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Archive for January, 2011

Hello and welcome back to The Bluebirds Nest.  I have another week night meal suggestion for you today.  I call it “Shrimptastic Pasta” because that’s what it is!  When I made this for my fireman and I, there were no leftovers.  I had one helping and he had….well…. the rest.  The meal comes together in a flash and I guarantee it will be a fast favorite at your table.  For this recipe you will need:

One Bag of peeled and cleaned Frozen Shrimp
Noodles (your call)
One 24 oz. Jar of Tomato Sauce (I used Tomato Basil)
One large Onion Sliced
4 Cloves of minced Garlic
One Can of small pitted Black Olives
About a cup of frozen Peas
One French Baguette
One whole Clove of Garlic peeled
Olive Oil
Red Pepper Flakes
Salt and Pepper

Okie, So fill up a big pot with hot water and get it on the stove.  Give it a big bite of salt.  You want your pasta water to be salty like the ocean.  Cook the noodles of your choice until they are al dente and set them aside in the hot pot with a lid on it.  I always season my noodles with a drizzle of olive oil and some pepper.  While that’s heating up, go ahead and put some heat under a large skillet and coat the bottom of the pan with olive oil.  Get your onions and garlic in there and salt and pepper ’em up.

Once those are happy, open the can of olives and drain them.  Add those to the mix.  Sometimes I chop the olives before I add them in but I didn’t feel like doing the extra step.  Sometimes it’s like that ya know?  The quicker it all gets in the pan, the quicker I can eat it. 

Next just go ahead and dump the whole jar of sauce in there.  It’s so liberating to just turn it up-side down with no regard to measuring or saving a little bit for something else.  We deserve it all… and it’s low calorie anyway.  Sorry, did that ruin it for you?  Ahem.  It’s decadent and downright sinful! 

Once the sauce has heated up, add in the frozen peas.  They will totally thaw out in a matter of minutes and I think they add beautiful color and flavor to this dish.

Add in red pepper flakes to taste.  I probably added about a teaspoon.  It’s nice to have that heat in the background against the sweetness of the tomato sauce and the peas.

At this point you can go ahead and add the shrimp to the party.  A quick suggestion would be to remove all the shrimp tails from the thawed shrimp and give them a good rinse in the colander. It’s so much nicer to just be able to eat the shrimp without worrying about the tails.  When you have rinsed them, throw some salt and pepper on them.  It’s really really important to season everything well so that your dish is well-rounded and you can taste all the ingredients.

 

Add the shrimp in and get started on the garlic bread.  Look how pretty this looks!

Just stare at it for a minute…. Ugh…. Yum…   Ok, ok cut a piece off of the baguette and then slice that piece in half.  You can either leave it in 2 pieces or cut it smaller.  I went ahead and cut mine smaller in the name of portion control.  I didn’t say I was happy about it…

Turn on the broiler and stick the bread under there until it’s browned.  Take the whole peeled garlic clove and cut the top off of it.  Rub the clove across the surface of the bread.  The garlic will literally melt down into all the crevices in the bread and you get that fresh garlic taste.  When you’ve rubbed all the bread, drizzle each slice with a little bit of olive oil.

Serve the bread along side of your noodles topped with that shrimptastic sauce…. This is all ready in under half an hour and you can keep almost all of the ingredients on hand in your pantry and your freezer.  Enjoy this with the special people in your life.

Thanks for stopping by and I hope to see you  back real soon.

Love,

Meagan

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Hello and welcome back to The Bluebirds Nest.  Today we’re talkin bout pork chops!  I’m almost certain that most folks don’t think of using pork chops in their weekly dinner rotations.  They should!  They’re simply splendid dah-ling and they’re rather inexpensive to boot.  For this recipe, you will need:

Thinly Cut Pork Chops (I used 4)
Italian Style Bread Crumbs
1 Egg
Dijon Mustard
Dried Oregano
One Large Onion Sliced
1 Package of Mixed Salad Greens (whatever you like best)
2 Ripe Medium Sized Tomatoes or a handful of grape tomatoes (whatever is in season)
One Peeled Clove of Garlic
The juice of about half a lemon
Salt and Pepper

I love a breaded and fried pork chop, but the frying part is not something that should happen all too often (sigh…) so the only solution is to bake them. Since I’m not going to give up everything, I still bread them. Ha! You thought you’d deprive me of everything did ya? Well I won’t take it! You won’t hold me down! I won’t be repressed! I won’t deal with this anymore and you can’t make me conform to th- …Oops.  Sorry. I don’t even know who I was talking to there.  I get a little passionate about flavor…. Awkward…  Your hair looks cute today by the way. 

So anyway, to start let’s get the egg, about a teaspoon of mustard, and a teaspoon of oregano in a bowl and mix them up.  In another bowl, dump out about a cup or so of bread crumbs.  Now is also a good time to pre-heat your oven to 350.

 

Ok, so line a baking sheet with foil and coat it with non-stick cooking spray.  Take your chops and dip them one at a time first in the egg mixture and then into the crumbs.   Flip them all around to get them evenly coated.  Place the chops on the baking sheet and bake until golden and crisp.  I think this took about 25 minutes give or take.  Keep half an eye on them and you’ll see how they come along. 

While the loveliness is baking away, go ahead and start the salad.  So grab your tomatoes and lightly seed them.  Chop them up into small bits and put them in the bottom of the bowl you plan to serve your salad in.  Using a microplane or cheese grater, grate in HALF the clove of garlic.  If you use the whole thing,  it will be too much and will go from garlic scented to garlic saturated.  Normally that’s great for me but not in this dish. 

Once you’ve got the garlic in, squeeze in the lemon juice and drizzle the mixture with olive oil.  Add some salt and pepper to taste and theres your dressing!  Taste it.  Its glorious. 

Ok, so while that’s hanging out and the chops are still baking, go ahead and get some heat under a pan with some olive oil in it.  Put the whole sliced onion in there with some salt and pepper and cook it til the onion is soft and browned.

Ok so the chops are ready to be pulled out of the oven and it’s time to add the salad part of the salad to the bowl.  I have to tell you how ticked I was when I pulled out my brand new package of mixed field greens only to find that they were rotten on the bottom.  Ughhhhh!  After I finished cussing out the grocery store in my head, I remembered that I had a head of iceberg lettuce in the fridge and it would have to do.  You have to improvise sometimes.  So I washed it, sliced it up, put it in the bowl with the dressing and tossed it around to coat it. 

So here’s the finished dinner plate!  Despite my minor setback with the greens, it was delicious and light.  The pork chops have incredible flavor and coupled with the salad the whole thing really works. Pile the onions on top of the chops because it’s better that way and looks pretty.

I hope you enjoy this recipe with family, friends, or just by yourself!  Thanks for stopping by and I hope to see you back real soon.

Love,

Meagan

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Hello and welcome back to The Bluebirds Nest.  Today I’m making salmon!  If tuna is the chicken of the sea, then salmon is the beef of the sea.  Don’t you agree?  A lot of friends have told me that they like to order salmon at a restaurant, but they never buy it because they’re a bit afraid of it and don’t know how to cook it.  I am here today to answer those lingering questions and restore peace to the hearts of mankind regarding this coral hued terror! 

For this recipe you will need:

Potatoes
Garlic Cloves (3 or 4 or 5 or 6)
Milk
Chicken Stock
Butter
Salt and Pepper
Freshly Chopped Italian Parsley (a few Tbsp.)
1 Salmon Filet
Dried Dill
Garlic Salt
Olive Oil
One Head of Cauliflower
Italian Style Bread Crumbs
Grated Parmesan Cheese
Non-Stick Cooking Spray (I use PAM)

Ok, remember the rule about cooking the biggest time sucker-upper first?  You should start by peeling and rinsing the potatoes and then cut each one into uniform bite sized pieces.  You want them on the smaller side to mash them later.  Place the potatoes in a large pot and fill with enough cold water to cover them.  You always want to start the potatoes out in cold water so that once the water is boiling, the potatoes only have to boil for a few minutes.  They will have been cooking the whole time the water was heating.  Anyway, before you put them on the heat, smash a few garlic cloves out of their skins with the back of your knife on a cutting board.  I use about 5 or 6 depending on the size.  I love garlic.  Drop the cloves in the cold water with the potatoes whole.  As they boil, they will soften and become completely mashable.  Once all the veggies are in the hot tub, add a nice handful of salt.  It’s really important to season the potatoes before they cook because it’s hard to get enough into them after. 

Okie dokie, so now that the first step is done, let’s get to the guys that will take the second longest to cook.  Cauliflower!  Oh, don’t look so wild-eyed and desperate.  Let me tell you a little story.  Shhh… that’s it, just lie down a moment.  Do you want your teddy?  Alright, here we are… 

There once was a big strong fireman, who didn’t eat cauliflower at all. 
He turned up his nose and he curled up his toes and he’d think of a way he could stall. 
He’d sampled it mashed, and with seasonings dashed but all of it still made him sad. 
And he knew that nothing could ever be done to make it stop tasting so bad. 
But one day a bluebird so lovely and fair came to prove that dear fireman wrong. 
She roasted and toasted and sprinkled it up and tossed it around with some tongs. 
With just one small bite the fireman cried “this is the best cauliflower I’ve tried!”
So that happy man ate the whole dadgum pan and the bluebird just smiled with pride.  The End!

Don’t you feel better now?  The fireman liked it so I know this recipe will convince even the most vehemently opposed to change their tunes.  Excellent, lets start the cauliflower!  Preheat your oven to 400 and line a baking sheet with foil and coat with cooking spray.  Cut the florets off the stalks and then into more bite sized pieces.  Place them in a bowl with olive oil (enough to coat), bread crumbs, salt, pepper, and parmesan cheese. Just eyeball all of those ingredients.  I trust you.  Toss them around with tongs to coat evenly and then dump them on the sheet.  Bake them until they are very golden brown and all caramelized.  Remove them from the oven and tent them with foil to keep warm. You will be the hero of your very own dinner fairytale!

Next comes the “dun dun dun “…. SALMON!!  After you’re done shrieking, prepare a second foil lined baking sheet and spray it with cooking spray.  Fire up the broiler in your oven.  Place the salmon flesh side up on the sheet.  Pace back and forth twice.  Apply generous amounts of garlic salt, pepper, and dill.  Drizzle (and i do mean drizzle….. not coat, submerge, dollop, or slather) with olive oil and place under the broiler.

  Leave it under there until it has learned its lesson about intimidating people.  You will know when enough is enough because it will be golden and crisp around the edges.  This will take about 10-13-ish minutes depending on how hot your broiler cooks.  Pull it out triumphantly and tent it with foil to keep warm while you finish the potatoes. Drain them and return them to the hot pot.  Add some softened butter and alternating amounts of chicken stock and milk while you mash them up with a potato masher.  Once you’ve got them to the consistency you like, add salt and pepper to taste and then stir in that chopped parsley. 

Plate this dinner by placing a mound of mashed potatoes on yer plate.  Put a piece of salmon on top of that and nestle some previously misunderstood cauliflower next to that.  Such poise, such beauty.  Dig in!

I hope you enjoy this recipe and that you share it with family and friends. 

Thanks for stopping by and I hope to see you back real soon!

Love,

Meagan

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Hello and welcome back to The Bluebirds Nest.  Today we’re talkin about one of my favorite places on earth……. the thrift store!  I love them.  I can spend hour after hour just meandering around looking at the beautiful junk on display.  It’s relaxing yet exciting… it’s downright spiritual if you ask me.  If you ask my fireman, he’ll tell you it’s similar to what he imagines hell might be like… not excluding the burning and nashing of teeth.  I try not to drag him along too often, unless he’s being punished… (muah ha ha)

I love to use thrift store items to decorate my nest!  You can find such beautiful things at a fraction of the cost of something brand new and you can almost guarantee that they’re one of a kind.  Today I went poking around one of my local Salvation Army stores and I want to share with you some of the neat finds I saw and give you my suggestions for their use or placement. 

Take a look at these brass plates.  I think these would be perfect on a dining room or living room wall.  How about above a fireplace or doorway?  If you got several different ones, you could  have a unique art piece that would replace the need for a large, expensive painting. 

I also came across this gorgeous green glass large goblet.  Its so vintage and look at that gorgeous green jewel color.  This would be beautiful in the center of a table with a candle in it or on a mantle, dresser, or bathroom counter top. 

How about this little collection of jewel tone vases?  How pretty!!  I think this would look gorgeous in a window sill in the spring.  You could put a single stemmed little flower in each one.  I think that would look so sweet. 

Look at this neat shadow box thingy!  I love old keys.  I think this would look fabulous anywhere in your house.  I would hang this maybe in an entry way to highlight the whole door/key thing.  This could even be pretty in a bedroom as well.  I love things that are interesting. 

How about these 2 chairs?  Two totally different styles but both knockouts!  The gold one I could see in front of a window with a small table and a lamp.  So vintage chic.  And the embroidered one would be adorable in a large entry way with a picture or a few wall hooks hung above it.  Great place to sit down and put shoes on.  I could also see it in a corner of the dining room as a “spare chair” for a guest.  Things don’t have to match to look amazing.  In fact, I like it better when they don’t.

Finally, I spied with my little eye, these two asian inspired vases.  I thought they were totally awesome and would look great in cut thru window area along a stair case maybe with some tall wispy branches standing in them.  These would also look lovely in a bathroom or even as a centerpiece on a coffee table. 

There were so many treasures but I could only share a few.  What great items have you scored at the thrift store?  If you have never been, I would encourage you to go today!

Thanks for stopping by and I hope to see you back real soon!

Love,

Meagan

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Nutella Cupcakes

Hi there and welcome back to The Bluebirds Nest.  I’m really excited to share another yummy dessert with you today…. Nutella Cupcakes!  It’s no secret that I love Nutella and these “scrumtrellescent” cupcakes pack quite a chocolatey-hazelnutty punch.  I researched recipes for similar cupcakes and even sampled a so-called Nutella Cupcake that cost almost three dollars.  I was disappointed to say the least, so I came up with my own version and I hope you enjoy it!

For this recipe, you will need:

Chocolate Devils Food Cake Mix
Nutella
Hazelnut Extract or Hazelnut Coffee Flavor Tablets
Whipped Milk Chocolate Frosting
Pastry Bag fitted with a circular tip (optional) (i got a bit fancy…sorry)
Cupcake Wrappers

I would like to talk about flavoring the batter first.  I searched my grocery store’s baking aisle for hazelnut extract but was completely out of luck.  I checked the coffee aisle hoping to find some instant hazelnut coffee (because coffee and chocolate love to hold hands) but no luck there either.  I was almost at the end of the aisle when I saw out of the corner of my eye, a little tin of hazelnut tablets for brewed coffee.  I figured I could smush them into powder and flavor the cake batter.  I was correct.  I ended up using 12 tablets for these cupcakes.  I don’t mean to toot my own horn but, it was pretty awesome.  (toot!)

 

Go ahead and prepare the batter according to the box directions and I won’t tell anyone of you lick the spatula.  It’s a chefs prerogative.  When the batter is mixed, add the extract (a teaspoon) or the tablets and a 1/2 cup of Nutella to the batter and combine.

Next, place your paper wrappers in the cupcake tin and fill them 2/3 of the way.  Bake until a toothpick inserted in the center of a cupcake comes out clean.  The cake package will direct you.

Whille the cupcakes are baking, you can work on the frosting.  In a smaller mixing bowl, combine the can of frosting with 1 cup of Nutella. 

I bought a cupcake decorating kit!  Yay! It came with pastry bags and different tips. I am so excited to decorate!  To fill the bag, roll the top down and spoon frosting inside while you squish it down the tip of the bag.  It keeps a much neater bag. 

When the cupcakes have cooled, frost them creatively.  I did a mixture of dots and swirls.  For the dotted cupcakes, just squeeze drops of frosting all around the edges and top.  So cute!  Nutella polka dots!  For the swirls, start at the edge and squeeze from the top of the pastry bag without pausing as you turn the cupcake in a circle.  Just practice and it will get easier.  My first few cupcakes looked hideous. 

Here’s the finished product!

These were really yummy but I did a bit of experimenting on other cupcakes and I found that you can frost with pure Nutella!  OMG.  Next time I make these I might do a mix of both and I may try to put Nutella in the piping bag and see what happens!

Thanks for stopping by and I hope to see you again real soon!

Love,

Meagan

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Welcome back to The Bluebirds Nest!  Today I will be sharing with you one of my very favorite go-to desserts.  This is so easy and so delicious.  My fireman always says he’s not going too eat too much of it like last time but ends up with 2 or 3 helpings and a tummy ache.  Even my little brother who is a notoriously tough critic raved about this cobbler.  In other words, it’s so good it could bring tears to a glass eye.  Nuff said.

For this recipe you will need:

1 Boxed Yellow Cake Mix
1 Stick Butter
1 32 oz can of Peaches in Heavy Syrup
1 14.5 oz Can of Pears in Heavy Syrup
Pinch of Cinnamon
Pinch of Nutmeg
Pinch of Ground Cloves
1 Pint of Heavy Whipping Cream
4 Tbsp of Sugar
1 tsp. Vanilla Extract
1 1/2 tsp of Maple Extract

Make sure you chill your mixing bowl and electric mixer beaters before you make the whipped cream.  Put the pint of cream in your bowl and start whipping it up.  Once it thickens up a bit, add the sugar, and extracts.  Continue beating on the highest speed til a thick and fluffy whipped cream consistency is formed.  Chill in an air tight container in the fridge until just before serving.

Pre-heat your oven according to the cake mix directions.  In a 9×13 pan, dump both cans of fruit and their syrups.  Using a knife and fork, cut all the fruit slices up into small chunks.  Add each pinch of spice (i use a big pinch of cinnamon, a medium pinch of nutmeg, and a small pinch of cloves) and stir the mixture around to combine.

Pour the entire dry cake mix evenly over the top of the fruit.  Smooth it out with a fork. 

Using thin slices of cold butter, cover the whole top of the cake mix evenly.   Bake the cobbler until the top is a deep golden brown and the fruit syrup bubbles around the edges.  Let it cool for 5-10 minutes and serve in shallow bowls with a generous spoonful of Vanilla-Maple Whipped Cream.

Enjoy this amazing cobbler with your family and friends as soon as possible.  Go.  Now!

Thanks for stopping by and I hope to see you back real soon!

Love,

Meagan

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Hello and welcome back to The Bluebirds Nest.  Today I’m fixin to learn ya how to make some bean soup!  When I was at Walmart the other day,  I stumbled upon this little package of dried beans with a recipe on the back of it.  I was intrigued and for the $2.38 price tag, I decided to explore the possibilities.  The multi-colored beans were just so cute!  Let’s see, we have varieties like northern beans, pinto, lima, garbanzo, split peas, kidney, pink beans, lentils, navy beans, black beans and many more.  WARNING: The Bluebirds Nest is not responsible for any side effects caused by consumption, including but not limited to… um…. noxious fumes…. Thank you.

For this recipe you will need:

1 Package of Hurst’s 15 Bean Soup
Chicken Stock
A 1lb Ham Steak Diced into small cubes
1 Large Onion Diced (any color you have or like…red, white, yellow…)
3 Stalks Celery Diced (including green leafy tops)
4 Slices Bacon
4 Cloves Garlic Chopped
1 15oz Can Diced Tomatoes
Salt and Pepper
Chili Powder
Paprika

Before you do anything, you need to have soaked your beans at leat 8 hours or overnight in 2 quarts of water.  When you drain the beans, they will be much more crisp than any canned bean.  Don’t be alarmed.  They will totally soften up by the time the soup is done. 

Now, if you read the package recipe you will notice that I only loosely follow it.  For example, the beans come with a “ham flavor packet” that includes ingredients that I cannot pronounce.  A good rule of thumb is “If I can’t say it, I’m not eating it”.  I decided that I could put just as much natural flavor in this bad boy without the chemistry homework….hence the bacon. 

Begin by cutting the bacon into small pieces.  Use your kitchen scissors to do this because trying to use a knife is so annoying.  Ever been there?  Makes you so mad you could just spit.  Spitting + Cooking = Fail.  In a large dutch oven, heat enough olive oil to thinly coat the bottom and once it’s hot, add the bacon and cook until it’s all crisped up and happy.

When the bacon has rendered all its fat, take it out of the pot with a slotted spoon and let it drain on a paper towel.  You should have all kinds of brown bits in the bottom.  Leave these bits alone.  Nothing has burned, I promise.  It’s all pure flavor that will make your soup taste more delicious than a plate of gospel chicken on Sunday. 

When the bacon is out, add the onion, celery, garlic, and ham.  Season with salt and pepper and cook until the veggies are softened.  While they are cooking, avoid the urge to eat the crisped pieces of bacon.  Give in.  Eat a few pieces.  Push the pile around so its less noticeable because it will make you feel better. 

Go ahead and add the beans to the mix and add 4 cups of chicken stock and 4 cups of water.  This will add way more flavor than just using water and good heavens, without that ham packet we must do all we can!  Turn the heat up on your burner and let the soup bubble away with the lid half on (for the optimists) or half off (for the pessimists) for about an hour and a half.  Towards the end of the cooking time, you can make what I like to call “Cheatin’ Kind Cornbread” aka Jiffy Mix. 

 

Theres nothing wrong with this cornbread.  It’s quite delicious.  It’s just that if my grandmother knew I was guilty of such a lazy pleasure, she’d” fix my dog hide”.  Then I  would have to hastily explain to her that I was out of cornmeal and the roads were too bad for me to navigate them safely and she would finally concede but not without a disapproving grimace.  In her honor, I will soon be featuring her famous Southern Skillet Baked Cornbread.  Until then, prepare the cheatin’ kind according to the package instructions and destroy the evidence.  

If you check the soup now you’ll notice a lot of the liquid should be gone from the pot.  You should have a nice thick soup with very un-crispy beans.  Go ahead and add a teaspoon of paprika and chili powder and adjust the salt and pepper as well.  If you happen to have any bacon left, add that to the mix as well.  You look guilty.  Why is that?  Anyway, serve big bowls of soup with squares of cornbread topped with butter.  Yummmmm….

I hope you enjoy this recipe!

Thanks for stopping by and I hope to see you back real soon.

Love,

Meagan

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