium until all the ingredients have been thoroughly combined. 

I told you it was simple. You'll have to scrape down the sides of your bowl with  a rubber spatula once or twice to make sure everything is incorporated.   Make sure that when you add the sugar that you slowly bring the mixer up to speed so that you do not cover your kitchen.

To add a little more patriotic flair I used toothpicks to put some red and blue gel food coloring on the inside of my piping bag.  This made the frosting kinda striped when it was piped.


I added some red, white and blue star sprinkles too.  I had them and they were cute so why not. 

These were a huge hit when we dropped them off.  The platter was empty before we even left.  That makes me happy.

Here is the surprise that I brought with us......


Blueberries, strawberries and some Monterrey Jack cheese.  I thought it was cute.  I made it on a whim after getting the idea from Pinterest (where else, right?).

Hope you had a great 4th of July!!!  Next up I'll give you the recipes for the Taco dip and Macaroni salad that I brought to the party.

Talk with you soon!