Saturday, July 18, 2015

Strawberry, Apple and Rhubarb Crisp

I am currently savoring a couple of weeks - the only couple of weeks actually - of the year that we have absolutely nothing on the schedule/calendar. Like, seriously ... this does not happen often. My three children still living at home are involved in a zillion different extra-curricular activities throughout the entire year - baseball, softball, marching band, basketball, cross country, volleyball, quiz bowl, charity events, track, theater and ... well, you get the picture.

These present two weeks are void of any activity, event, appointment, meeting or otherwise. I, literally, have only left my house TWICE in the past eight days ... to get some groceries.

It has been pure bliss! I have been sleeping in, staying in my pajamas most of the day, playing board games with the kiddos, catching up on my DVR recordings, doing a boatload of cooking/baking and working on the blog. Utter heaven.

Speaking of heaven ... I love making crisps, cobblers and crumbles throughout the summer months.

The concept of making a "crisp" is simple - top cut fruit (yes, I am aware that rhubarb is actually a veggie) with a quick and easy oat topping that is kissed with just the perfect amount of sugar and spice. Pop it all in the oven until bubbly and serve warm with a big scoop of vanilla ice cream. I urge you to whip one up as soon as possible ... celebrate our bountiful summer fruits in the most-perfect way.

And, if you need me, I'll be kicking back by the pool, listening to the radio, watching the kids swim, enjoying a big glass of my Summertime Fruity Lemonade and thinking of this amazing dessert. (Well, for another week or so. Then, it's band camp and volleyball lessons for the little munchkins of the house .. and back to reality.) I'm hanging on to and relishing these lazy days of summer as long as I can, though.

Serves 6.

Berry "Peachy Keen" Grilled Chicken Salad Bowl

I've been on a bit of a salad bowl kick as of late. I've made my Asian slaw version many times over this summer. And, I'm still loving my quinoa salad bowl - made with juicy citrus and a lemon poppy seed vinaigrette - that I shared last year with you. This past week, I recipe tested this Berry "Peachy Keen" Grilled Chicken Salad Bowl much to the delight of my children. (I swear they were ready with forks drawn before I could even shoot the photos for this post since the salad includes grilled chicken, strawberries and peaches - a few of their most favorite things to eat during the summer.)

I really love salads made in this fashion. I like how the ingredients are arranged in rows and/or fanned out in a purposeful manner. I always find that beautifully presented food is simply more appealing. (We eat with our eyes first, right?) Secondly, one can easily double or even triple the ingredients to serve a larger crowd, as needed, when making salad bowls. (Individuals bowls for each person can even be made instead of one large bowl, too.)

Best of all, I find that making up a big salad bowl like this is pretty economical compared to say, grilling a big chicken breast for each person to be served with a couple of sides. Instead, everything is right here - the perfect all-in-one meal during the warm summer months. One or two chicken breasts - once sliced or cubed up - go a long way towards serving several people when combined in a large salad with various other ingredients such as this.

Fresh, colorful, healthful, vibrant and simple to prepare ... I urge you to try a salad bowl such as this one this summer.

Serves 2 -3.

Saturday, July 11, 2015

My $500 Kitchen Remodel

For those following along with Our Home Renovation Project, I thought I'd share an update on my kitchen now that it is pretty much finished. (I am calling it a "remodel." But, really ... it's more of an upgrade. Still, I think it's pretty amazing considering the small amount of money we actually put into the whole room.)

We knew when we took possession of the house last summer that we would be updating some rooms and doing some remodeling projects prior to moving in. So, having the keys in hand didn't mean moving in right away. Instead, it meant DIY and renovation time. (We didn't have a set time to be out of our previous home, so we were able to take our time while doing the work.)

First up on our to-do list was the kitchen. Although we would have loved to have "gutted" the whole thing and started from scratch (or, rather would have loved to have been able to hire someone else  to come in to gut the whole thing and start from scratch), it just wasn't in our budget. So, we decided to embrace what was there and work with it to the best of our ability. We're not professionals and I'm sure there are those who would have done things differently, but we love how things turned out. It may not be considered a "high-end" kitchen, but we're thrilled with what we were able to accomplish on our own.

We were pleased with the layout of the kitchen, so we only (HA!) needed to update the cabinets, make some (major) improvements to the grout countertops, drywall over a built-in wall shelving area that we didn't care for (shown in the top BEFORE photo - on the long wall to the right), paint the room and install new trim. And, although I don't particularly love white appliances, the stove, dishwasher and fridge are in great shape and I can live with them for the time being. I, also, stained an existing island that I already had on hand from our previous home and I stained two large, antique oak cabinets that I already had. The massive amount of storage in those pieces is amazing and perfect for housing my collection of blog staging dishes, props and the like.