One dish wonder ..

Wednesday, February 20th, 2013

I snagged this one off of Pinterest .. it’s one of those “why didn’t I think of that?!” recipes. Seems like the easiest thing ever, yet the thought never crossed my mind. If you need something super easy to make for dinner .. this is your winner.

Chicken one dish meal

One Dish – Chicken, Green Beans and New Potatoes

  • Arrange 4-6 chicken breasts (I cut mine in half), fresh green beans and quartered new potatoes in a 13×9 inch pan. I put mine in three rows, the chicken down the middle with each veggie on either side.
  • Sprinkle a packet of Italian dressing mix over the top. The original recipe calls for a stick of butter to be melted over the top of it all. As you can see in the photo, I cut the butter up, randomly placed it throughout the top of the dish and let it melt during baking. I actually had a packet of the Garlic and Herb seasoning on hand instead of the Italian, use whatever you’d like.
  • I also added some white wine, lemon juice, garlic, fresh parsley and fresh basil. Use whatever you come up with to make it your own.
  • Feel free to use canned green beans to make it quicker. I just don’t do canned green beans and I highly recommend that you don’t either. Just sayin’. The extra five minutes it takes to snap the beans is so incredibly worth it.
  • Cover the dish with foil and bake at 350 degrees for an hour.

There you have it! It is easy to throw together, bakes for an hour while you clean up the kitchen and prepare lunches for the next day and there is plenty for leftovers.

If you’re feeling really spunky and want to pop a quick dessert in the oven, too .. try this one out ..

Lazy Cake Cookies

  • 1 box yellow or white cake mix
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 5 T melted butter
  • 2 cups mini M&M’s or chocolate chips

Mix all ingredients together, place in a greased 9×13 pan and bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes.

Cake cookies

Now go out and enjoy all of the “extra” time you’ll have on your hands and do something fun!

Credit where credit is due ..

This is the way we live ..

Wednesday, February 13th, 2013

Just another day turned into just another GREAT day when Jess presented me with this little gem ..

Bridesmaid jar

.. inside, along with several other treats, was this ..

Bridesmaid jar1

After surprising another bridesmaid, our day continued with visiting the locations for both the ceremony and reception. I simply CANNOT wait!

Once again, Jess and I had a magnificent afternoon, enjoying our ever so lovely lives. You know, just another Friday.

Me and Jess in Flagler Beach1

Jess and I beer at Flagler Beach

And because I like to support “local” businesses and pass along the good word for those that deserve it, The Golden Lion in Flagler Beach pleasantly surprised us. And when I say pleasantly, I mean in a big kind of way.

Salmon and goat cheese pizza

Smoked salmon, goat cheese, asparagus and dill flatbread .. um, yes, please!

Shrimp and avocado bruschetta

Avocado and shrimp bruschetta. Absolutely.

Once you get past the name of the place, since Jess had quite the time doing this, you will not be disappointed. I can assure you of that. And if the food doesn’t win you over, the atmosphere certainly will. It makes you feel like you’re in the Keys. I kid you not.

Ladybug in Flagler Beach

I’m thankful for my 12 hour shifts, so that for four days of the week .. I get to spend my days like this!

Delectably Soft Chocolate Chip Cookies ..

Monday, February 11th, 2013

In college, I perfected cooking chicken. I went through many trials of chewy, rubbery chicken, but the time finally came when my lack of patience didn’t get the best of me and slow and steady really did win the race. (Thanks to some tips from B, of course!) I remember trying to pass this skill on to a roommate, but like me, her patience always got the best of her. I wonder if she ever got the knack of it? I certainly still have my times of not so perfectly cooked chicken!

Two things I’ve often been asked about are how to achieve soft cookies and how to boil and peel eggs. The first task, which is not an easy one, we’ll discuss today. Boiling eggs (to the right hardness) and easily removing their shells? Although excessively easy, we’ll save that for another time. Learning how to make soft cookies certainly took lots of trial and error.

First, I’ll share with you my go-to Chocolate Chip Cookie recipe.

 Soft Chocolate Chip Cookies

  • 2-1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 cup butter, softened
  • 3/4 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup white sugar
  • 1 (3.4 ounce) package instant vanilla pudding mix
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 cups milk chocolate chips (I don’t do semi-sweet ..)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Sift together the flour and baking soda, set aside.

In large bowl, cream together the butter, brown sugar and white sugar. Beat in the pudding mix until blended. Stir in the eggs and vanilla. Blend in the flour mixture. Finally, stir in the chocolate chips.

Drop cookies by rounded teaspoonfuls onto ungreased cookie sheet or baking mat. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes.

Cookie dough

My most recent batch of cookies was dyed red for Valentine’s Day. Hence, the red dough.

This recipe yields three dozen cookies.

Now, for my tips:

  • Truly preheat your oven. I feel the heat is better distributed if it is on a bit longer than just up until the preheated light shuts off. I used to be bad about forgetting to turn the oven on until right before it was time to bake.
  • Cool your cookie dough. Once you’ve finished making your cookie dough, pop it in the fridge. I forget where I got this tip, but it is one I’ve forever held on to. Don’t let your dough warm back up before baking your cookies. I put my dough back in the fridge between batches.
  • Buy a baking mat. You won’t regret it. These bad boys are great gifts. I’ve gifted them a few times. Cookies turn out exponentially better when baked on a baking mat.

Baking mat

  • I always bake my cookies for the shortest amount of time possible. For this recipe, I only bake them for 10 minutes. I leave them on the pan for about 10 minutes after they come out, on top of the stove. The heat from the pan and the heat from the back of the range continue to cook the cookies a bit more. My cookies look raw as raw can be when they come out. Take them out, anyway.
  • After allowing them to cool on the pan, I put them on a cooling rack that sits at the back of my range. Again, this allows the heat from the back of the range to continue to warm the cookies. When I transfer the cookies from the pan to the cooling rack, they are still quite soft. They will continue to firm up as you continue to bake the rest of your cookies.

That’s that! I’ve used this method for this recipe as well as others and I get perfectly thick, soft cookies every time. None of this is any professional advice .. just a little advice of my own. Give it a try! Take my word for it .. don’t ever assume that a cookie needs to go back into the oven to bake more – it can get heat from other sources. I bake my cookies in batches of 6, therefore, it’s not the end of the world if one batch doesn’t turn out quite as well as I would’ve liked it to.

Good luck! Let me know if you come up with any more good tips .. or if you already have any tips – please share!

My peace ..

Thursday, February 7th, 2013

Beau looking out the back door

Knox sleeping

Heather and Heidi, I’d say our walk sure knocked Knox out!

Tomorrow’s another day ..

Tuesday, February 5th, 2013

.. and I’m thirsty anyway, so bring on the rain.


Just a little “chin up” reminder during lunch yesterday – my plastic silverware.

You can’t always get what you want ..

Thursday, January 31st, 2013

My mom frequently quoted this well known song from The Rolling Stones to my brother and I growing up. A friend’s comment to me today got me thinking…

Two of the most valuable things my parents have instilled in my brother and I are compromise and adaptation. One of the earliest lessons of compromise can most certainly be gained by having a sibling. Almost from day one, the give and take begins. Compromise. Furthermore, life isn’t fair. Unfortunate things happen and certain circumstances are very far from ideal, but life goes on. One must adapt.

I certainly am not always the best at understanding and change sometimes takes a while to get used to, but for all the times I step back and look at myself and realize how well I’ve done with some not so manageable circumstances – I am grateful. Grateful for all of the times I didn’t get what I wanted. Grateful for all of the times something went awry, yet worked out for the better. Grateful for two parents who know the priceless value of tough love.

.. but if you try sometimes, you just might find .. you get what you need.

Promise yourself ..

Wednesday, January 30th, 2013

To be so strong that nothing can disturb your peace of mind. To talk health, happiness and prosperity to every person you meet.

To make all of your friends feel that there is something in them. To look at the sunny side of everything and make your optimism come true.

To think only the best, to work only for the best and to expect only the best. To be just as enthusiastic about the success of others as you are about your own.

To forget the mistakes of the past and press on to the greater achievements of the future. To wear a cheerful countenance at all times and give every living creature you meet a smile.

To give so much time to the improvement of yourself that you have no time to criticize others. To be too large for worry, too noble for anger, too strong for fear and too happy to permit the presence of trouble.

To think well of yourself and to proclaim this fact to the world, not in loud words but great deeds. To live in faith that the whole world is on your side so long as you are true to the best that is in you.

- Christian D. Larson

I frequently refer to this as my life motto. It is absolutely what I strive for. I occasionally re-read it .. because well, we all need a little reminder from time to time.

And, a little therapy never hurts, either ..


Just an ordinary day ..

Tuesday, January 29th, 2013

There is something to be said for simple, status quo days. They are peaceful. They are the days that balance out those days that seem impossible to handle.

My friend Jess and I hit up one of our favorite spots in St. Augustine Beach today, Cafe Eleven. As usual, they didn’t disappoint. This, my friends, is their Mozzacado sandwich. Heavenly, I tell ‘ya. Half of it awaits my return from work tomorrow so I can indulge once again.

Cafe Eleven with Jess Jan 2013

We walked on the beach following lunch and daydreamed of the wedding we’ll be planning this year. As of Friday, Jess is the future Mrs. to her handsome man. I’m ecstatic for the two of them and I simply can’t wait for their day!

St. A Beach with Jess Jan 2013

I must say that being out on the beach made me quite excited for spring. I’m very much looking forward to the many beach days that are to come.

Days spent with Jess are always lovely. Days as peaceful as today are always welcomed.

“Silence makes the real conversations between friends. Not the saying, but the never needing to stay that counts.” – Margaret Lee Runbeck

“The beginning is always today.” – Mary Shelley

Sunday, January 27th, 2013

You know one of the best things about life? It’s the fact that new beginnings are endless. Every day you are blessed with the gift of a new day, you are given the opportunity to start fresh. Some days, that may not be necessary. Other days, it could change your life. Today is not only a new day, we’ve begun a new year.

2013 marks my tenth year of blogging. What better way to celebrate than with a brand new, fresh blog? And, it’s 2013, surely the best year yet.

Let’s rewind back to 1912. During this year, my grandfather was born into a very large family. In fact, he was the family’s 13th child.  When my mom opened his wallet for the first time after his death, she found $13. This is exactly what she expected, as he meticulously carried $13 in his wallet at all times. The day he passed, was the 13th of March. 2013 marks 20 years since he was last here with us.

My high school class was the 13th class to graduate from Mandarin High. Our ten year reunion is this year, 2013. The parallels of this number in relation to the lives of my family are endless. Sure, they could be coincidence, but I choose to believe otherwise.

I hold firm to my belief that 2013 will be the best year yet. I am certain that the best is yet to come!

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