Saturday, January 28, 2012

Crock Pot Chicken Parmesan

Yes another recipe for my crock pot. My turd brown on the inside, Al Gore green on the outside, 1971, super fly crock pot. Yes.
Everything in this kitchen: the refrigerator, the paper towel holder, the toaster, the knife block, the coffee maker, and even the utensil caddy is stainless steel. For whatever reason, I have a committed love for this Hulk colored beast.



Anyway, a friend of mine gave me this recipe from www.chef-in-training.com. I was a little "uh, I'm not so sure about this" at first just because I'm used to the chicken being baked and crispy, but this way the chicken comes out so Love-Me-Tender, I didn't even need a knife to cut it. It literally falls apart.

So on with the recipe:

• 3-4  boneless chicken (skipping the jokes) breasts
• 1/2 cup Italian bread crumbs
• 1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
• salt and pepper to taste
• 1 tablespoon olive oil
• 1 egg beaten
• Shredded mozzarella cheese
• favorite jarred marinara sauce

Spread olive oil on the bottom of the crock pot.

In a separate bowl, beat the egg.
Mix bread crumbs, seasoning, and parmesan in another separate bowl.
Dip chicken into egg, then coat with bread crumb mixture on both sides.
Place breaded chicken on bottom of crock pot.


Cover chicken with mozarella cheese.



Cover chicken and cheese with entire jar of marinara sauce.



Cover, cook on low for 6-7 hours or on high for 3-4 hours.
Serve with your favorite pasta.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Over Night Crock Pot Breakfast Casserole

I would like to start this post with a giant THANK YOU to my readers. According to my reported stats, there are more of you than I had originally anticipated from countries all over the world. At first I had just been paying attention to my 8 shown followers and had no idea how many hits I was getting through other websites and email. So welcome to my little online home! Pull up a chair, lets hang out a bit.  I'm so grateful you're here!

Ok, so you probably have it figured out by now that I adore my crock pot. My 1971, avocado green, should-be-on-display-in-a-museum-somewhere crock pot. I use it for dinners, I use it for desserts, I use it for breakfast. Yes, breakfast. When someone invented this amazing tool that allows you to do nothing for a few hours while your meal cooked, you bet your sweet ass that my first choice is to be sleeping during those few hours. So on the days I feel like having a lazy morning, or the contrary days when there are a million things going on, especially durning the holidays,  I set my slow-cooker at night, and wake up to a fresh hot batch of deliciousness already pre-made.

Here is the recipe I use for my breakfast crock pot casserole:

Ingredients:
8-10 strips of bacon
1 onion peeled and chopped
1 clove garlic peeled and minced
1 red bell pepper seeded and chopped
1 (2lb) bag of frozen shredded hashbrowns
2 cups shredded cheese
12 eggs
1 cup milk
1 teaspoon dried dill weed (optional)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper

•Cook the bacon until crisp, let it cool, then chop into 1/2 inch pieces and set aside.
•On medium-high, saute' onion, bell pepper, and garlic for 5 minutes. I personally like to saute' them in the bacon grease for more flavor, but that's just how unhealthy and fabulous I like my breakfast sometimes. Totally your call.
•In a greased crock pot, layer 1/3 of the hasbrowns, 1/3 of the onion, bell pepper, garlic mixture, 1/3 of the bacon, and 1/3 of the cheese. Repeat layers ending with cheese.

In large bowl, mix eggs, milk, dill, salt and pepper. Pour over ingredients in crock pot, cover, and turn on low for 8-10 hours while you dream of unicorns and 4 leaf clovers.

Over Night Crock Pot Breakfast Casserole www.thebrighterwriter.blogspot.com

Monday, January 23, 2012

Pinecone Preoccupancy

I have a kid that is in love with pinecones. We spend at least an hour a day walking around our neighborhood hunting for these things. When she finds one, her little face glows like a firefly ass and the squeal that comes out of her mouth sounds like a startled piglett. If you don't believe the urgency of her pinecone addiction, check out this 55 second clip of her I shot last summer:


video

So now you see what we're dealing with here...

Well, today it's raining. Again. Luckily we have a small hoard of pinecones stashed away in a red wagon under the stairs that have been spared from the wet and can be used to keep her busy indoors. 


We got down our toddler craft box and made a little "creation station" with markers, paint, glitter etc... then away we went!




I have no idea what I'm going to do with them when they dry. Hang them from her window maybe? Or tie strings on them and hang them from the plants on the porch as Winter decorations? Perhaps lay them back on the ground under the pine tree and keep the gardeners wondering? I guess I'll figure that out later.




Sunday, January 22, 2012

Creamy Tomato Tortellini Soup

It's crappy outside. The sky looks like baby elephant skin and it's cold. It looks like how Eeyore feels. The only thing that makes this kind of day worth getting out of bed for is grilled cheese and tomato soup. So I wanted to share the magic recipe that makes a day like today feel sunny again:


2 large cloves of minced garlic
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 cans condensed tomato soup
1/2 cup sun-dried tomatoes OR 2 tablespoons sun dried tomato paste
1 & 1/2 cups milk
2 cups half-and-half
2 cups chicken stock
1 teaspoon onion powder
2 tablespoons Italian seasoning
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1 whole 9 oz bag of cheese filled tortellini
1/2 cup shredded parmesan cheese

In a daddy sized mega-pot, saute the garlic in the olive oil over medium heat until it's a nice lifeguard-tan.   Stir in everything EXCEPT tortellini and parmesan cheese. Once your soup is at a nice simmer, add your tortellini and cook for about 8 minutes. Serve in a bowl with sprinkled parmesan on top. 
I like it best with gouda grilled cheese on a honey-wheat bread, but feel to enjoy on it's own as well!

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Fingernail Fun

I'm on a fingernail kick this week:

Yo Gabba Gabba fingernails:

from left to right: Plex, Toodee, Muno, Brobee, and Foofa

DJ Lance Toenails!



Pacman and Ms. Pacman fingernails:

(Inky, Blinky, Pinky, and Sue)

Mickey Mouse Nails:


HELP! The Beatles:

find my Converse All Star nails HERE







Friday, January 20, 2012

Converse Fingernails

We are a Converse wearing family. 


The black and white ones in the middle are actually my 16 year old gym shoes. I like to wear them when my daughter and I go pinecone hunting. They even still rock the "YOU SUCK" graffiti placed oh-so-delicately by my 3 BFF's. 

Anyway, I saw some fingernail inspiration, ironically on a 16-year-old girl's blog, and I just couldn't say no. 




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Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Homemade Kahlua

My mom is a born and raised California girl. The term "not accustom to cold" is an understatement for her. The handful of years she spent back East when my sister and I were growing up took some adjustment. By "adjustment" I mean "alcohol". She said the main trick to surviving the bone chilling Michigan cold was keeping a batch of homemade kahlua close at hand to warm the insides. So rationally, I decided to make a batch myself for these 75ยบ Orange County January winters. This is her recipe:

•In a gallon jug:
2 oz pure vanilla extract
4 oz freeze dried instant coffee
2 fifths vodka
8 cups sugar
•Add water to fill
•Shake 20 times once a day for 14 days

The perfect Christmas for the person who has everything: Homemade Kahlua! www.thebrighterwriter.blogspot.com

And if you're looking to make that pure vanilla extract yourself from scratch, check out this link for a recipe I saw on the Step by Step blog:

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Kalynns 2nd Birthday Party

I haven't had a chance to run some of the pictures I want to post by the people in them. So in the meantime, I have given myself permission to post this adorable little girl I found at the park at her 2nd birthday party.

These were her invitations this year, designed and created by yours truly:

(front, address clearly missing)

(back)



(recipe for these Minnie cake pops here)




Friday, January 13, 2012

Red Velvet Minnie & Mickey Mouse Cake Pops

This is not a project for the impatient. I am impatient. I am certifiably the worst case of must-get-instant-gratification ever. Even worse than my toddler. That being said... Lets move right along.

This year's birthday theme is Minnie Mouse. It seems like a perfect 2-year-old theme, one my kid in particular is very fond of. We did traditional cake and ice cream last year for her 1st birthday party, so this year I wanted to switch it up and make something on-the-go since we're having it at a park.

I started this batch of cake pops the same as I do every other, by baking a Duncan Hines cake, right out of the box, following their directions. I chose Red Velvet only because it's my personal favorite. It works just as great with yellow, white or chocolate.

How to make Red Velvet Minnie Mouse Cake Pops www.thebrighterwriter.blogspot.com

After it cools down, I break the entire cake up into a bowl and mix it with a 1/2 tub of cream cheese frosting. Yes, it has to be cream cheese frosting.

How to make Red Velvet Minnie Mouse Cake Pops www.thebrighterwriter.blogspot.com

It looks like this big bowl of mess by the time you're done with it. Gooey and delicious. 

How to make Red Velvet Minnie Mouse Cake Pops www.thebrighterwriter.blogspot.com

Next up you are going to turn that gooey and delicious mess into a small army of round balls about the size of a Ping Pong ball. One cake and one tub of cream cheese frosting usually makes about 40 balls. Put them in the refrigerator to chill over night if you can, or at least a couple of hours. It makes them much easier to work with later. Trust me. No need to freeze them. 

How to make Red Velvet Minnie Mouse Cake Pops www.thebrighterwriter.blogspot.com

In the meanwhile, take a bag of circle candy melts and cut them into a 3/4 moon type shape for the ears. I used a measuring spoon and just cut out the bottom of the wafers. Minnie's coloring works best when you use the black candy melts, but as I found out at my local Michael's store, they are only sold during Halloween season. Same as black food coloring. So I just used dark chocolate instead. 

How to make Red Velvet Minnie Mouse Cake Pops www.thebrighterwriter.blogspot.com

When your chilled balls are ready, melt some of the left over chocolates and use it to "glue" the ears right on top. Put them back in the fridge for an hour or so to let them set. 

How to make Red Velvet Minnie Mouse Cake Pops www.thebrighterwriter.blogspot.com

While the ears are setting, you need to make your base for these little guys to stand. I normally use styrofoam but my go-to store was out today so instead I used green floral wet foam. Either one works fine. Just get one with enough width to hold a lollipop stick. Wrap that puppy up in the tissue paper color of your choice and you've made yourself a stand. 

How to make Red Velvet Minnie Mouse Cake Pops www.thebrighterwriter.blogspot.com

Next you want to just very gently poke a 4 inch lollipop stick right in the bottom of your Minnie head. I like to dip the very tip of my sticks again into a touch of melted chocolate "glue" just to really set them. You don't want them to fall off when you're trying to coat them. Once you have stood them up in their tissue covered stand, put them back in the fridge for another hour or 2 before you do the coating. 

How to make Red Velvet Minnie Mouse Cake Pops www.thebrighterwriter.blogspot.com

While your cake pops are staying cool, you'll want to make Minnie's bow. Either heart shaped sprinkles or heart shaped candy such as Red Hots work the best. If you want to get super fancy you can even dip a toothpick in some white icing and make a couple of polka dots.

How to make Red Velvet Minnie Mouse Cake Pops www.thebrighterwriter.blogspot.com


So this next step is a quick one. You want to dip these suckers into a melted pot of all your left over candy melts. Do only a handful at a time and keep the others refrigerated. They lose their chillness really fast and the warmer they are the more likely these Minnie's tend to slide off their stick and jump to their death. You've worked too hard here for suicide attempts so just keep them chilled, work quick and bypass the problem.
Also, when I first started making cake pops, my coating chocolate was way too thick. Adding a little bit of vegetable oil until you get the thinner consistency that you want works wonders and doesn't alter the taste. (Even a splash or two of milk can thin it down a little bit but be careful with that because you don't want your chocolate to be so thin that it doesn't stick at all)
While your chocolate is fresh on your cake pop and hasn't yet dried, carefully place two of your candy hearts back to back in between the ears to make Minnie's bow. 

How to make Red Velvet Minnie Mouse Cake Pops www.thebrighterwriter.blogspot.com



Thursday, January 12, 2012

Turning 2

Ok, so yes I know that the last few days have mainly been revolving around the magical 2nd birthday of our lady toddler. Heads up: the next two days will be as well.

Just wanted to jot down a little synopsis of our day today. Technically it started last night when I was snooping around on Sprout Online to see if Kalynn's card had been posted. It had. It said she was turning 1. Which is just stupid because there was a GIANT 2 on the front of the card. And I can just go ahead and double the stupid because entries can only be from ages 2-6 so her card wasn't chosen because THEIR stupid interns misread our information and she missed the age restriction. Stupids.

PBS Sprout birthday card age restrictions www.thebrighterwriter.blogspot.com

With that out of the way, even the disappointment of our fake-out TV debut couldn't stop this day from going smoothly.  "2" pancakes first, then web chat with the amazing yet too far away family, then nap, then Disneyland. We took about a million photos, some of them not so great because the convenience of the iPhone struck again. But here are a handful. Totally unedited and straight off the wire. 

Make pancakes in the shape of the age every birthday www.thebrighterwriter.blogspot.com

2nd birthday celebration at Disneyland www.thebrighterwriter.blogspot.com

2nd birthday celebration at Disneyland www.thebrighterwriter.blogspot.com

2nd birthday celebration at Disneyland www.thebrighterwriter.blogspot.com

2nd birthday celebration at Disneyland www.thebrighterwriter.blogspot.com

2nd birthday celebration at Disneyland www.thebrighterwriter.blogspot.com

2nd birthday celebration at Disneyland www.thebrighterwriter.blogspot.com

2nd birthday celebration at Disneyland www.thebrighterwriter.blogspot.com

2nd birthday celebration at Disneyland www.thebrighterwriter.blogspot.com