The Pioneer Woman and My Version of Chicken Florentine

One night a few years ago, I stumbled upon a blog called The Pioneer Woman. I heart her. She’s a city girl who met and fell in love with a real life cowboy. Originally, it was their story that captivated me. First written on her blog, this true-life love story called Black Heels to Tractor Wheels is available now in paperback – it’s really good, but lately, I’m more taken by her recipes.

At least once a week I go to her website www.thepioneerwoman.com to find a new recipe to try. They never fail me. In my quest to become a better cook and to eat healthier, I’m experimenting with new ingredients and spices that are often like a foreign language to me. My confidence in myself as a cook is expanding in that I am now not afraid to make changes to recipes.

As you know, I love to juice – one of my favorite juice recipes is green juice with an ingredient of baby spinach leaves. Up until this point, I’ve never used baby spinach leaves for anything other than juicing or salads… until last week that is.

Pioneer Woman posted a recipe for Chicken Florentine Pasta. It looked delicious with the bonus of being easy and healthy. The recipe uses cooked spinach and I discovered I had no idea what I was missing! I’ll refer you to her website for the recipe – that’s only fair I think, but I will tell you that I made an executive decision to add two ingredients – mushrooms which I sautéed along with the onions and a can of sliced olives which I stirred into the chopped mushroom stems – I was so glad I did! So yummy! Have you tried any new recipes lately? xo Amy

Click here for the Pioneer Woman’s Recipe for Chicken Florentine Pasta

P.S. She has a new cookbook out that looks pretty good too! It’s called The Pioneer Woman Cooks. She scared the heck out of me at Wal-Mart the other day, ha!

P.S.S I am not being compensated for this post… I just really love her recipes!

Go Get Yourself Some Flowers!

“A flowerless room is a soulless room, to my way of thinking; but even one solitary little vase of a living flower may redeem it.”  –  Vita Sackville-West

It’s been such a joy walking outside this last month and cutting fresh flowers from around my yard. Aren’t the lilacs above beautiful? I found them right outside my front door.

Before the lilacs bloomed, there were daffodils sprinkled throughout the woods in my backyard…

And for Easter Dinner I snipped branches off a tree in our side yard for our table…

What a difference fresh flowers make in a home! I don’t know about you, but sometimes I get so busy I forget to really look at whats around me.

I’m betting that if you walk outside with a pair of scissors this weekend, there’s something you can snip to bring a little joy to your home!  No? Then go and buy yourself a fresh-cut bouquet today- It’s Friday!

Yesterday I was so excited to kick off this trip with a visit to Kati for a facial! Ahhh… My face feels like butter today! I love this quote on her wall…

Don’t let your moments slip away this weekend! Take a breath, hug someone you love, be a glass is half full kind of guy or gal and count your blessings – they really are all around you! Moments become memories… Make them count! xo Amy

Guest Bedroom, Wedding Ideas, Back in Florida, Owls, Fifty Shades of Grey, Crazy Birds and a Landscape Log

I’m back in the sunshine state to work with Gigi and thought I’d take a breath and say hello! Isn’t that container grouping (photo above) on her side patio adorable? I was busy earlier this week working, getting ready to travel and doing last-minute things at home before I left… things like making sure my poor abandoned husband has food, clean laundry and a blank check to pay for the golf league that starts this week – the last being most important.  I’m in the middle of lots of projects around my house, but I’ll have to wait to share them till I get back and have time to finish them! Projects like a guest bedroom, making a workstation for my office/craftroom, using milk paint, experimental wedding decorations and more! Here’s a snap shot of this week!

I found this fabulous chandelier at The Ohio Valley Antique Mall for $69.00 and finally hung it along with the ceiling medallion in a guest bedroom…

Isn’t it pretty? I am in love with it! The room is finally starting to take shape!

As I said the other day, I am addicted to exploring Pinterest for Wedding Ideas for Ashley and Greg’s big day. One thing she has said is she wants lots and lots of candles on the tables. She also likes some of the DYI  tissue paper flowers we’ve seen. I’ve been playing with all kinds of ideas. One was flowers made out of wax paper – I decided to give it a try…

It has potential, don’t you think? I really like effect of the wax paper back lit by a candle, I’ll show you that when I get back home.

Yes. I am reading Fifty Shades of Grey. If you haven’t heard of it, it’s a New York Times Best Seller. It’s a book that some are calling mom porn. Really? I don’t think that covers all the bases… I know women ranging from 23 to 75 years of age that are reading/loving this book and being a mom has nothing to do with it. Okay, well yes, its a bit racy. Some might say naughty. Others will say trashy.  Literary critiques will say not well written. I say lighten up, loosen up and enjoy. I got it for the plane and yes, in retrospect, I should have covered it in brown paper, haha! All I can say if you want to get lost in a highly charged story about romance, sex, sex and sex… run out and get this book. Warning: Like Hunger Games, it’s a trilogy. Be prepared to read two more. I am getting the second one for the trip home. Yes. I. Am. Don’t judge me.

When I got off the plane, I made a new friend who hung out with me as I waited for my luggage…

Nothing fazed this guy.

And before I left Cincinnati, I had to stop my car and take a photo of this guy…

He wasn’t moving either. Crazy birds. Speaking of things that have wings…

GiGi picked me up from the airport and when we got to her house, the first thing I did was look for the baby owls who last time I was here, looked like this…

But their nest in the Banyan Tree was empty…

GiGi took a photo of the tree right after I left last time…

Do you see one of the parents on the large branch?Look underneath it… someone has ventured out!

I couldn’t find them anywhere… and then I looked in the back yard, up in a really, really tall tree…

One of them is sitting at the top right at the end of a branch – he’s just a dot. Our babies are growing up!

Next week we have several garden projects to do including one that involves this…

and these…

Say tuned! Have a great day! xo Amy

Papaya Smoothie with Pumpkin Spice

This morning I discovered I had a Papaya I needed to eat – it was getting pretty ripe. It wasn’t a fresh one off GiGi’s tree pictured above, but it still tasted pretty good! Instead of using it to make my morning fruit juice I decided to make a smoothie in my blender. I do love smoothies and this one was pretty darn good! Here’s the recipe…

Papaya Pumpkin Spice Smoothie

  • Large papaya cut up – seeds and skin removed
  • 1 cup of milk, almond milk or vanilla flax milk
  • 2 tsp of vanilla
  • Very generous dash of pumpkin pie spice or you can use cinnamon
  • TBSP of flax seeds
  • TBSP of chia seeds

Slice the Papaya in half and remove seeds…

I find that a grapefruit spoon works really well to get the seeds out…

If you don’t have one of these handy little spoons, you really should!

Next, scoop out the insides. I forgot to take a picture… sorry, I was hungry and a slacker, I know… but I sliced the halves long ways, then cut away the skin.

In a blender, add the milk, papaya, pumpkin spice, vanilla, flax and chia seeds…

Place the lid on the blender, flip the switch and mix it till smooth!

I did remember to take a photo before took a sip… wasn’t that thoughtful?

It’s gone now and it was delicious.

As far as I can figure, this smoothie has less than 300 calories and chock-full of good things including 391% of daily recommended vitamin C… guess I’m good on that for the day! Try one! I think you’ll like it!

She said Yes!

I hope you like Weddings. I really hope you do, because I’m going to be talking a lot about weddings all through this year and into the next! I’ll still be talking about decorating, organization, cooking, gardening and what ever else pops into my head, but now we get to add wedding planning to the mix! Yay!

Meet Ashley…

Isn’t she adorable? I admit I’m just a tad prejudiced! She’s my favorite daughter. Okay, I can say that because she’s my only daughter and she really is adorable, isn’t she?

Ashley has always made me proud. She’s kind, sensitive, smart, athletic, generous and always thinking about someone else. She excelled in school, played volleyball, basketball, softball, was a cheerleader and volunteered lots. She graduated from the University of Cincinnati and has settled into a job that keeps her really busy. Pink is her color, she thinks she’s a princess and has always dreamed of happily ever after with her prince and little prince and princes running around. She is pretty, fun, tall (5′-9″), opinionated, confident and best of all, she’s in love!

Meet Greg!

Isn’t he handsome? The key thing here is he is as nice as he is cute! He’s a fireman at two different departments, smart, athletic, tall, (Ashley can wear 4″ heels and still be shorter!), adventurous, confident, from a big family, loves his mom and best of all loves my daughter! I knew that he was the “one” when he surprised her one day (for no particular reason) with a set of pink golf clubs. He said he wanted her to learn how to play so they could golf together. How awesome is that? Most guys are wanting to get away to the golf course, he wants her to join him. I love that!

I told Ashley a few years before she met Greg, that she should be patient. I told her that she would know when she met the right one, that it would be worth it. She got a little upset with me at the time, but I felt that it needed to be said. I told her that the guy that was the “one” would work as hard at making her happy as she did at making him happy. She told me a year after she started dating Greg she now knew what I meant… that Greg was the “one”. That makes me happy.

The first week of January Ashley asked me to go to dinner with the girls – Greg’s Mom, one of his sisters, his brother’s fiance and a friend. I was debating on if was going to go, until Mike said Greg had called and was stopping by for a cigar and to “talk about his future with Ashley”. My heart went pitter-patter… I was a nervous wreck! Haha! I immediately texted Ashley and said I would be there. She had no idea he was going to propose and I had to work really, really hard to not let on. Greg and Ashley had talked about rings, but she thought maybe he would propose later in the year.

I saw Greg right before I left for Olive Garden and gave him a hug, got all teary-eyed and probably made a fool out of myself. I was just so darn happy for them. He said he was going to ask her on top of a snow-capped mountain the following weekend while on a ski trip with friends. The cutest thing about it all was how nervous he was about the ring. He picked it out and designed it all by himself. He wasn’t nervous about asking her to marry him or talking to Mike… he was nervous about if she liked the ring… of course she L.O.V.E.D it. Loves it, loves it, loves it. He did good. She tells me all the time that it is perfect and it is.

Greg also told me before they left for the ski trip, that he had asked his mom to have an engagement party for them when they got back – isn’t that the nicest thing for him to have thought about that?  I helped out with the food for the party and along with some other things, I made some really yummy white chocolate raspberry filled cupcakes. I’ll share the recipe for those next week!

On January 14th, 2012, they officially became engaged…

Yay! She was is so happy. We are so happy for them and of course now we are officially planning a wedding. The goal is to have her dream wedding within a budget…should be a snap, right? Pinterest has my head spinning with tons of great ideas! I see lots of fun DIY experimental projects in the future!

I asked Ashley if her and Greg would mind if I blogged about their journey from “Yes” to “I-Do”! …she said I could! I hope you’ll enjoy this as much as I’m going to! I’ve got lots of ideas to share with you already and would love to hear any of your favorite one’s too!  xo Amy

I Cooked a Falafel Burger and I Liked it!

If you told me a year ago that I would try my hand at making a Falafel Burger, I would say… “a what?” What the heck is a Falafel Burger? As you may know, I’ve been slowly losing weight, eating healthier and juicing. I am eating more fruits, vegetables, nuts and beans – less meat and chicken. I was a meat lover. Loved steak, chicken, processes, grilled… you name it, I loved meat.

Did you notice I said loved? What changed? Well, I still kind of sorta like it, but there are few things coming in between me and my meat. One thing is simply that I’m finding new protein sources that both taste good AND are healthier alternatives to meat. I had subconsciously cut back on eating meat or chicken to just a few times a week and realized I was okay with that. I was still getting protein from juices, nuts and beans.

The other thing is a bit more complicated. My love affair with meat began to unravel when I watched the documentary Food Inc.. Then, last month, GiGi made me I watched a horrific documentary called Earthlings. You can click on the link to watch for free. Anyway, it’s horrific in that it’s a true documentary of everything animal-related and it unveils some really horrible things that I could not have imagined even in my worst dreams. It’s THAT bad. It covers “pet stores, puppy mills and animals shelters, as well as factory farms, the leather and fur trades, sports and entertainment industries, and finally the medical and scientific profession”. Even now, I can’t eat a piece of  meat without thinking about it. The thing is, I H.A.T.E.D. it, BUT, to not watch would be like putting my head in the ground and I am not about putting my head in the ground. I now truly appreciate words like cage free, hormone free, pasture raised. Argh.

When I went to Epcot a few weeks ago – I was starving, but determined to eat healthy. I had just watched Earthlings and anything with meat was not an option. GiGi ordered a Falafel burger – she’s a vegetarian. I was feeling a bit adventurous, and said “I’ll take one too!”. At that point, all I knew was it was green and looked like a burger. then I discovered it tasted pretty darn good. I really, really liked it. Turns out it’s a made of chick peas/garbanzo beans, onion, parsley and a few other ingredients. I thought it would be a fun recipe to try at home.

This past Friday night I asked my parents to have dinner with Mike and I. Little did they all know they were guinea pigs for my new recipe 🙂

Here’s what was on my table and the recipes…

Falafel Burgers with Cucumber Sauce and Strawberry Spinach Salad with a balsamic dressing

FALAFEL BURGERS W/CUCUMBER SAUCE: Recipe adapted from AllRecipes

Cucumber Sauce (prepare first and place in refrigerator for 30 minutes before serving)

  • 1 (6 ounce) container plain yogurt
  • 1/2 cucumber – peeled, seeded, and finely shredded
  • 1 teaspoon dried dill weed
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 tablespoon mayonnaise or grapeseed vegenaise (vegenaise is a delicious alternative to mayonnaise found in the refrigerator section of Whole Foods)
In a small bowl combine yogurt, cucumber, dill, salt, pepper and mayonnaise. Chill for at least 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Falafel Burgers

  • 1 (15 ounce) can chickpeas (garbanzo beans), drained
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1/2 cup fresh parsley
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 egg
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 dash pepper
  • 1 pinch cayenne pepper
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 cup dry bread crumbs

In a large bowl mash chickpeas until thick and pasty; don’t use a blender, as the consistency will be too thin.

In a food processor, process onion, parsley and garlic until smooth.

Note: It really didn’t get smooth, just finely mixed. I added extra parsley, I would not do that again. It was too much.

Stir the mixture into mashed chickpeas.

In a small bowl combine egg, cumin, coriander, salt, pepper, cayenne, lemon juice and baking powder. Stir into chickpea mixture along with olive oil. Slowly add bread crumbs until mixture is not sticky but will hold together; add more or less bread crumbs, as needed…

Form 6 balls and then flatten into patties. Spray a cookie sheet with olive oil and place patties on sheet. Lightly spray top of burgers as well. Note: Mine is lined with a Silicone Baking Liner.

Yes, those are some chick peas that you see… some didn’t get mashed. It still tasted good, so don’t stress if you miss a few!
 Bake at 400 degrees for 20 minutes –  flipping them halfway through.
While they are baking, prepare the salad:
Strawberry Spinach Salad
Layer the following:
  • Romaine torn into pieces
  • A few handfuls of baby spinach leaves
  • Sliced strawberries
  • Chopped onions
  • Sliced avocados
  • Dried cranberries
  • Almond slices
Serve with a balsamic or strawberry vinegarette
Since I knew my husband was going to be difficult, once the burgers were done baking, I threw them into a pan with a spritz of olive oil and lightly browned them on each side so they would look more like fried burgers.
 
Note: If you would rather fry them, the original recipe says: Heat 1 inch of oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Fry patties in hot oil until brown on both sides.
Serve on a bun with the cucumber sauce, lettuce, onion, tomato and a sprinkle of freshly shredded cheddar cheese…
The Verdict:
Mike: “The salad was good”. He didn’t say, but basically didn’t say it, but he never wants to eat them again. He bet me that even the dog wouldn’t eat them, but my dog loved them, haha! He would have been more verbal, but it was our anniversary and he was trying to be nice… smart man, yes?
My Dad: He thought they were good, a bit different. He ate every last drop… mostly I think, because he loves me.
My Mom: She really liked them… admitted she was a bit worried when she heard what I was baking, but was pleasantly surprised.
Me: I really loved them. I added a bit too much parsley and that was a mistake, but overall, I really loved them!
So, what do you think? Are you going to try them? Let me know what you think if you do! xo Amy
P.S. Stay -tuned for some organizing idea, wedding news and more this week!

Five Kitchen Tools I Love

Over the last few years I’ve discovered that I enjoy cooking and baking. I’m having fun exploring spices, recipes, gadgets, appliances and more. It wasn’t always that way. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve cooked for my family for many moons, but as a family, we were always on the run – running to baseball, football, cheerleading, volleyball, track… you name it, we were running there. As a result, we rarely sat down to dinner together, not because we didn’t want to, but because we were just busy running. Dinner was almost always on the fly. For the longest time I believed boxed or frozen food was faster and more convenient.

I  admit I was pretty much in the dark  about spices, fresh herbs, vegetables and fruits. Back then, I was the queen of frozen food and microwaves.

Today, I realize that it’s possible to create simple, clean, healthy meals  just as fast and they are soooooo much better. Better, in that it tastes better and better, in that it’s better for you. If you visit my kitchen today you’ll find very little frozen or boxed food and lots of fruits, veggies, rice, nuts, beans and potatoes.  I find I enjoy discovering new recipes and trying foods I have never tasted. My taste buds are beginning to crave vegetables and salads. Bread is less appealing. Well, okay, not really about the bread… but if I do eat bread I try to make it whole grain.

As I explore the world of cooking, I find myself getting excited about gadgets. A day in the kitchen is so much nicer with handy little gadgets that really work!

Here are five tools I’ve discovered that I think you might like:

Not your mother’s SPATULA: This spatula by Good Cook is amazing. My Aunt went on and on about it and I was like yea, yea, yea… until she bought me one and I promptly fell in love. Now I buy them for other people – it’s that good. It gets every single drop out of a bowl in one quick sweep. I won’t use any other spatula.

ROTARY SIFTER: When I started making cakes and icing from scratch, a lot of recipes required sifted flour. I dutifully attempted to sift with my little sifter… you know the one… it has a handle that you squeeze…. and squeeze…. and squeeze until you feel like your hand is going to fall off. I never sifted flour again. That is until I discovered this

This baby simply requires you to turn the handle and as you do, it effortlessly and smoothly sifts your flour – fast. Here’s a peek inside…

The wire ball rolls through the flour and voila! Done. No finger cramps, no aggravation, no wasted time.  Now I actually look forward to sifting. It really is about having good tools!

AVOCADO PEELER/CORER: We have been trying to add more avocados to our diet – they are really good for you and oh so yummy. We mostly toss them into salads. Tonight we had a romaine and Spinach salad with onion, sliced avocado, strawberries, cranberries, almonds and a dash of parmesan, topped off with a balsamic dressing. My oldest son’s girlfriend gave me us the cutest basket for Easter with a bottle of wine, chocolates, egg-shaped rice crispy treats stuffed with M&M’s, grapefruit spoons (she knew I was looking for them) and this handy little tool

Yes. She’s a keeper.

Of course you could core and peel without this, but why? This little tool is just so handy. Simply slice the avocado long ways all the way around, then use this end to pop out the pit/seed…

Then use the other end to scoop out the insides of each half…

Not only does it scoop out all the goodness, but you’re left with perfectly beautiful slices. So nice!

STAINLESS STEEL SCRAPER, CHOPPER, SCOOPER: These are simple little tools, but I love scooping up chopped veggies and such in one big sweep and then dumping them into whatever I’m cooking or sauteing…

I like the bigger one best for scooping, but the smaller one is nice too – I like to use the flat end of it to get crumbs off my tablecloth after a dinner party. I really don’t use either of them to chop – I prefer a sharp knife for that.

Last but not definitely not least…

BATTERY OPERATED SALT & PEPPER GRINDERS: I love freshly ground sea salt and pepper, but manually grinding them was kind of a pain… that is until I got these…

I love these tall boys! A bonus is these came with a base for re-charging – no batteries to replace! Love them.

Do you have any favorite gadgets in your kitchen? Have a great weekend! xo Amy

P.S. I blogged about these products because I genuinely like them! I haven’t been paid or compensated to write this!