Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Disney Dreaming

This week, our extended family is (hopefully) enjoying some beach days and seafood nights in the Outer Banks of North Carolina. By the time you are reading this, Joe and I will have already braved the 8 hour car trip with our 20 month old. I have been doing a lot of googling and prep work for some tips on traveling with toddlers (using mainly this post and this one as inspiration) so I will be sure to do a post on how well (or disastrously) it went once we get back. 

Anyway, although I am on vacation right now, that doesn't stop me from dreaming about and planning my next one! I love to travel and we sort of took a hiatus when JJ came so I am so excited over the idea of taking two vacations in one year. Even more so that the next one will be to the Happiest Place on Earth! This October we will be taking JJ on his first visit to Walt Disney World in Florida. It will be his first time on a plane and our first time going to "the world" with a kid. 

Getting back to the point of my post. Joe has a tendency to leave his pocket change all over the house. Usually it ends up on his nightstand or the kitchen counter, but it pops up in the laundry and sometimes on the bathroom sink as well. It drives me crazy, so a long time ago we designated an old pretzel bin as our change collector:

Definitely not cute, but we tucked it away in a closet so it didn't really bother me:

Once we decided (meaning I finally conned Joe into being on board with) taking JJ in October, I was inspired by this pin to jazz up the jar:

source: Wilbur Road

Of course none of the cabinets or closets in my house are that neat or organized, but I thought the "Disney Fund" jar was adorable and could definitely help my tired looking pretzel jug look a little nicer. I took some Disney scrapbook paper I already had and cut a band to fit around that ugly half-removed label. Then I downloaded the waltograph font and printed out the label. I thought Jay's mouse-ears were cute, so I just cut out a couple from construction paper and backed them with some cardstock to give them some stability. 

Much cuter, right? Before we leave, will bring the bucket to the bank and cash it in and have some extra money for food, snacks, and souvenirs. I am considering getting tickets to Mickey's Not So Scary Halloween Party so I might use the cash towards that. 

Anyone have any tips for travelling to Disney with toddlers? I realize its going to be a much different trip than we were used to (no more drinking around the world in Epcot or multiple trips on the Tower of Terror), but I  know being able to see it all through my son's eyes gives it new meaning. 

Monday, July 22, 2013

Chicken Pot Pie Cupcakes

This is another one of those pins that's been around for awhile, I am sure you have seen some version of the Mini Chicken Pot Pie:
Source: Sunny Side Up
I tasted these way back in December at Santa on the Firetruck hosted by my brother and sister in law. They were delicious and I figured it was about time I give them a try.

Once again I used a rotisserie chicken to save myself a step in the preparation. 

Mixing up the filling.

The "crust" - just a Pillsbury biscuit smooshed down.

Spoon in some of the filling and bake!
Here they are fresh out of the oven:

The Verdict: Easy and delicious. Joe seemed a little upset there was no "top" crust when he saw me making them, but he was a huge fan. They were really easy to make (much less time consuming than biscuit topped chicken pot pie) so they are great for mid week. 

Things to Consider: I read through some of the comments before I started and decided to cut the spices in half based on some of the recommendations  I am glad I did, they would have definitely been too spicy with them in there. I also added a little bit more vegetables in the mix as well. Although I tried to smoosh the biscuits down as much as I could, they still sort of poofed up so the ratio of filling to bread was a little off. Still tasty though! 

Chicken Pot Pie Cupcakes
from Sunny Side up and adapted from Tablespoon

2 cups of cooked chicken breasts diced
1 can cream of chicken soup
1 cup frozen mixed veggies
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
1/2 tablespoon of  dried thyme (I used 1/4)
1/2 tablespoon of dried basil (I used 1/4)
1 teaspoon onion powder (I used 1/2)
1 teaspoon garlic salt (I used 1/2)
2 (10 oz) cans Pillsbury biscuits

Preheat your oven to 400.
In a large bowl, combine the cooked chicken, cream of chicken soup, frozen veggies, cheese, herbs and spices.
Lightly grease a 12-cup muffin tin and place the Pillsbury biscuits into each cup, pressing into the bottom and up the sides. (I got 16 cupcakes so I had to use a second tray for the extra 4).
Evenly spoon the pot pie mixture into each biscuit cup. Slide into the oven and bake for about 15 minutes. Check at the 12 minute mark.
Let rest for about 3 minutes and dig in!

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Chicken Parmesan Burgers

If you are in the middle of this ridiculous heat wave like we are in the northeast - stay cool! The air conditioning in the area where I sit at work is broken, and while not unbearable, its pretty uncomfortable. Hopefully the repairman will show today as promised. According to Bill Evans, it should be a stormy break on Saturday (you know I love some local news!). Anyway, onto the real post...

My friend, Mary Claire, started a blog chronicling her dinner adventures with her newlywed husband KK. She been blogging since the beginning of the year, but for some reason I haven't gotten around to trying out any of her recipes until recently. The first one I tried: Chicken Parmesan Burgers

Source: 3D Dinners
They are pretty simple to make so they work well for a weeknight meal. Just mix up the ingredients, pop in the fridge for a bit, then grill them up. Top with some sauce and fresh mozzarella cheese and enjoy!

All the ingredients ready to be mixed.

It was a little wet once everything was mixed, but firmed up well after being in the fridge.

It makes 4 patties, I just didn't want them to stick together so I added a piece of wax paper on top of these before I put the last one in there.
I actually did all the mixing the night before so after work all I would need to do is cook them. Of course mother nature ruining my plans to have Joe grill them outside....

It is hard to tell, but it was pouring.

...and I don't have a nice grill pan, so I had to settle for just cooking them in a regular frying pan.

I served them up with a salad and some penne with more sauce (and cheese!). 

The Verdict: Pretty tasty. They were a little greasy but I think that just comes from frying them the way I did. They were also a little dense so I would probably make them a little thinner next time. We really enjoyed them though so I am sure they will make it into the regular rotation (especially during grilling season - I can't wait to try them that way!).

Things to Consider: I think they worked well making them a day in advance...since they have to chill anyway, whats a few (or maybe 23 more hours in the fridge), right? My patties were really really wet when I first formed them and I was afraid I was missing something, but they really firmed up once they were cold. 

I have another 3D Dinners recipe to type up - and it was a great one! If you follow us on Instagram (@pinstersisters) - you can get a delicious preview from a couple weeks ago.

Chicken Parmesan Burgers:
Adapted from 3D Dinners who adapted from Sweet Tooth Sweet LifeServes 4

Ingredients1lb. ground chicken1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese1/4 cup breadcrumbs1/4 cup marinara sauce1/4 cup chopped onion2 cloves garlic2 tablespoons dried parsley2 teaspoons Italian seasoning1 teaspoon dried basilMozzarella cheeseHamburger bunsButter spread or margarineGarlic powderExtra marinara sauce

Directions1. Combine first nine ingredients (through dried basil) and mix well. Form into four patties, creating a slight dent in the center of the patty; refrigerate about 30 minutes.
2. Grill over medium-high heat, 6-8 minutes on each side. Top cooked chicken burgers with mozzarella cheese.
3. Coat insides of hamburger buns with a little butter and a sprinkle of garlic powder and place on the grill 1-2 minutes (or in the toaster oven), until lightly toasted. Spread marinara sauce on toasted buns and top with cooked chicken burgers.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

4th of July 2013 Recap

It seems like I took a short, unanticipated vacation from the blog. Nothing really happened, I just haven't had time to sit down and type something up. Its been a busy summer! Anyway, here's a quick recap of our 4th of July weekend:

We started off the holiday with a trip to the pool Thursday morning. After an afternoon nap (for JJ) we headed to my parents for dinner and then to the high school for their local fireworks show. JJ did much better than I anticipated considering how late it was and how delayed the actual show was. He seemed to enjoy them, but lost interest after 10 minutes.

Friday Joe had to work so JJ and I just hung out: played, did some coloring, tried to go outside but it was 1000 degrees. After he went to bed, I took the opportunity to make something to bring to Joe's parents' annual 4th of July BBQ the next day. If you remember last year, I made the infamous Flag Cake:

2012's Flag Cake
and while it came out cute, I was looking for something a little easier and less time consuming this time around. I originally wanted to make these bacon ranch deviled eggs but didn't realize I was out of ranch mix until it was late. Plan B: Bacon Cheddar Deviled Eggs:

Source: All Recipes
Joe is a bit of a deviled egg purist, so I made half regular and half "bacon cheddar". There's really not much to post - its sort of like just making egg salad but only using the yolks and then putting it back into the whites. Here is the filling ready to be mixed:

And here is the finished product (the paprika topped ones are "regular" and the bacon topped ones are the Bacon Cheddar):

Anyone know what is supposed to go in that middle spot? Just filling? Some sort of garnish??
As always, the recipe is at the bottom of the post.

I also made some of my chocolate chip cookies (a favorite of my father in law) to bring for dessert. 

Before we ate, we took JJ down to the lake for the first time. While I am not  fan, I prefer cement ponds myself, he loved it. I think he liked the fact that he was in control and could just walk in and out and always have his feet on the ground. 

Back at the house, we dried off, tried to stay cool, and enjoyed the food. The eggs were a hit - but to be honest, they sort of just tasted like a regular deviled egg with some bacon. Next year I will have to try the ranch version - they sound delicious! 

Things to Note: I sort of skipped #1 and just made hard boiled eggs my usual way (put eggs in room temp water just about covering eggs and bring to boil, boil for 10-12 minutes then place in ice-water bath). I also cheated and used precooked bacon. So basically I only followed Step 3. 

Bacon Cheddar Deviled Eggs
from USEREMILY3260 on All Recipes

12 eggs
1/2 cup mayonnaise
4 slices bacon
2 tablespoon finely shredded cheddar cheese
1 tablespoon mustard

1. Place eggs in a saucepan, and cover with cold water. Bring water to a boil and immediately remove from heat. Cover, and let eggs stand in hot water for 10 to 12 minutes. Remove from hot water, and cool. To cool more quickly, rinse eggs under cold running water.
2. Meanwhile, place bacon in a large, deep skillet. Cook over medium-high heat until evenly brown. Alternatively, wrap bacon in paper towels and cook in the microwave for about 1 minute per slice. Crumble and set aside.

3. Peel the hard-cooked eggs, and cut in half lengthwise. Remove yolks to a small bowl. Mash egg yolks with mayonnaise, crumbled bacon and cheese. Stir in mustard. Fill egg white halves with the yolk mixture and refrigerate until serving.

I have a bunch of things in my backlog to post about - hopefully I get some more computer time soon. I have tried a bunch of yummy dinner recipes recently - so stay tuned!

Monday, July 8, 2013

Red, White, & Blue Cupcakes

I hope everyone had a wonderful July 4th! I spent the day at a friend’s house for a little BBQ. It was oppressively hot, but I had a great time.

My contribution to the gathering was of course dessert. I brought some red, white, & blue cupcakes.

Why I thought baking in the middle of a heat wave was a good idea, is beyond me! The original inspiration came from something Grace had pinned.

I thought the bundt cake (originally from Betty Crocker) was super cute. I don’t have a bundt cake pan, so I decided to try it in cupcake form. 

I gathered up my supplies - not much needed for this recipe!

I whipped up the cake batter and separated it into three bowls. In one bowl I added blue food coloring. In the second bowl I added (a lot) of red food coloring and the third bowl I left as is.

Next it was time to layer the batter. Red went in first. I put about 1 ½ tablespoons in each cupcake liner.

I did the same with the white batter.

I finished up with the blue batter.

As you can see not every cupcake was perfect, but that’s okay!

I baked them according to the directions. Here’s how they looked out of the oven:

Once they were cooled, I placed them on a wax paper lined baking sheet.

Aren't they so cute?
I scooped a little bit of icing into a bowl and microwaved it for about 10 seconds. That allowed me to just drizzle the icing onto the cupcakes.

Then I scooped a bit more icing out, microwaved it, added some blue food coloring, and drizzled that as well. I finished up by doing the same thing again, this time with red food coloring.

Unfortunately, my red icing was more on the pink side, but you get the idea.

I think they are adorable!

The Verdict: These were a hit! The cake itself was fluffy and light. They made a big impression but were pretty easy to make. I would definitely make these again.

Things to Note/Consider: I wouldn't really change a thing with this recipe. Honestly it was very easy to do. I did use many bowls –making clean up a pain in the rear. Also, prepare to use A LOT of red food coloring. I must have put at least 15-20 drops in the white icing and it still came out pink. 

I'm glad I used plain white cupcake liners. I would suggest doing the same. It was nice to be able to see the layers through the liners. 
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