Friday, February 25, 2011

Glazed carrots

We are on a roll with sampling new sides each night in our House of Curls! The girlies are actually devouring their veggies and asking for seconds! This makes Mommy want to take the few extra steps in preparing these dishes if it means the girlies will actually eat!

These two recipes come from the America's Test Kitchen. Let me say, I absolutely love their recipes, TV show, and magazines! For my birthday, I bought myself "The Best of America's Test Kitchen 2011" cookbook and I really really love reading this because it gives detailed instructions on what to do or what NOT to do when preparing each dish. It also gives helpful tips on kitchen equipment, advises on the best ingredients to use, and offers lots of great techniques for cooking in the kitchen.

Glazed Carrots
1 lb carrots, peeled
1/2 cup low sodium chicken broth
2 TBSP honey
1 TBSP unsalted butter, melted
2 TBSP toasted almonds

Cut carrots halfway in length and cut diagonally into 1 1/2 inch pieces.

Bring the carrots, broth and 1/4 tsp salt to a simmer over medium-high heat. Cover, reduce the heat to medium, and cook until the carrots are almost tender, about 8 minutes.
Uncover, increase the heat to high, and simmer rapidly until the liquid measures about 2 tablespoons, 2 minutes. Stir in the honey and butter and continue to cook, stirring often, until the carrots are completely tender and the sauce has reduced to a light golden glaze, about 2 more minutes.

Remove carrots from the heat, season with salt and pepper to taste. Stir in the almonds. Enjoy!

Sauteed Peas
1 tsp olive oil
1 shallot, minced
1 garlic clove, minced
1 lb frozen baby peas
1/4 cup low-sodium chicken broth
1/4 tsp sugar
1/4 cup minced fresh mint
1 TBSP unsalted butter
2 tsp fresh lemon juice

Heat the oil in a skillet over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add the shallot and 1/8 tsp salt and cook until softened, about 2 min. Stir in the garlic and cook until fragrant, about 1 min.
Stir in the peas, broth and sugar. Cover and cook until the peas are just heated through, 5 minutes, stirring.

Stir in the mint and butter until incorporated. Remove from heat and stir in the lemon juice. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

**A note from the test kitchen: Stick with frozen peas because they not only taste better than fresh, but they also are a lot more convenient. In test after test, they found the frozen ones to be more tender and sweet versus the starchy and bland tasting fresh peas.

*A note from me: I didn't have any fresh mint so I admitted that from this dish last night & it was still delicious!

To be honest, carrots and green peas are my least favorite veggies. So, I was really surprised with how much better these veggies tasted than if I had just steamed them in water. A little chicken broth and a couple of extra ingredients really does make a huge difference!

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Spice up your plate with Sweet Potato Hash

The House of Curls is stuck...stuck in a rut...a dinner time side rut, that is. We continuously find ourselves eating steamed broccoli, green peas, or potatoes and we have had enough! So, we have recently been trying out new side recipes and have been gobbling up our new finds.

Both of these hash recipes come from Southern Living. Every Christmas my Mom gives me a subscription to this magazine and I usually find at least one new recipe each month that we really enjoy.

This first one is a great "twist" on roasted sweet potatoes. I made a few slight adjustments for our family's preference. I'm sure this was published in a fall edition, but we had it two nights ago and it got lots of raves from the girlies, Daddy and our fun guest, Mr. Carson.

Savory Sweet Potato Hash
4 bacon slices
1/2 medium onion, diced
3 medium sweet potatoes, washed and peeled
1 large Granny Smith apple, peeled, cored & cubed
1/2 cup low-sodium chicken broth
1/4 tsp dried thyme
1/4 tsp ground allspice (similar to nutmeg)
1/2 cup chopped toasted pecans
1 TBSP fresh parsley, chopped

Preheat oven to 400. Cut potatoes into 1-inch cubes.

Saute the bacon in a nonstick skillet for 4 minutes, or until brown. Add the onion and saute 4 minutes.

Stir in the sweet potatoes and saute 6 minutes. Stir in apples, broth, thyme, and allspice and saute 5 minutes. Remove bacon from saute pan and cut into crumbles.

Spoon bacon into the sweet potato mix and pour into a jelly roll pan lined with aluminum foil (to prevent a messy pan). Roast for 40 minutes.

Sprinkle with the pecans and parsley. (I forgot to do this last night & it was still delicious!) Serve with chicken or pork and a spinach salad.

Asparagus - New Potato Hash

1 lb small red potatoes - about 6
1 lb fresh asparagus - I used 1 1/2 lbs
2 shallots, minced
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 tsp chopped fresh thyme - I had dried so that's what I used
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
2 tsp fresh lemon juice
1/2 cup crumbled farmer's cheese - white cheese

Cover potatoes with salted water and bring to a boil in a pot over medium-high heat. Cook 15-20 minutes or just until tender; drain well. Cool and cut into quarters.

Snap off and discard tough ends of the asparagus. Cut into 1/2 inch pieces. Steam for 15 minutes.

Saute shallots in hot oil in a large non-stick skillet for 2 minutes. Add asparagus, thyme, salt, pepper and lemon juice; saute 4 minutes. Add potatoes and saute 5 minutes or until thoroughly heated. Remove from heat and sprinkle with cheese.

**If you prefer asparagus to be crisper, then omit the steaming process. In our house, we like it a little more tender so that's why I added in the steaming of the asparagus. As for the cheese, use goat cheese or any type of white cheese, if you can't find farmer's cheese.

So, if you too are tired of eating plain 'ol steamed asparagus or green beans, then please, spare your family and try one of these great sides on your dinner plates this week! Your family will thank you!

And our favorite sweet ending to these yummy sides....

Check out the calories in these goodies! I'm so glad they are only around for just a few short weeks. I'll definitely be hitting up the gym tomorrow!!

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Spring Fever and Valentine's celebrations

The weather here in the south is absolutely beautiful this week and it makes everyone in our House of Curls very cheerful! We have been spending every waking moment outside in the warm sun.

We had a fun trip to the zoo and have enjoyed several parks in our little community. We have eaten our lunches on the back deck, our snacks at the neighborhood park and one night we even had our dessert outside. My husband got a little fire pit for Christmas from his favorite nephew and we decided to finally put it to work.

We are excited to report that we will also be enjoying this spring time weather in our front yard because the crazy massive ramp is now gone! Wahoo! Doug is making such amazing progress that he no longer needs to be in a wheelchair and therefore doesn't need the ramp out front anymore. We are praising God for His healing and care!

We really enjoyed celebrating Valentine's Day this year with the curly girlies!

Oldest girlie and I hosted a little party on Sunday for our sweet friends and fun Mommies.

We decorated cookies that were made by one of our favorite "big" girls (check out her blog here).

We made all kinds of fun cards and valentines.

Several of our friends got really creative in the making of their valentines!

Stamping seemed to be a kid favorite.

There was some mother-daughter bonding while crafting the heart wreaths.

Our oldest friend gave some lessons on valentine origami. He made these great paper boxes.

Even our busy boy buddies got in on some crafting! They made heart lollipops and Cupid's arrows.

Best of all, the kids had a great time and we enjoyed precious time together with our friends!

On Monday, we had our very own valentine's day family date. I've been trying to use our fine china more often and this was a perfect excuse. We had a yummy meal consisting of chicken Parmesan, angel hair pasta, green beans, and garlic heart rolls. We all ate enough that we didn't even need dessert, which is good because I was too tired to make it!

This is a little twist on a very easy recipe for Chicken Parmesan:

4 pieces boneless thin-cutlet chicken breasts
8 oz bottle Italian dressing
1 cup Italian breadcrumbs
1/4 cup garlic salt
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 cup shredded Romano and Parmesan cheese
1 jar of your fav spaghetti sauce
1 box pasta of choice

Place chicken breasts in a dish and cover with Italian dressing. Let chicken soak for 2-4 hours or if you have time, overnight.

Preheat oven to 400. Mix breadcrumbs, garlic salt and grated Parmesan cheese together. Dredge the dressing soaked chicken in the breadcrumb mix on both sides and place on a baking sheet lined with aluminum foil and cooking spray. Cover the top side of the chicken with 1/2 cup of the shredded cheese.

Bake chicken for 20 minutes. Flip chicken over, top with the additional 1/2 cup shredded cheese, and bake for 10 more minutes.

Serve chicken with pasta and marinara sauce.

Curly girlies definitely loved the yummy meal and were quite ecstatic about all their valentines from their friends and family. I myself absolutely love my homemade cards from the girlies and their sweet Daddy. I am also quite fond of the little box of chocolates I got too!

Hope everyone had a wonderful Valentines day and a fabulous sunny week!

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Lots of loving!

Here in our House of Curls, we LOVE to celebrate Valentine’s Day! We've been talking to our girlies about how much Jesus loves them and how it is His love that spurs us on to love each other. We daily converse about how we can show love in our own family by speaking kind words, helping each other, and obeying Mommy and Daddy.

Last year for Valentine’s, we made these cute little mailboxes for each other.

They are a really simple craft that kids of any age can help make. We fill them with love notes, coupons for acts of service, and of course, sweet treats. It’s really fun!

The girls enjoy getting to “deliver” us a hand-drawn picture or card and they get super excited to receive simple sweet notes that say “I love your laughter” or “I love it when you help me put away your clean clothes.” Simple encouraging words go a long way for little girlies.

For our sweet friends, we have been busy stamping, taping, and crafting away. My Mom gave me a Cricut machine for Christmas and we have been putting it to good use these past two weeks.

We have been cutting out hearts and leaves to make these cute lollipop flowers for classmates.

We crafted these precious love bug hearts for our youngest friends.

Both are so simple to make and require lots of help from the child!!

For the love bug card:
1. Cut out medium-sized hearts from cardstock paper.
2. Stamp child's thumb print onto the card.

3. Decorate the bug, using a fine print marker, google eyes (or colored jewels), and strong glue (I like E-6000 which can be purchased at a craft store).
4. Personalize the opposite side with a "catchy" phrase and sign child's name.

For the lollipop flower:
1. Cut out 3 or 4 small sized hearts and a leaf.

2. Position hearts so they look like a flower. Flip hearts over and tape down the back side to form the flower.
3. Punch a hole in the middle of the flower. Fold each heart to give a crease which helps take on the shape of the flower.
4. Write name on the leaf and tape down onto the back side of the flower.

5. Insert lollipop into the hole.

This last craft has become a House of Curls favorite, especially for youngest curly girlie, because it involves tearing up paper! What fun for a two-year-old to be given permission to tear something up!

Using the cheap paper plates, I cut out a large heart. I gave both girlies some scrap paper to tear up. Oldest girlie decided to cut the paper with scissors.

After we got a fair amount of torn pieces, we glued the paper all over the plate heart.

When finished, it turned out to be a really cute collage of colors!

The best part of the craft was that our youngest really could make it all by herself, which is something that she takes great pride in doing! This is a perfect little homemade gift for grandparents, teachers, and of course, Mommies!

Happy Valentine's, all you love bugs!