Friday, December 30, 2011

Freezer Files: Baked Penne with Chicken and Sun Dried Tomatoes

I am back with another review of meals that I froze while waiting for JJ to arrive. In case you missed it, here was my first review. Next thing to come out of the freezer I found on Martha Stewart. There was a whole article on freezer friendly meals. Here is the original pin:

This one made enough for two (plus) meals in one batch. One to eat that night, and one to freeze for later. I apparently didn't take any pictures of the actual cooking, but I do remember it was very messy. I don't have a dutch oven, so I used a big pot and it still made a mess when I added the pasta into the mixture. And there were lots of pots, bowls, etc to clean.

Here is the one we ate the first night - in the oven

Here it is all baked up

And this is the one I froze.

The Verdict: It was pretty good. I was worried Joe wouldn't like it - he tends to want tomato sauce on pasta, but he really liked it. I think I would add more chicken next time (one pound just doesn't seem like enough for two plus meals). I also cut back on the garlic (the last Martha recipe I made had waaaay too much). Each tray was enough to make two meals each (for two people). It froze well - the one from the freezer tasted just as good as the fresh one - just keep in mind it takes a long time to bake if its not defrosted in the fridge first. Like I said, it was really messy, so something to make on a lazy Sunday when I have time - not something to try during the week.

Stay tuned - I think I have 2 more freezer files to review!

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Movie Date Night Gift Idea

Now that Christmas is over and all the gifts have been exchanged, I can share with you what I gave my older siblings. Both my brother & his wife and Grace & her husband have newborns. I was trying to think of something creative to give them and remembered this movie date night from that I've had pinned for quite some time.

Brie used the gift idea for newlyweds because they tend to be on a tight budget. I thought the idea also fit well for new parents since they can’t get away from the house easily with a little one in tow.

So I gathered the contents:
  • a movie (I thought Date Night was fitting)
  • popcorn
  • popcorn seasoning
  • candy
  • I substituted Brie’s idea of soda with a bottle of wine.

I got this cute popcorn bowl to put all the stuff in from the Christmas Tree Shop.

I also purchased the green and red filling from Christmas Tree Shop (isn’t that store great?).

I filled the bowl up with the filing and then just arranged the items in the bowl.

I also purchased these bags from Christmas Tree Shop. I thought I had purchased shrink wrap bags but I was mistaken. The bags were too big so I had to trim them down a bit and tape the excess to the side.

I tied the top of the bag with a rubber band and then tied a bow around the band with some Christmas ribbon I had lying around.

Brie included a cute little poem in hers about being newlyweds. Obviously that didn’t fit with what I was doing. I included a Christmas card in each one that said something along the lines of – ‘I know it can be hard to leave the house with a newborn so enjoy this date night on me...’

For my sister’s gift, I added the new Regis book underneath because we’re both big fans of his and are upset that he’s off the air.

So there you have it. I think they came out cute. And, they were pretty simple to make. What do you think?

Monday, December 26, 2011

Crack is Wack

I pinned this awhile ago. It was described as Crack because it is so addicting. Then I read the recipe/ingredients and knew it must be true:

Remember Santa on the Firetruck? Well in addition to the cookies, I also wanted to bring an appetizer. Perfect excuse to try this dip! It was soooooo easy. Here are the ingredients:

I used the pre-cooked full bacon strips instead of the crumbled kind like the recipe called for because I already had it. That was the worst part - cutting up the bacon, but if you buy the "bits", you can avoid that.

Just mix together and refrigerate overnight. I didn't take any pics of it at the party, but here it is on my counter after I mixed it all up:

I just brought some whole wheat crackers and served them with it.

Verdict: I have to agree, this stuff is crack. I could have eaten the whole bowl. I wish I made two batches so I had one at home for the next day (of course its not the least bit healthy so its probably best that I didn't). I was even asked for the recipe. This is going to be a staple for when we entertain!I am also going to check out more of Plain Chicken's posts - there seems to be a lot of good stuff on there.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Christmas/Holiday Roundup

Grace and I would like to wish everyone a wonderful Christmas! We are so thankful that you all have stopped by to check out our site. We’ve discovered some great blogs from your comments and can’t wait to see what else you have going on.

Here’s a quick roundup of some of the Christmas/Holiday things we’ve attempted and liked:

Friday, December 23, 2011

Cake in a Jar

My boss loves red velvet cake. So I figured this cake in a jar pin from beehiveandbirdsnest would be the perfect thing to give her for Christmas.

I didn’t use Jennie’s cake recipe. I decided to use a box mix to make it easier on myself. Step one is to preheat the oven to 350 and grease the mason jars. I already had some half pint mason jars so that's what I used. However, any size can be used as long as it's a wide mouth jar.

Next- whip up your batter.

Pour the batter into the jars

Bake for 20-25 minutes in half pint mason jar. Jennie suggests 25-30 minutes for a pint jar.  

My first batch expanded and overflowed out the top.

But once they cooled, they shrunk significantly.

While the cakes are cooling, you can whip up the icing. I used Jennie’s recipe.

If you greased your jars properly, once the cakes are cool, they pop right out.

Mine didn’t look as perfectly cylinder and formed as Jennie’s did. I’m not sure why, perhaps it was the jars I used?

Cut the cake in half and place a piece of cake back in the [cleaned]  jar.

Then top with frosting and repeat.

I also added some Holiday sprinkles on top.

Since these were going to be gifts, I added labels and spoons.

I just noticed that I spelled velvet wrong! And I already gave this away. Ugh!

I had a green sharpie that I was going to use to make the labels, but it kept bleeding and the only other option I had was a blue pen. Oh well! It seems that this labeling thing didn't really work out for me.

The Verdict: I don’t like red velvet cake or cream cheese frosting so I can’t comment on the taste. Unfortunately mine didn’t come out looking as great as Jennies but I still think they are cute (despite the spelling error). I will say that I found the frosting to be a bit too thick.

These jar cakes are only a few more steps then making a standard cupcake and I would definitely make them again. I think my boss liked them as well. 

Things to Note/Consider: Take Jennie’s advice and use a Ziploc bag to pipe the frosting in. The first one I tried, I did with a spoon and it just got messy. Also, I would probably add a little milk to the frosting recipe to thin it a tad. Other than that, it was a great idea!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Egg Nog Pound Cake

Its only days until Christmas, so I am trying to get as much baking in as I can. Joe and I wanted a tasty treat so I whipped up this Egg Nog Pound Cake the other night:

It was super easy, here are the ingredients:

Just mix all together and bake in a loaf pan for 1 hour and 5 minutes:

And here it is:

Verdict: Delicious and easy. It was even better the next morning with some milk for breakfast! I used vanilla eggnog though so I added a little less vanilla extract. Also I used dried nutmeg, not fresh. I will definitely be repeating this next year - perhaps experimenting with cupcakes and maybe a simple glaze.

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