Quinoa Stuffed Peppers

Monday, August 29, 2011 - 
A few weeks ago (I know, delayed posting huh?), hubs and I didn't really go grocery shopping.  I like to make a mission out of these weeks.  The ones where life gets too busy on the weekend, so the grocery store just doesn't happen.  Since we don't really eat frozen food or have a lot of pantry items (I love the challenge of shopping only from the outer aisles at the grocery store - thus meaning things have a shelf life), this can sometimes lead to a challenge. 

However, that particular week had a minor exception.  Our friends were out of town and asked us to pick up their CSA box for the week.  As many of you know, hubs and I participated in a Spring CSA and loved it.  We don't partake in the summer due to Farmers' Markets, but absolutely love when we have the opportunity to help a friend (and our stomachs) to the fresh CSA.  We knew one thing, we had some fresh veggies coming our way.  The question was, and usually is with CSA, what will those fresh veggies be?

Okay, let me just say, opening a CSA is like getting a Christmas present.  There is a lot of excitement I feel when I open the box.  It is almost like my personal mystery box (like Chopped or Masterchef) that I can develop the weekly menu from.  To my delight, we had some red peppers, basil, parsley, lettuce, leeks, beets and heirloom tomatoes. 

A quick peek into the fridge and I noticed we had some ground beef.  Huh...how did we not use that?  Oh right, hubs didn't end up using it when he made his fantastic red sauce last week.  A quick look in the pantry and I saw we had some quinoa left - just hanging out.  Well, it is about time I used that.  Wondering how it would work as a rice substitute for stuffed peppers, I decided to give it a try.

Quite simply, I sauteed garlic and onions before adding the ground beef.  Once that was cooked, I removed it and added the quinoa.  Sauteed that briefly, added some broth for my liquid and let it cook.  Once it was done, added the beef back into the mix and some fresh herbs.  I loaded the cleaned red peppers up with the mix and baked for about 30 minutes.  I had a little Parmesan left in the fridge, so I sprinkled that on top, let it broil, topped it with hubs red sauce and dug into the deliciousness.

It was a successful first meal of no groceries.  Plus, plenty of leftovers.  Next up, I had to think of what to do with all the extra quinoa and beef filling that I had...

The Dogs Can Enjoy Beer too!

Monday, August 22, 2011 - 
As many of you know, hubs is a homebrewer.  I personally think he is quite good at what he does - and no, this isn't because I'm biased!  I'm not too involved in the process, I do a lot of watching.  Once in a while, I may pick up the paddle and stir, other times I may watch the timer while he does something else, add some hops here and there.  But really, my involvement usually comes when it is in a glass and ready to be consumed.

We had been talking for quite a bit about the grain that he expends at the end of the process.  Sure, it is great for flower beds and all that jazz, but when you live in a townhome, flower beds aren't always an option.  I began to do some research because I thought, "why can't we eat it?"  And wouldn't you know, there are quite some recipes out there, from pizza crust to bread, people 'reuse' this grain.  And if they do, why can't I?

During my research, I found that one can use grain for dog biscuits.  Now, a big red flag here people, dogs are deathly allergic to hops.  So ensure any yeast you use for your pooch is hop free.  I found a variety of recipes, but most were pretty basic with four ingredients: grain, eggs, flour and peanut butter.  I decided to welcome our new pup (and of course to keep our current pup, Nala, happy - doesn't she look happy in her Packer scarf?) and make some.

Brew Dog Biscuits

  • 4 cups spent grain (I mixed two different kinds)
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 cup peanut butter
  • 2 eggs
Mix all of these ingredients together. 

Spread into a baking pan.  Score the dough - I used some cookie cutters as well as making straight lines.  Bake at 325 degrees for about 25 minutes.

Take these out of the oven, and break them up according to the score lines you made earlier.  Spread them out on a baking sheet and bake again at 250 degrees for about 4-5 hours.  The key here is to make sure they are completely dry.  If not, they can grow mold and that is a no go for the pups in the house.  So dehydrate if you have one, or just leave them in the oven until you are sure they are dry.

Our New Addition: Remy!

Wednesday, August 17, 2011 - 
For those of you who follow me on twitter or facebook, you may have already seen our new family addition.  On Sunday, a pup names Remy came home with us and is happy to be in our home (well, we think so at least!)

We had been discussing getting a second pup for quite sometime.  As many of you may know, Nala, is a ball full of energy.  We wanted her to have a playmate, so we began our quest.  I was all about getting a rescue dog or a pup from the humane society, so we kept our eyes pealed.  Fortunately, it all worked out!

We made our way to the Tri-State Shiba Rescue in Ohio this past Sunday.  We learned that Remy (who was then being called Nelly) had been found wandering the streets by the dog warden.  The pound had her for a few weeks, but Remy kept escaping.  By escaping, this means she was jumping 7 foot fences.  Yup, we have a climber on our hands.  They couldn't keep utilizing their resources for the same dog, so they asked the rescue to take her (rather than the sad alternative).  Once the rescue posted her photos, we called immediately and within 24-hours, Remy was on her way to her new home.

Something you may not know, her full name.  Nala's full name is Nala Alice De Vil.  Yup, like Nala from Lion King, Alice from Alice in Wonderland and of course (my fave), Cruella from 101 Dalmations.

I'm sure you guessed already that Remy is named after Disney as well...Good guess, cause you are right.  Her full name is Remy Kanga Malificent.  Remy from Ratatouille, Kanga from Winnie the Pooh, and Malificent from Sleeping Beauty.  I'm a villain lover, so villains had to be part of the name.

Nala is getting used to her (slowly), but Remy has embraced home and all the love she is being showered with.  We affectionately call our house 'the circus' now, as I'm sure walking two Shiba's down the street can look quite amusing.

Disney Photo Recap

Friday, August 12, 2011 - 
As previously mentioned, I was in Orlando for a conference.  However, I also was able to indulge in a little 'me & Mouse' time while I was there.  But not my typical time.  I really did a lot of things that I never do when I'm on Disney property.  The one day that I really spent in the parks, I spent by myself. 

I always though, what would it be like to spend a day in a park by myself.  Well, now I 'kind of' know.  I say kind of, because it was so incredibly hot, that I think I would have modified my plan quite a bit.  This time around, I...

1. Only  rode two rides the entire visit.  Yup, only two - the Great Movie Ride and Toy Story Mania.  Everything else was a show or attraction.  For instance, the Voyage of the Little Mermaid.  A 30 minute broadway type show - I was impressed and couldn't believe I hadn't seen it before!

2. I didn't snack on my normal food.  I had a banana and iced coffee for breakfast at Starring Rolls cafe (which is where these deliciously looking cupcakes were), ate some pizza at Pizza Planet (with a side of Caesar salad), had Moroccan sliders in Morocco and snacked at a few other places.  No Dole whips, no Mickey bars.  All new foods for this gal!

3. Enjoying the beach - I have to admit, I've never been to a resort pool before.  AND I had never walked around the Polynesian Resort.  I did both this time around (and got a great tan doing so!)


4. Watching all the country videos in Epcot.  I've seen all of these at one point in time, but I normally skip these as I am usually drinking or eating my way around the world.  However, the air conditioned theaters allowed me a break from the heat, plus another opportunity to see things I hadn't been able to see in quite sometime.

5. Took in the artwork.  I've always known there are great shops with fantastic artwork, but I really took my time taking it all in.  What I would do for a shopping spree in some of these stores - I just love all of it.  Some day, when I have my Disney themed room (yup, hubs knows about this already) I'll decorate to my hearts content!

6. Cried.  Well, this isn't the first time I've cried at Disney, but I walked around Walt's Dream and just took it all in.  How could one man bring so much joy to all these people?  Utterly amazing.  And I found my new motto to live each day with:

One day, I'll only search for hidden Mickey's.  Just sayin'...

Thanks for allowing me to share!  And Stacy, thanks again for a great time!

When Life Hands You Lemons, Bake Some Pasta

Wednesday, August 10, 2011 - 
Someone stole hub's car yesterday.  Yup, you heard me correctly.  From our driveway.  Woke up in the morning only to discover it was gone.

That is some sort of lemon throwing.

Nothing valuable was taken, a few odds and ends in the car.  A garage opener being one of them - so of course, we changed all the codes. We just did what we had to do to move forward.  Of course, this little hiccup makes us a one car household for now, but we have some really great friends and neighbors all offering to help us out (thank you everyone!) 

After a day of filing a police report and all the other jazz that comes along with car theft, one may wonder what one has for dinner on a day like this. At least this hungry girls does.

Well, when life throws you lemons, bake some pasta.  That is, only if you are craving baked pasta.  And this girl definitely was.

I looked outside to the porch (which is over where the now empty car spot is) to see our pot of fresh herbs that is growing like a mad man (what does that phrase mean?)  With all of the sage that we have, I opted to make something that was sage focused.  Of course, chicken goes great with sage, so why not create a chicken sage pasta bake?  I assessed the pantry (found some panko), the fridge (cheese and chicken), the freezer (peas) for basics and then add-ins.  Done and done - hubs made some fantastic garlic breadsticks to go with it (honestly, my husband is a fantastic baker) while I began the pasta dish. 

It turned out quite good - I even put peas in it (my dear friend Rachel over at Fall Creek Eclectic is surely clamping her hands with enthusiasm) and it still turned out good.  Here is a breakdown:

Chicken and Sage Pasta Bake
Ingredients (I'd like to note that I actually put measurements despite me not measuring anything - I'm all about approximating but I know some people want more 'exact' measurements. )
  • Bacon, 5-6 Slices
  • Large chicken breast, cubed into bite sized pieces
  • Green Onions, 6, roughly chopped
  • Flour, 1 and 1/2 tablespoons
  • Milk, 2 cups
  • Cheese, 2 cups shredded (I shredded a combo of Monterey Jack and Mozzarella)
  • Butter, 2 tablespoons divided
  • Peas, frozen, 1 cup
  • Sage, 6 fresh leaves
  • Breadcrumbs, 3/4 cup
  • Pasta, 6 ounces
  • Salt & pepper to taste.  
  • I also threw in some garlic powder last minute for more flavor - maybe 1 tablespoon
  1. Cook pasta al dente while prepping the sauce
  2. In a large pan, fry bacon until crisp.  Remove, crumble and set aside.  Keep bacon drippings.
  3. Add to bacon drippings, 1 tablespoon butter and the cubed chicken.  Cook until no longer pink, about 5-6 minutes (pending size)
  4. Add onions and cook for one minute.  Add flour and stir until incorporated into the dish.
  5. Add milk, slowly, and cook/soft boil until thickened.  
  6. Add cheese and stir to incorporate
  7. Add crumbled bacon, chopped sage and peas.  Stir to incorporate, add drained pasta.  Season with salt, pepper and garlic powder (if using).
  8. Once everything is combined, pour the pasta mixture into a greased 9x9 pan.  Top with breadcrumbs (I use panko) and drizzle with remaining tablespoon of butter, melted.
  9. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes, or until you have a nice brown topping
Yes, if it isn't brown after 30 minutes, I wouldn't frown on putting on the broiler to get that brown topping you crave.

And if you'd like, make some lemonade (though a glass of wine worked really well for us!)

Scallops & Zucchini Ribbon Pasta

Friday, August 5, 2011 - 
Hubs and I had ordered some scallops from a groupon we had purchased a while back.  These work perfectly for a planned out recipe or a thrown together dish (like the bok choy stir fry I had guest blogged on with Messy Aprons).  I guess I normally lean towards thrown together dishes, so hubs and I started doing our thing.

While he warmed up the grill and prepped the scallops with some salt and pepper, I put on a pot of water for some angel hair pasta and prepped some zucchini we had from the farmers market.  I simply used a vegetable peeler to make long pieces of zucchini into beautiful ribbons to mesh with the pasta.

For a sauce, I added some extra virgin olive oil to a pan and added some garlic and red pepper flakes.  At the market I had also picked up some cherry tomatoes, so I cut those in half and added them to the mix to get some more juice to be part of the sauce.  I added the zucchini so that it would slightly cook, but only for a minute.  A bit of pasta water with the pasta, and there was a good dish happening.

Hubs had grilled up the scallops and they turned out perfectly.  Adding them on top of the pasta with some fresh basil from our herb garden, we had a delicious and healthy dinner.

Frozen meets fresh - sounds like an easy dinner option to me.

Where Have I Been?!

Thursday, August 4, 2011 - 
If you didn't know already, here's a hint...

Yup, I made my way to Orlando once again this year.  But, this time it was both professionally and personally.  I attended the Meeting Professional International World Education Conference - I know, a mouthful, which is why it is lovingly abbreviated MPI WEC.  I began by taking my Certified Meeting Professional (CMP) exam which was a huge weight off my shoulders.  The studying had taken over my life for the past few months and it was great to finally be able to wash my hands of it.  I don't hear results for 8 weeks, so I can't really tell you how I did quite yet.  More to come on that - cross your fingers for me!

Attending a conference for meeting planners organized by meeting professionals, you know it is going to be amazing.  The opening reception was at Epcot - unbelievable.  My favorite place in the world closes for me?!  Amazing.  Yes, I understand it wasn't for just me but I can pretend. The theme was Epcot Alive!, which focused on sustainability, the earth and all that it encompasses.  Three areas were utilized - The Seas pavilion, The Land pavilion and Innoventions. Each area had food and drinks that were themed around the area, as well as cast members who were performing within the theme as well.  Amazing - best opening reception I think I will ever attend.  Here are some photos for The Seas:

The Land pavilion I think was the most amazing to me.  The whole area was decked out in green - live trees, live plants, you name it.  No line for Soarin', and we walked right onto the boat for the Living the Land attraction.  Amazing.  Here is a short video of a performance - a cast member was portraying a tree through the seasons.  I hate that I only got the end, but you can imagine...
Crowd control was perfect, directing people between all three in the beginning to allow for a good crowd flow.  So our last stop to Innoventions wasn't very busy. 
Amazing music - I saw these musicians a few times while I was in the parks, but I love the costumes this time around!

And of course, it ended with IllumniNations - a firework spectacular (yes, I did get engaged at this park during this show, so I'm partial!)

The conference was full of programming and great networking opportunities.  I saw Kelly Cutrone from People's Revolution speak twice - an open honest conversation that would inspire anyone to really move forward professionally.  Speaker Simon Sinek was one of the best professional speakers I have ever seen.  He had a great presentation on the 'why' of what we do - I encourage you to youtube him or visit the WEC website for details.  Amazing. Though the food at the banquet was not very good, they even had an Iron Chef competition at a banquet.  St. Louis, the next host city for 2012, had a luncheon as well where we enjoyed comedian Kathleen Madigan - hilarious!

After all the educational sessions, the conference ended with a closing reception at Universal Studio's City Walk and the Hard Rock Cafe.  Once again, a great event full of food and drinks and a lot of entertainment!

Next up - how I unwound after the exam and conference - a vacay at Disney of course!