Friday, July 29, 2011

Frozen Dinner Swap: Chicken Zucchini Casserole

I have always loved zucchini. I think it's a very versatile vegetable. Mild in flavor and easily prepared in a multitude of ways. I've loved fried zucchini since I was a kid. I was just as happy to eat it as I was french fries.

Although ... when I was in first grade I professed in the local newspaper's student spotlight that my favorite meal was crab meat salad ... so I probably wasn't like most kids!

We make zucchini from time to time at our house, mostly in the form of zucchini chips (an easy recipe I'll share some other time), so I was happy that at our latest frozen dinner swap I took home one of Kristen Deere's Chicken Zucchini Casseroles. I don't think I've ever eaten zucchini in a casserole before, so I was excited to try this dish.

To boil it down, it's pretty much a creamy chicken dressing with bits of zucchini in it. You can definitely taste the zucchini in the casserole, but it's not the showcase ingredient. Perhaps making this a great way to sneak some veggies past kids who usually turn their noses up at all things green. You know, kids who claim corn dogs rather than crab meat salad as their favorite dish.

Chicken Zucchini Casserole

1 (6 ounce) package stuffing mix
3/4 cup butter, melted
3 cups diced zucchini
2 cups cubed cooked chicken breast
1 (10.75 ounce) can condensed cream of chicken soup, undiluted
1 medium carrot, shredded
1/2 cup chopped onion
1/2 cup sour cream
  • In a large bowl, combine stuffing mix and butter. Set aside 1/2 cup for topping.
  • Add the zucchini, chicken, soup, carrot, onion and sour cream to the remaining stuffing mixture.
  • Transfer to a greased 2-qt. baking dish. Sprinkle with reserved stuffing mixture.
  • Bake, uncovered, at 350 degrees F for 40-45 minutes or until golden brown and bubbly.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Trixie Trohaugh - Office Humor at its Best

The people you work with are one of the most important factors on whether or not you like your job. There are all different personalities, people from all walks of life, coming to the same place every day and working together.

At my sister-in-law's office, they recently hired a new worker. Her name is Trixie Trohaugh, and I've been getting updates on her performance for the past several days. As you can see, she definitely comes from a different world, one of entitlement and privilege, but she seems to be fitting in around the office just fine.

Here's the story of Trixie's first week at work, as the ladies at my sister-in-law's office tell it. I think she's going to be a nice fixture around the office.

{Have I told you about our new office assistant, Trixie? Her picture is attached. She's a whiz at filing.}

{Jill and Angie have gossip hour with Trixie}

{Trixie got a haircut on her first day of work because she didn't really look very business like. She kinda looked like a big time party girl, and you know, we couldn't have that. Angie did it for her}

{Trixie did the mail Tuesday afternoon. She's pretty slow picking it up, but at least she gets the job done.}

{Trixie showed up looking very "business like" on her third day of work, but the bitch refuses to wear shoes. Angie thinks she was originally used to a very beachy environment and doesn't like to wear them.}

{So, I walk into my office and Trixie has stolen my friggin water bottle!}

{Then ... she asked to borrow my tweezers.}

{And then, it had been a while since I'd heard her, I walk in to find her admiring herself in the mirror}

I don't know about y'all, but I can't wait to see what Trixie will get into next!

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Meet Me at the Dixie Cream

I decided a few weeks ago to take my first venture in becoming an official Gilmore Girl (aka., someone who finds the desirables in small town life).

My experiment is called Small Town Special. And instead of looking at all the things that aren't in this small town where I work, I'm beginning to fish out all the good things about small communities - starting with the food. I began this adventure just weeks ago, and last week a co-worker found a roach in the fried rice at Chinese buffet. I will be skipping this location and praying for sanitary kitchens as I press on!

My first stop was Dixie Cream. I picked this place based mostly on its name. On that fact alone, it's already oozing with charm! Then I pulled up.

Doesn't look like much, but I loved the sight of this place. I think walk-up windows used to be commonplace before my time, but since then the window has been replaced by the drive-thru. To me, this is the way "fast food" should look in a small town where things move a little slower. Everyone has time to get out of the car and visit with others. I know this isn't necessarily true (based on my workload alone), but it's how things worked on "Gilmore Girls"!

I felt a little on the spot when it came time to order. As you can see, the menu is extensive. So, I went with the standard menu item, cheeseburger and fries. I waited in the 100 degree weather for my food. The more my jeans stuck to my legs, the less charming Dixie Cream seemed.

Finally, my made-to-order lunch was ready, and I went back to my office to enjoy. By the time I'd made the quick 10-minute trip back to my desk, my brown sack was marred with grease ... a sign of good things to come followed by a twinge of guilt.

As I unwrapped the white paper from around my burger, I thought "this is what a burger is meant to be like." It was delicious, fresh, bursting with homemade flavor. I loved it, all the while apologizing to my hips and thighs. I'll be sure to return to Dixie Cream for ice cream and ribbon cut fries.

If this is what's in store, I can't wait for this small town to seduce me ... one greasy brown bag at a time!

Monday, July 25, 2011

Menu Monday, Cheesy BBQ Sloppy Joes and Weekend in Review!

Today's blog is all inclusive. I have lots of news to share, including my weekly menu and a delicious recipe we made last night that will forever change your opinion of sloppy joes.

Weekend in Review

  • Sweet, adorable baby Beckett had to make an overnight visit to the hospital for jaundice. Although it is common in newborns, it added another level of stress to my sister-in-law's week. She and Beckett stayed overnight Saturday, and fortunately, he was doing well enough to go home Sunday. However, just about the time Mandy was coming home, Justin was leaving for New Orleans to take his bar exam. It's been a crazy week for them. I'm hoping they can settle into a routine very soon.
  • Upon Beckett's arrival, our church wanted to put a large stork in the yard welcoming its newest member. Problem is, the church had Mandy and Justin's address as our address. It was an easy mix-up since they lived with us for several months. The stork deliverer was on his way to our house when he called Ty and said we needed to water the lawn so he could stick the stork in the ground. I'm glad Ty was available to answer his phone and give the guy Mandy's new address. A giant stork in our front yard would have been a head scratcher for our neighbors!
  • Since Mandy has had her hands full with Beckett, Mimi and Pop have been looking after Ruby Belle for the last several days. Yesterday, they requested a few hours off, so Ty and I took Ruby Belle for the afternoon. We swam for about an hour, tee teed in the potty (I take pride in this one specifically), took a bath, watched cartoons and went down for a nap. It was a good trial run for me and Ty. Now we know we can be guardians in four hour increments!
  • We also got some good family news ... my brother and Ashley have a contract on their townhouse! In the next several weeks, we'll be packing up boxes and looking forward to seeing where they settle in. I'm couldn't be happier for them as they cross this milestone!
Menu Monday

Ty and I have a crazy week ahead of us, so there won't be much cooking going on this week. But I do have some one great meal planned. How sad is that? Sorry for the slim pickens for Menu Monday!

Monday: Grilled Tilapia, Roasted New Potatoes and Squash. I originally planned this meal for last week, but it didn't make it to the table once we found out our nephew was on the way.
Tuesday: I'm out of town, so hopefully Ty will finish off some leftovers.
Wednesday: I get back in town, we have band practice at the church and will probably grab something while we're out.
Thursday: Guys Night with church friends, and I don't cook for one!

Cheesy BBQ Sloppy Joes

To make amends for my lack of menu items for this week, I want to share this delicious recipe I finally got around to trying last night. I pulled it out of Southern Living more than a year ago, but just hadn't made it yet. I don't really like the idea of sloppy joes. In my mind, sloppy joes are synonymous with Manwich. I guess that's good marketing on their part. Even though it's just a sauce, Manwich grosses me out!

I understand it's an easy solution for feeding a family on busy weeknights, but we can all do a little better than that! This recipe took me less than 30 minutes to make, and is single-handedly responsible for the revival of sloppy joes in my household.

Cheesy BBQ Sloppy Joes

1 1/2 pounds lean ground beef
1 (14.5-oz.) can diced tomatoes
1 cup ketchup
1/2 cup bottled barbecue sauce
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
2 tablespoons chopped pickled jalapeño peppers (optional)
1 tablespoon liquid from pickled jalapeño peppers (optional)
1 (11.25-oz.) package frozen garlic Texas toast
1/2 cup (2 oz.) shredded sharp Cheddar cheese
  • Brown ground beef in a large skillet over medium-high heat, stirring often, 8 to 10 minutes or until beef crumbles and is no longer pink; drain well. Return to skillet. Stir in tomatoes, next 3 ingredients, and, if desired, jalapeño peppers and liquid. Cover and cook 10 minutes.
  • Meanwhile, prepare Texas toast according to package directions. Serve beef mixture over Texas toast; sprinkle with cheese.
My two cents: 1. Include the jalapenos. It'll give the recipe a little kick without being too spicy. 2. Shred your own cheese. So much better! 

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Easy Crockpot Roast and Mashed Potatoes

It's been a long day.

I've flown to Oklahoma and back, and I'm glad to be home, out of the hot, turbulent skies, and ready for the weekend. 

After long days like these, there's nothing better than coming home to the inviting aroma of a roast that's been slow cooking all day. I don't have a roast to welcome me home today, but we enjoyed one earlier this week, recipe complements of my sister in law Ashley. It's by far the best crockpot roast I've had, and with a crockpot liner, it couldn't be more low maintenance.

I've also got an easy three ingredient recipe for homemade mashed potatoes. I love mashed potatoes, but peeling, dicing and boiling potatoes is more than I want to contribute for a weeknight dinner. This is where Steam 'n Mash potatoes come in handy!

Here are the recipes, I hope this easy meal makes at least one weeknight dinner easier.

Crockpot Roast
Roast, whatever cut you prefer
1 can cream of mushrooms
1 packet of brown gravy mix (combine with water, according to directions on packet)
salt, to taste
pepper, to taste
garlic powder, to taste
  • Combine cream of mushroom with gravy mix and pour over roast into crockpot. Season to taste and cook on low for 6 to 8 hours.
Three Ingredient Mashed Potatoes
1 package of Steam 'n Mash potatoes
1/2 cup to 1 cup whipping cream
1 stick salted butter
salt and pepper, to taste
  • Steam potatoes according to directions on packet. Pour into stand mixer and roughly mash with hand masher.
  • Add in stick of butter, whipping cream and salt and pepper. Turn mixer on low/medium to whip  potatoes. Add more whipping cream until potatoes reach desired consistency.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Meet Beckett King Smith

We spent last night at the hospital with Mandy and Ty's family, awaiting Beckett's arrival. I've always come up to the hospital after the baby is born. I've never been on the scene at actual time of arrival. As we stood in the hallway, I didn't know what to expect.

Blood curdling screams?


Grunts of pain?

From that description, it sounds like I was expecting an exorcism rather than a child's delivery!

But I didn't hear any of those things. Instead, I heard Mandy giggling. I repeat ... GIGGLING!! My sister-in-law is a champ! She's the person you want to be on the scene with in the maternity wing. She's instilled a little bit of bravery in me even a second-hand witness.

And all of her hard work (that she made look easy) paid off. We met this sweet boy just after 10 p.m. and I love him already.

Beckett weighed 8 pounds, 6 ounces and was 20 inches long. That's a big baby! If you've ever met teeny-tiny little Mandy, you think that's a really big baby! I don't know how she found the room for him since there's not much space to give up!

It was a lot of waiting and then we all just sort of stared at him. I think he looks like his sister.

{Big Sister Ruby Belle, Sept. 2009}
Or maybe it's just the cap?

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Beckett is on the Way!

My sister-in-law, Mandy, went in for a doctor's appointment and found out she wasn't going home. Instead, she's having her baby today!

We're all very excited about meeting our newest family member, Beckett King Smith. Although, I don't think Mandy was completely ready. She text me this morning to ask how to make roast spaghetti and said she was trying to put away some frozen meals for once the baby was here. I don't think she meant this afternoon!

Ready or not, I always love a new arrival. It's magical to see and hold a little person who will forever be a part of your life. Even though it's been nearly two years, I still remember the first time we visited Ruby Belle. She was just days old when we drove up to northwest Arkansas to visit.

{Ty with Ruby Belle the week she was born.}

However, I don't know if this little princess is quite ready for the arrival of her little brother. She's used to ruling the roost and having undivided attention, especially from Pop.

{Ruby Belle on her first birthday, letting us all know "I'm No. 1!"}

I think she'll be able to maintain herself as a top priority ... doesn't hurt that she's the first and a girl.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Menu Monday and More

I am officially a delinquent blogger. I'm in project overload in my real world life, which has resulted in fewer posts over the past several weeks. Hopefully, I can do a little better this week!

First, I want to share some new things that have gone in around our house.

These are the three beautiful Robert Furber botanical prints that Ashley and Jenny gave me for my birthday. There is a botanical print for each month, and the girls gave me April (Ty's birth month), May (my birth month) and September (our wedding month). I got them framed and finally hung them in our hallway this weekend.

I think they look elegant and simple. We have a really narrow hallway running through the center of our house, and these are the perfect size to visually work in the tight space.

We've lived in our house for over a year now and from time to time we've had some significant battles with our pool. My brother sent us this picture while he was staying at our house over Memorial Day weekend.

Dis-gusting!!! I wish I could say this was a green screen, but it was the actual color of our pool's water. Lacy and Taylor don't seem to mind! We felt we'd tried everything, so at the beginning of last week we agreed to give it two more weeks and then we were going to drain it and start over.

Then something miraculous happened. The pool started to make a dramatic turn, and by the weekend, it was close to crystal clear. I'm so glad because I was sick about how much our water bill would be to fill up our pool again!

To celebrate (and because they were majorly on sale at World Market), we bought some cute and comfy pool loungers. I don't know how we survived this long without them?

I'm happy my pool matches those cushions! I'm looking forward to when it's cool enough to read my Kindle poolside.

Now with those house things behind me, my sister-in-law Ashley had a wonderful idea that I think I'm going to incorporate on the blog. I'm calling it "Menu Monday," and basically that means at the beginning of each week, I'll share with you a list what I'm cooking that week.

Each Monday, Ashley and I always want to know what the other person is cooking that week. We exchange our menus, and that usually leads to some swapped recipes! I'm hoping it will work the same way for all of us here. It'll also be a nice preview of some recipes to come in the following weeks.

I invite you to share your menu and recipes, too!

Here's my weekly dinner menu, along with links to the recipes I've already shared!

Monday: Crunchy Herbed Chicken with Fresh Vegetables and Couscous
Tuesday: Ashley's Crock Pot Roast with Dijon Roasted New Potatoes and Vegetables
Wednesday: Whatever fish they have at Maxwell's (my favorite local market with a wonderful variety of fresh fish) to make herb and lemon fish.
Thursday: Frozen Dinner Swap Dish - Chicken Zucchini Casserole

Bon Appetit!

Thursday, July 14, 2011

My Car's Hot, Sticky Sweet

This morning, I opened the way back of my car to see this.

My heart sunk.

I'm an obsessively clean person. When I sold my last car, the buyer was amazed at how good of shape the interior was in. That's just how I roll, probably to a detriment. 

And when we bought my new car last November, I vowed to her that she would go unsoiled (at least until we started packing in car seats and then all bets were off). I take care of my hard-earned stuff, so this sight nearly brought a tear to my eye.

Despite my cleaning obsession, I have a tendency to be forgetful from time to time. This time my forgetfulness had consequences. I guess at some point, I went to the grocery store and bought a six pack of bottled Diet Pepsi. I threw them in the back of my car and forgot about them entirely. Three bottles exploded in this 100-degree heat, spilling sticky soda all over the interior of my way back compartment.

I spent an hour of my morning scrubbing, blotting and praying over this spill. And then I sent a text to Ty, figuring he would be highly amused that the "clean one" in our household made a huge mess.

Steph: This is why I can't have nice things. Forgot a six pack of cokes and they spilled in the way back. I've been cleaning for about an hour.

Ty: Coke or Diet?

Mental Note: Umm excuse me!? What's he getting at with that comment?

Steph: Diet

Ty: That's better than regular.

Mental Note: My husband is quite the wordsmith!!

Steph: It's drying in my office now.

Ty: Diet doesn't stain.

Thankfully, Ty's only concern was for the cleanliness of the Volvo. I don't know if I could handle this spill and my husband indirectly calling me fat all in one day!

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Hello Dolly Bars

If getting ready to go on vacation wasn't stressful enough, I decided I would make a homemade dessert for our trip to the beach.

I always have time for dessert.

And cooking is strangely therapeutic for me in the midst of chaos. Once something delicious has been made, all is right in the world. That could also be attributed to the fact that I like to drink wine while I cook.

I made some Hello Dolly bars. I'd seen the recipe in Southern Living and it reminded me of a dessert my stepmom used to make and the cravings were instantaneous.

It's five simple components: graham cracker crust, chocolate chips, chopped pecans, coconut and condensed milk.

Ty walked into the kitchen to see the five ingredients and turned his nose up in disgust.

"I don't eat desserts with nuts in them."

I told him not to knock it until he tried it.

We packed our bags and Hello Dolly bars and headed to the coast, and by the next morning the Hello Dolly bars had been polished off completely and my husband's opinions had been converted.

Hello (Dolly)!! Never underestimate the persuasive powers of condensed milk. This is such an easy dessert to make and always a crowd favorite. Even for those who don't like nuts!

Hello Dolly Bars

2 cups graham cracker crumbs
1/3 cup melted butter
3 tablespoons sugar
1 cup chopped pecans
1 cup semisweet chocolate morsels
2/3 cup sweetened flaked coconut
1 (14-oz.) can sweetened condensed milk
  • Preheat oven to 350. Combine first 3 ingredients in a medium bowl. Press mixture onto bottom of a lightly greased 13- x 9-inch pan. Bake 8 minutes. Sprinkle pecans, chocolate morsels and coconut over hot crust. Pour condensed milk over top. (Do not stir.)
  • Bake at 350 for 20 to 25 minutes or until lightly browned and edges are bubbly. Let cool 1 hour on a wire rack. Cut into bars.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Back from Vacation

The Jordans are back from our Gulf Coast vacation and completely refreshed! I know I promised to blog, but I encountered difficulty syncing my mobile number to my blogger account. Forgive me?

In the matter of one week, I managed to  ...

master the art of a Pina Colada.

finally finish the book I started reading in February.

get a glorious massage.

watch two consecutive hours of Family Guy.

eat lots of terrific seafood.

buy a dress for $7 at the JCrew outlet.

watch a beautiful fireworks show fired off directly in front of our condo balcony.

beat Ty racing go carts (forget the fact that his ride stalled out. A win is a win.)

drink the single most strongest cocktail of my life at the Pink Pony Pub.

and only reply to a single work e-mail all week.

Despite all the reasons I enjoyed our trip, I came home with one unwanted souvenir ... swimmer's ear. What am I ... 12 again? I thought only kids got swimmer's ear? Just goes to show you, I play hard.

In retrospect, I will no longer plan vacations on national holidays. After our Memorial Day trip, I came home with poison ivy. Now following my Fourth of July adventure, I have swimmer's ear. I'm staying put come Labor Day!

Friday, July 1, 2011

Vacation Amnesia

By tomorrow evening, this will be my view.

Can. Not. Wait.

I'm can't wait to enjoy a week of R&R with my husband and some of our close friends. I'm excited about a long list of things. Fruity drinks. The smell of the ocean. Seafood nachos at Pink Pony Pub. Live music and Jet Ski Killers (that's a frozen beverage) at Lulu's. A visit to the JCrew outlet in Foley. Waves rushing in to splash my feet. Rarely/never straightening my hair and no makeup. Our resort's pool side bar & grill and spa services. Sleeping late. Fresh oysters and seafood. Putt Putt. Reading on the beach. Playing with the Gulett kiddos. Hanging out on the balcony at night. Crab hunting. Living in swimsuits, cover ups and pjs for a week.

Really, the days leading up to vacation are absolutely the most stressful. There's so much to do to prepare for your absence. Not that I'm that important. I'm sure everyone will survive the week I'm gone. My friend said that once we leave town all of that stress will quickly be forgotten. And we started referring to that phenomenon as "vacation amnesia."

I'm ready to not have a care in the world ... at least for a few days.

I will do my best to not forget about you all! It may be a week of short posts, but I hope to send a few beach pictures your way.

See you next week and happy Fourth!