Friday, April 30, 2010

Sometimes Even Grapes Need A Few Good Accessories...

Like most everyone else right now, our budget is tight.  Even though we make a lot of lifestyle choices to keep our monthly expenses down, one of the main areas that drains us is food and groceries.  In the past few years, we have greatly cut back on eating out which saves us lots of money...but I also spend a grand fortune at the grocery store every time I go!  Sometimes I want to cry when they give me the final total, and stare at my receipt in disbelief when I get in the car to go home! (Anyone else been there?)

Groceries aren't getting any cheaper so I am trying to do better at using up what I have...admittedly, I am one to sometimes buy things with good intentions and then have to throw them away when they go bad before I used them, or make a good, large meal and eat it for a day or two, then let the rest go to waste.  Trying to work on these bad habits....

I was browsing through my new favorite cookbook (Cooking With Grace by Point of Grace, who many of you know as favorite Christian recording artists) and found a recipe for a grape salad that looked interesting.  I happened to have a little bit of everything left in my refrigerator and pantry that the recipe called for so I was able to use up some things in a creative way that turned out to be delicious!!  I was a bit short on pecans, so I used what I had then used some walnuts I had on hand also - nothing wrong with extra nuts in my opinion.  The more the merrier, especially when served with fruit!

I'll share the recipe, and I highly recommend you go out to your local Christian bookstore and buy this cookbook. It is awesome.  And ya'll, this salad is so good I had to stop myself from eating the whole batch!!  It's basically grapes with some really good accessories. Yum.  Here goes...

"Karri's Great Grape Salad"

Mix together 4 oz softened cream cheese, 4 oz sour cream, and 1 tsp vanilla. Add 2 cups of halved red and green grapes and mix well.  Pour into 8 x 8 dish (I used a round Corningware dish).  Mix 1/2 cup brown sugar and 1/2 cup chopped pecans (or in my case about 1/4 cup pecans and 1/2 cup walnuts) and cover entire grape mixture.  Chill for at least an hour, then serve.

I put mine in a teacup, and let's just say I had a few "refills."  This salad would be PERFECT for a bridal or baby shower, or any ladies luncheon or women's event.  The recipe said you could double it and serve in a 9 x 13 dish, and judging from the amount I ate,  I'm thinking that would be a good idea.

Thanks Point of Grace cookbook for the recipe!  What a great find, all from trying to use up what I had and not be wasteful! Hope you enjoy this recipe as much as I did, and if you find time to whip up a batch, as you savor the flavor meditate on this...

Psalm 34:8 "O taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed is the man (or woman) who trusts in Him."

Monday, April 19, 2010

Monday Meal Makeover!!!

This morning I took a small roast out of the refrigerator that I had bought the other day at Publix because the size and the price were just right for our little family.  I drizzled olive oil in a pan and turned the heat to high,  seasoned that piece of meat very generously, and then seared it until the outside was just how I like it.  I chopped up some onion, sweet potatoes,  and regular potatoes; opened a bag of carrots; pulled out the garlic, sea salt, cream of mushroom soup, and Worcestershire sauce (which I did not know how to spell until I just now googled it, good grief) and put everything in my crock pot to happily cook the day away.

I love cooking roasts in the crock pot.  Yum.

I wanted to make a casserole type dish to go along with this meal, and I had found a recipe in my new Point of Grace cookbook (yes, the Christian singing group put one out - I bought it recently at a ladies event at our church).  It was called Swiss Vegetable Casserole...I modified it just a bit, but let me tell you, it was really good and a nice change from the usual side dishes I tend to always make.  Jimmy, Madi, and I all thought it was a hit so I thought I'd share in case any of you out there are needing a fresh change of pace at mealtime!

16 oz California blend veggie mix thawed and drained (this was perfect because I had one in my freezer that had been sitting there forever but I had no motivation to use it...sometimes veggies are like people, every once in awhile they need to be taken out and dressed up or things get boring) P.S. I also added a bag of frozen peas I needed to use because oddly enough my family likes peas

1 can cream of mushroom soup (I used cream of chicken because it goes over better with the kiddos)

1 cup shredded Swiss cheese (I think the Swiss is one of the things that makes this dish unique, but I used the whole bag because come on people, one cup of cheese??)

1/2 cup sour cream (that I borrowed from my friend Miss Linda because I did not want to go the store again)

4 oz jar pimentos (that I left out because I would be the only one who would like them, sigh)

1 can (2.8 oz) French Fried Onions (except I used the big daddy 6 oz can because when it comes to French Fried Onions, I say go big or go home)

Preheat oven to 350.  Combine veggies, soup, 1/2 swiss cheese, sour cream, pimentos (if you're lucky), and 1/2 the onions (oops, I just saw this, totally did not do how on earth were they going to cover this casserole with half of a 2.8 oz can of fried onions????).  Pour into 1 qt baking dish.  Bake covered for 30 minutes (also missed the memo on covered, but didn't seem to matter).  Uncover and top with remaining cheese and onions.  Bake uncovered 5-10 more minutes or until top is brown.

When you are done it will look like this...

And you will hopefully have happy eaters!

We sat down to this...

....along with some garlic breadsticks and grapes and applesauce for the kids.

We had a meal where everyone pretty much ate everything (except my 3 year old who didn't want to try the casserole which I understood), no one cried, no one had to be punished or forced to eat, and all was well with the world for once at dinnertime, lol!  Yay!.

For the Love of Stein Mart

When my mom was working for the House of Representatives in DC, she worked with a charming Southern lady maybe a decade her senior named Emily. Emily always had the best recipes, the best decorating ideas, the best party suggestions...and she also spoke of a faraway place called Stein Mart, which seemed to be a magical land where the perfect finds were found.

To be honest, my mom initially misjudged the place because she linked the name Stein Mart to other "Marts" that were less impressive in her opinion such as Walmart, Kmart, and the local dive J-mart (which my brother loved for its cheesesteaks but my mom just wasn't sold - my old Bowie friends know the legend of which I write!)

Anyway, she found out that though we didn't have any Stein Marts in Maryland, there was one around the beltway in Northern Virginia which happened to be near a restaurant she and my dad loved...and many in Florida which we began to frequent on our visits to family down South. I distinctly remember the time I flew down to meet my parents in Florida while Jimmy was on trip and I had my first trip to a Stein Mart which was in Clearwater Beach...I was instantly hooked, and still have the pink plaid faux Burberry jacket I got on that memorable day at what I now agree is a magical place with perfect finds just waiting to be found.

Almost any time we have female visitors from Maryland come down, we head to Stein Mart and spend HOURS browsing...there is just so much to look at!! The prices are good, and on top of that there are always dot sales and extra coupons, and much of the merchandise is unique and just plain fun!

A few weeks ago I went BY MYSELF to Stein Mart (a solo trip anywhere is rare these days - so how cool is that??!!) and had so much fun browsing. I picked up a few things that are evidence of why I just plain love the place...

First, I found earrings that combine my long time love of pearls and passion for big, chandelier type earrings....

Then I found a sign that made me chuckle...

And napkins that said it all.

I recently stole away with my husband for a night, and I posted a picture on my facebook page from our quick beach getaway, and everyone commented on my dress. Where did I get it?

Stein Mart, of course. With a coupon. :)

Friday, April 16, 2010

Put Some South In Your Mouth!!!

So, I'm a Mid-Atlantic girl who grew up with church friends and family with Southern roots...though Eastern Shore corn on the cob and piles of crabs and shrimp doused in Old Bay will always have my heart, I grew up with a mom who cooked anything and everything, including Southern fare for my central Florida raised dad. He liked his tea sweet, his eggs dipped in grits, and biscuits with chocolate gravy for a special breakfast. And he LOVED fried okra.

Growing up, fried okra was a treat when we visited Southern friends and family and someone made a "spread," or when we stopped at a Cracker Barrel on 95 on the way down. Splash those breaded and fried babies with some hot sauce and yum, we had put some South in our mouth!

However, it wasn't until our recent ladies event at church that I discovered something that just might have changed my life...not only is there fried okra, there is pickled okra, and it is "de-wicious," to quote my three year old boy!

I was browsing the buffet that night when I saw something wrapped in ham and cream cheese - little did I know that it was pickled okra - and it took just one bite for me to fall in love and take another...and another....and the end I ate more of those ham/cream cheese/okra rolls than I could count! I didn't even know what I was eating until I found out who had brought them (my friend Cindy), and asked her what was in them.

Yesterday I made a run to Publix (another Southern gem) and what did I find but pickled okra! I knew I had some cream cheese in the fridge and Hillshire Farms ham was on sale - so girlfriends, I went home and made myself some of those okra rolls for lunch and washed them down with some Publix tea!!

If you are looking to put some South in your mouth, I'd recommend you do the same - and let me know what you think!!