Saturday, July 28, 2012

Parmesan and Sesame Seed Baked Onion Rings

 
Onion Rings.

Who doesn't love those (naughty) fried, crunchy, satisfying circles of deliciousness? 

If you raised your hand, I must assume it's an "onion thing" for you then.  Because fried "anything" is usually pretty darn tasty!

The problem is ... the amount of fat and calories that ride that wave of deliciousness across our taste buds and into our bodies does not love us (or our thighs).

I searched and searched for a baked onion ring recipe and came across a few that appealed to me.  I first assumed and predicted going into this quest that a baked onion ring would never compare to a fried onion ring.  I will repeat a sentence from three lines up ... fried "anything" is usually pretty darn tasty! 

So, I decided to go about this with the mindset of not comparing baked onion rings to the fried version, but rather to allow myself to enjoy the experience of knowing I was creating something healthy and hopefully, tasty ... and, with the notion that they couldn't and wouldn't compare!  Why?  Because they are two totally different things.  It's like that whole apples and oranges thing.  They may both be fruit, but they are definitely not the same thing.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Back-to-School Checklist

August arrives on our doorsteps next week, which means the start of a new school year is just around the corner. 

For me, I have three gearing up for the event this year.  And, excuse me while I grab the tissue box, but one of those three is my last one to enter kindergarten.  We've sent four off onto that same journey, two of whom are now adults.  So, the fourth day of September this year will be quite the bittersweet one for this mom as I face the reality that I will have no more little ones at home between the hours of eight and three everyday with me. 

I think the first one we send to kindergarten and the last stirs about a little extra emotion for parents.  For me, sending the last one symbolizes a new phase in my own life.  I have always had children at home with me as I've always been a stay-at-home parent.  When I began a relationship seventeen years ago with my husband, he had two amazing kids from a previous marriage.  So, I was instantly in a mom role.  That year, the oldest began kindergarten.  Our second oldest started two years later.  Then, we had the first of our three children together thirteen years ago.  And, ever since that time, I've had, at least, one younger than five at home with me.  So, facing an empty house on that first morning of school is going to truly be unchartered territory for me.  I know many of you out there can probably relate.

Besides the obviously school shopping, there are some things to consider jotting on our to-do list during the month of August as we prepare for getting back into the swings of all things scholastic.  Some of these are geared towards simplifying our lives and getting organized.  Some are important to our children's safety.  Others are things many of us probably don't think of until we're in one of those "I wish I would have thought of this sooner" moments. 

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Ditalini Vegetable Soup with Kale and Barley


Have you ever stood in an aisle at the grocery store and been inspired to come up with a new recipe simply based on one ingredient alone?  Something sparks an idea and you are suddenly back-tracking through aisles you've already shopped through just to get the right ingredients for a new creation that suddenly popped into your brain!

That was me this week.  The location was the pasta aisle.  The item to "blame" was ditalini.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Southern-Style Beans with Ham Hocks

 
It's weird that, normally, when we're having a major heat wave, I despise having to cook up something hot.  Usually, it's all about trying to get away with serving a big, refreshing salad to the family for dinner, some kind of sandwich or we grill out ... defintely not cooking something like, soup or a big, bubbling casserole, for example. 

However, this week with temps hovering around 100 degrees, I've been craving dead-of-winter types of meals.  Two days ago I actually made my Cheesy Potato Soup recipe ... and it soooo hit the spot!  My poor hubby came home from working all day in the blistering heat to simmering soup for dinner.  Tonight was more of the same in the form of a dish I typically only make on those cold winter days when we just crave something to warm us from the inside-out.

Blueberry Scones with Lemon Drizzle Glaze

Blueberries and lemons collide in this simple-to-make scone recipe. The dough itself requires just a handful of basic pantry ingredients - flour, baking powder, sugar and salt. Fresh lemon zest added to the dough perfumes the scones with a hint of citrus. The addition of butter and cream make these scones super flaky and tender. Blueberries get folded in, then eventually burst into juicy perfection during baking. Once cooled, a simple powdered sugar and lemon juice glaze gets drizzled atop each scones - this is the component that really drives home the tart, zippy, citrus notes.
These scones are just divine. I kick myself every time I make these that I didn't double the recipe. Maybe that's actually a good thing. With a good dose of heavy cream and lovely little bits of real butter, they probably aren't the healthiest thing I could be eating. But, they sure are heavenly, flaky triangles of loveliness.
Regarding the blueberries, I have made this recipe with both fresh and frozen blueberries. Either works great. If I use fresh, I do pop them in the freezer for about thirty minutes prior to incorporating into the dough. This helps the blueberries "hold up" a little better during the mixing and baking process so that the dough doesn't become too discolored. If using frozen, bagged blueberries, use them straight from the freezer.

Yields 6 - 8 scones {depending on how big you choose to cut them}.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Chocolate Zucchini Bread

 
I think we all have those recipes that have been passed down from our mothers, grandmothers or aunts ... the ones that take us back to the times when they made these dishes for us as kids.  The aromas and tastes bring memories flooding into our minds ... and our hearts get a big figurative hug!  For me, I have a grandmother who seemed to spend her every waking minute in one of three places:  church, the garden or the kitchen!  She canned like no body's business ... her sweet pickles were legendary!  And, true to her Kentucky roots, she made fried chicken and homemade biscuits that were a little glimpse of heaven!  But, her chocolate zucchini bread disappeared the minute she sliced it!  I've always preferred mine cold with butter on it!  It makes a perfect gift ... wrap and tie it up with a little bow!  It can be frozen for a couple of months after baking, then taken out when company is on the way!

I am lucky enough to have a copy of this recipe in her own handwriting.  These little pieces of our personal history are irreplaceable. I treasure it!  It is "well-seasoned" with crinkles and side notes and stains.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Veggie Pizza on Naan Bread with Cauliflower Sauce

 
On Restaurant Impossible, Robert Irvine made a unique pizza using a cauliflower sauce in place of traditional tomato sauce.  I was skeptical, but wanted to try it.  I didn't follow his recipe to a tee, but did come up with something pretty yummy.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Watermelon Ice Cubes

I was super excited to try this after seeing the idea on the Rachael Ray show.  It was one of those "why-didn't-I-think-of-that?" moments!  I just had to share here on Joyously Domestic!  What a fun idea for summertime drinks - alcoholic or otherwise. This is more of a method than an actual recipe. And, it's pretty simple, but does takes a little planning. You'll need to prep and freeze the cubes in advance, obviously. Once the cubes are frozen on a sheet pan, they can be popped into a plastic zip-top baggie, then placed back into the freezer until needed. Kids and adults alike love this idea. They keep drinks super cold without diluting them.
 
 
No more watered-down drinks from using traditional ice cubes. The watermelon will subtly flavor your beverage.  And, you'll be able to nibble on the watermelon as you drink or when your beverage is gone.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Four-Cheese Baked Ziti

 
This dish is made using my homemade tomato sauce.  It incorporates mozzarella (shredded and fresh), Parmesan (grated and shaved) and Colby-jack (shredded) all in one casserole. It feeds a lot of people and is great leftover!

You'll end up with enough sauce to prepare the baked ziti in this recipe plus an extra couple of cups to freeze for another use. I like having some homemade sauce in the freezer for a busy weeknight. Just thaw and heat, then cook up some pasta ... and you've got a quick dinner!

Of course, you could prepare this baked ziti using a good-quality tomato sauce, but I truly believe that nothing beats a slow-simmered sauce.  What I really love about this sauce is that it allows me to sneak in a good dose of veggies without my kids suspecting a thing!

Yields 8 servings.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Downtime

It's happening again.

The Calm Before the Next Storm.

The Lull Between the Chaoticness.

In our family, we stay pretty darn busy with the kids' sports, school clubs, Science projects, band concerts, fundraisers, school dances, study groups, theater practices and so on.  Typically, we are running to and from these types of assorted activities ... and it's been especially chaotic since our move to the country a few years ago.  We used to live right in town where our kids' schools are at, where the community theater is and where all of our activities take place.  Now, we are fifteen minutes away.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cake

 
My mother, Dawn, is the baker of our family. She makes amazing cookies and cakes! I envy her at times ... she does it magically, effortlessly and extraordinarily! This is her recipe. When she makes this cake, it disappears in minutes! It is fabulous served warm right out of the oven, but is perfectly wonderful cooled, as well. It is super simple to throw together and you don't even have to make a frosting!

Monday, July 09, 2012

Foodie Pen Pal Program

foodiepal stamp2 Foodie Penpals

I found a super neat idea for people who consider themselves "foodies."  I just joined a free program that a fellow blogger (The Lean Green Bean) started in 2011 that links two people up each month to exchange packages that they send to each other.  The concept is that each person fills a small box with local food goodies and ships it to the person they've been linked up with.  In return, you receive a package from them.  It's called Foodie Pen Pal and it sounds like a lot of fun!  Around 1,000 bloggers and blog readers participate each month!

Tuesday, July 03, 2012

Homemade Frozen Novelties

My mother made me homemade popsicles when I was little ... I believe using Kool-Aid and an orange Tupperware popsicle mold set. 

I've been making them for my children for a while now ... my kids are HUGE popsicle fans! Here are some various ways to make unique, fun popsicles and frozen treats using plastic popsicle molds. If you don't have molds, you can use small cups and wooden popsicle sticks. If you use wooden sticks, you have to wait to put in the stick until the liquid is partially frozen so the stick will stand up straight. 

Prep-Ahead Potato Skins on the Grill

 
As we enter the season for grilling out and gatherings with family and friends, this is a side dish that really works well since the bulk of the work is done in advance. You can make as little or as many as you need. I make these in the morning so they are ready to throw on the grill when the meat we're cooking is almost done.

Salads in a Jar


I have been wanting to try this for quite some time now! And, I am glad I did! Mason jars are just so cute. I think they take a lot of us back to our childhood when life was simpler, when what we ate came out of the garden and when mom or grandma would spend weeks in the fall in the kitchen canning their harvest. Mason jars just give us a sense of nostalgia and have really made a comeback in cool, unique ways. They are very popular to use for gift-giving right now. They are perfect for lunch on-the-go. Using a jar puts a cool twist on just simply packing a salad in a plastic container.  Being home with a four-year old everyday means little time to stop and make myself a healthy lunch, so this would be perfect for me to make the evening before and grab while my daughter is eating her pb&j sandwich and goldfish crackers!  And, the hubby can take these along for lunch at work.

Strawberries and Cream Pretzel Dessert

 
The combination of sweet and salty is a high point of this dessert. This recipe has been in my family for years and used to make an appearance at most family gatherings. Why we stopped making it is beyond me because it truly was always one of our favorites! And, it's especially perfect for Memorial Weekend or Fourth of July get-togethers!

This recipe is composed of three layers.

Monday, July 02, 2012

Lego Party


We just had my son's tenth birthday party recently and it was a big success! Of course, it was a Lego theme! We've had specific Lego themes in the past for his birthday, such as Star Wars. But, this year we did a general Lego theme with primary colors and incorporation of many types of Legos ... Ninjago, Star Wars, City and others. I did a lot of work creating printed projects for this one ... more than I've ever done for other parties. It's pretty amazing what one can do with a basic photo software program and a printer these days. And, due to the fact that there really is limited Lego-themed party stuff out there to purchase, this was a great route to take that allowed my creativity to be put to work ... all while doing it pretty inexpensively.

Layered Bacon Cheeseburgers




I have to admit ... I did not come up with this entirely on my own. I believe I saw a version of this on a Food Network show awhile back, but they used bleu cheese instead of cheddar and had some different toppings. Although I adore bleu cheese, the kids and hubby do not. So, I kinda tweaked this burger and made it my own. The beauty of this burger is that you actually have the cheese and bacon "embedded" into the burger prior to cooking.

Chicken Tortilla Frito Pie

 

After just making and posting the recipe for my Chicken and Black Bean Tortilla Soup recently ... we had a substantial amount leftover. We enjoyed it the next day with all of the wonderfully delicious toppings. Today, it was quite thick due to the rice in the soup absorbing a lot of the liquid, so we turned it into a form of nachos using corn chips as the base. It was fabulous ... maybe even better than two days before when we had it in just-made soup form. I just wanted to share this for anyone who decides to make the soup ... leftovers used this way make a wonderful meal, too!

Chicken and Black Bean Tortilla Soup

 
Topped with avocado slices, a good squeeze of lime, a sprinkling of cheese, some cilantro leaves and a handful of tortilla chips, this soup is sure to please your taste buds! The addition of black beans, rice and corn make for a hearty, comforting version of chicken tortilla soup. And, the leftovers the next day are even better!
 
Serves 6 - 8.

Egg Yolk Ravioli with Bacon-Sage Butter


I think of this recipe kinda as a play on eggs and bacon ... with a twist. Homemade pasta would be amazing for this, but since Santa has yet to put a pasta maker under the tree for this mom, I relied on egg roll wrappers from the produce section of my supermarket. I think the visual of this dish is simply breathtaking ... but, I've always been a sucker for a beautifully perfect, sunshiny-yellow runny egg yolk! And, this dish really glorifies thee almighty egg yolk! Add in some parmesan, ricotta, a little fresh sage and melty, salty butter ... and you've got a pretty tasty dish! Oh, and there's bacon ... need I say more?

Our Version of the Bento Box

 

A bento box is traditionally a plastic or lacquered wood "box" containing small, individual compartments ... which hold a Japanese meal (particularly lunch). They can get pretty elaborate (just do an image search for "bento boxes"). For a couple of years now, I have taken that idea and made our version of bento boxes for my kids to take to school for lunch or for us to take in the van on the go. I have always found that kids prefer a variety of things to choose from when eating ... and they like little bite-size items. My kids love having their own little "box" of goodies and tell me that their friends at the lunch table think it is super cool! 

Butter-Garlic Oven-Baked Fries

Once you try this recipe, I'm pretty confident that you'll not return to making homemade fries any other way. The technique of covering the fries with foil during the initial minutes of baking results in such a fluffy, creamy interior. Yet, the exterior is nothing short of fabulously crisp, blistered and golden thanks to the ultra high heat utilized while the fries are uncovered during the remainder of the baking process.
 
 
And, perhaps the highlight of these fries is the garlic butter that the baked fries get tossed in. Glorious. It truly takes these already amazing fries simply over the top.

Ham and Three-Cheese Quiche

If you're a lover of quiche, this is a fabulous version that is super simple to make with minimal ingredients and little effort. Salty, smoky ham comes together with three types of cheese - Swiss, Parmesan and cheddar - in this classic combination of ingredients. The addition of sliced green onions adds just a hint of onion flavor while a few eggs and heavy cream come together to create the perfect quiche "custard."
 
 
 
Using a store-bought frozen pie crust shell is a helpful shortcut that saves a huge amount of time. While your oven is preheating, just prep your filling ingredients, then marry up everything together inside of the pie shell before pouring on the egg/cream mixture and popping the quiche into the oven. The result is savory, cheesy quiche perfection ... and the ultimate breakfast or brunch dish that everyone always loves.

For the Love of Legos

Rarely a morning goes by that the bottom of my tender feet do not encounter a tiny LEGO or two on my son's bedroom floor when waking him in the dark for school. And, rarely a day goes by that I am not finding a stray LEGO or two in between a van seat, hidden in a coat pocket or nestled in a couch cushion. Heck, somehow I find them in weird places like a shelf in my food pantry or hanging out with the can of air freshener on the stand by the toilet! 

Slow Cooker Sweet Potatoes with Cinnamon Honey Butter

 
 
Scrub your sweet potatoes and place on foil. I can easily fit six, if needed, in my slow cooker if I am not cooking anything else in it at the same time. But, cook however many up to that number that you need.

Braided Bacon Ranch Cheddar Bread

 

I know, I know ... this is my third posting for some form of braided bread recently.  But, it is just so gosh darn good and my family keeps begging for more. So, while I am coming up with new twists (get it!) on braided bread for them, I figured I might as well share them with you! We've, also, actually found that we absolutely love the leftover slices out of the fridge the next day ... if they last that long!

Individual Mexican Dips "To Go"

 
 
In a previous post, I showed how to make my Mexican "Bull's-eye" Dip. It is fabulous for parties and feeds a large crowd pretty inexpensively. And, it always gets rave reviews!

Foil and the Slow Cooker, Volume III


We recently made Butter & Herb Potatoes, Corn on the Cob and Marinated Pork Tenderloin using the method of cooking several items individually in foil packets in the slow cooker. It is a fabulous way to have a complete meal with little clean-up ... all ready in the slow cooker when you're ready to eat!

Sunday, July 01, 2012

Around the World Party

In our family, all seven of our birthdays fall between March and June. So, we are pretty busy with parties during those few months. I love parties and throw one any chance I have and for any reason.  Party planning is super fun for me and allows my creative side to come out and play!  We just finished up with my son's Lego-themed party for his birthday. My daughter just turned five in June and we had a LaLaLoopsy party

Braided Pizza Bread

 
 
I recently posted a recipe for Braided Ham & Swiss Bread. This is the pizza version. My three kids, four nephews and one niece devoured two of these today! They are a big hit with kids, but make great party fare, too! 

Parenting Kids of Vastly Different Ages

The photo below was taken several years ago. (Sorry about the quality ... the scanner doesn't like me much!) And, don't make me feel even worse than I already do that we haven't taken the time to have a professional, nice family photo since then ... life kinda gets in the way (as all you moms out there know all too well). And, besides ... we live in Michigan and the older two have been living in Arizona (for college) for quite some time ... one for almost four years and one for a year. So, that alone makes it a little difficult to get everyone together (aside from the hectic few days at Christmas when they're home) to schedule a professional photo session.

Braided Ham & Swiss Bread

 
 
This makes a great snack, appetizer or starter. (My kids like it for an after-school-snack if we'll be eating a late dinner later.) But, it's equally as great as a stand-in for regular grilled cheese alongside tomato or your favorite soup. My four-year old, Ayvah, has fun helping me "braid" the dough and stuff the ham and swiss in the little "pockets" while making this (her little hands make an appearance within one of the photos below!). 

Now, I am NOT usually a skilled baker. So, I buy store-bought, frozen bread dough for this. But, if you are a good baker (I applaud you!), by all means start with homemade bread dough.

Foil and the Slow Cooker, Volume II

My family so enjoyed the foil packet dinner we made in the slow cooker recently (Foil and the Slow Cooker, Volume I - Taco Potatoes) that I decided to try it again by making BBQ Pork (for sliders) and Parmesan Scalloped Potatoes in the same way today. This time, however, I tried something a bit different by using a bread pan for the scalloped potatoes, then wrapped it completely in foil. My bread pan fits perfectly in my slow cooker. I suppose using a bread pan wouldn't work for those utilizing one of those models of slow cookers that are tall and skinny. Mine is the large, oval type, which I think I would recommend for this style of slow cooking. I do plan on picking up different sizes of disposable aluminum pans for future trials of slow cooker packets ... some things like scalloped potatoes would probably stick to regular foil if we didn't use some sort of pan that we could coat with non-stick spray.

Regrowing Green Onions


My lovely ten-year old son, Zayne, (and I) had a lot of fun working on his 4th grade science project this spring. His subject was "Regrowing Green Onions." (No volcano-creating or solar system dioramas this year!!!) 

Foil and the Slow Cooker, Volume I


We all assume that using a slow cooker means dumping in a bunch of ingredients, mixing it all up and lettin' it cook all day! I recently decided to try something a little different ... to look at the slow cooker in a different light. I was so excited about this idea that I ranted and carried on to the family. (My kids did not necessarily share my over-the-top enthusiasm as they do not necessarily see how this has the potential to open a lot of new doors in the kitchen for this mom!). I haven't really researched if this has been done before, so I don't claim to have like, invented it or anything. But, it's a new concept to me ... quite a revelation, actually! Everything in this recipe does go in the slow cooker and yes, it will result in a finished all-in-one meal. However ... there's a small, little twist! (And, I'm so excited to share this!)

Homemade Chicken Noodle Soup

 
 
Whether you're cooped up on a dreary, rainy day or you have someone with the sniffles or a sore throat in the house, nothing soothes, warms and comforts better than homemade chicken noodle soup. This is homemade on every level ... from the noodles to the broth. Your loved ones will be able to taste the love that goes into this! It's Comfort Food 101.

Getting Kids Involved in the Kitchen


We all know the importance of getting kids involved in food choices, teaching them where real food comes from and guiding them to make healthier choices when it comes to what we put in our bodies. I've been very proud of my kids lately ... we've been working hard to choose, prepare and eat fresher and healthier food. Getting them active by my side in the kitchen has been going over pretty well. Chopping, measuring and stirring are just a few of the fun things they've taken on lately with willing hearts and hands! Recently, I asked them to help put together a big salad to go along with dinner ... and I wanted to share the end result. In addition to the typical players (carrots, cucumbers, onions, peppers, tomatoes and cheese), we included some other salad favorites ... dried cherries, bacon, pea pods and eggs. It was perfect and they were so proud! It really is true that we eat with our eyes first! What a beauty they created!

The Dates Our Lives Were Forever Changed Print Project

 
I don't recall where I first saw this idea online, but I thought it was something really cool and decided to create something similar of my own. Using Microsoft Publisher I created a "poster" of important dates in my family's lives ... births, day I met my spouse, anniversary, etc.   What a great thing to have framed as a reminder of the things we have to be thankful for - the moments in our lives that have brought us to the place we are today. I just had to share this because it's so simple to create, but makes such an amazing statement. I, also, think it would be a great gift for a friend or family member ... so inexpensive, yet very meaningful and personal. 
 
 
01/30/14:  Updated print project photo.
 
 
 

My Daughter's 13th Birthday Print Project

My daughter, Allanah, recently turned thirteen. She isn't our first to enter into "teenage-hood" ... we have a twenty-two year old and one turning twenty this weekend. It's funny how you still see your children as little kids even as they grow up and come into their own. Our oldest two are actually my step-children (a.k.a. my "bonus kids") ... from my husband's first marriage. I came into their lives when they were three and five. Allanah was my first biological child, so this birthday was especially hard for me. Ya know, that whole "you're-getting-older-which-means-that-mom-is-getting-older" thing. I am so proud of her ... and am blessed to have such a respectful and respectable young lady for a daughter.