Saturday, August 20, 2016

Baby Shower Fun, Food and Games!

Hello friends!  This is one of those posts that isn't necessarily all about the food, but we will chat about that.  I like to share little tidbits, things that pertain to many of us at some point or another.  How many of you have thrown a baby shower, no matter how big or small?  Many times we have them catered, or at a location other than home but since this was her second baby shower, I decided to have it at home.  Intimate, family and friends, and just some informal fun.  I want to share what I did, to maybe help you with some ideas if you want to throw your own for someone you love!

Here we go!  Some back history.  Kayla is my daughter in law.  She and my son moved to the city we live in 2 years ago.  She had a large shower given by her mother when she gave birth to the twins 2.5 years ago but, thinking she was done after them, she got rid of everything when they outgrew it or no longer used it.  SURPRISE!!  "I am pregnant"!  New city, new friends, family, and nothing left for baby.  So I decided to throw a small but lovely shower.

Here nursery is gray, yellow and I added a hint of blue for the decor.  Chevron, and anchors decorated the table.  I used a plain old plastic tablecloth for the bottom, notice how I cut the edges so it looked scalloped?  Simple and easy things to just take inexpensive things up a notch.  I found a perfect piece of fabric in gray with anchors for the center, and added the whales to the cupcakes.  I alternated yellow and white chevron plates with light blue plates.  The sweet banner above was made by my sister.

I wanted to really personalize it and decided instead of serving a luncheon, or just traditional cake and nuts, etc....I would create a "Craving Station".  I would serve all of the foods Kayla has been craving during her pregnancy.  We have a close relationship so I was able to do all of this without asking her.  OK, let me back up....  Back east where we are from, showers are a surprise.  The bride, mommy to be, isn't supposed to know when it is happening.  I tried hard to keep it from her, but I am pretty sure she knew and just didn't tell me.  I did want to add some cupcakes to the mix, and some dipped Oreo's because, well I needed some sweet stuff! 

Here is what she had craved at different times:
Sauerkraut on hot dogs
peanut butter and jelly sandwiches
Jordan almonds

I could have easily just ordered that stuff up and tossed it on a platter and called it good, but, I wanted to fancy it all up if I could and was working on a bit of a budget. 

Sauerkraut and hot dogs, I baked in a casserole dish.  I cut the hot dogs in half, along with the buns, and made them more appetizer sized.
Pizza, I made fancier with this recipe, Pizza Crescents
Peanut Butter and Jelly, I turned into roll ups.  I cut the crust off of plain white bread.  Rolled the bread out and spread peanut butter and jelly on it, and rolled it up.  Something a little fancier than plain old sandwiches, I thought!
Jordan Almonds, just served in a bowl!
Cupcakes, I made and used my butter cream cheese frosting.  I met a lady at a vendor show recently who owns a baking company.  With the theme being anchors and whales, she made me some whale toppers for my cupcakes.  Are they not precious?!!  You can find her here, if you are in the Omaha area, make sure to like her FB page,  Sugar Spiced and Everything Iced and tell her you found her at Chefwannabe!

 Now for games that we played.  Well, I don't know if I would call them games.  OK, maybe one was, but one was just for her.  I had wanted to give her a nice set of jammies for the hospital and after.  So I decided to ask my son, her husband some questions about her pregnancy.  The day of the shower, I asked her to guess his answers, so she was going to get the prize, which was her pajamas.  So if that is a game, OK, that was the game one.  The second game was actually a twofer.  I filled a gray storage cube with random baby things.  Outfits, bath necessities, socks, baby wipes, bottle brush, orajel, diaper rash cream, etc.  I had Kayla carry the basket around the room, and asked everyone to notice what was in the basket and what Kayla had on.  After she went around the room once, I had her go into a different room, and her guests had to write down everything they remembered.  All of those items became my gift to her.  I had also decorated with some packages of diapers with big bows on them as a centerpiece on the coffee table and those were also part of my gift to her.  See how you this budgeting thing comes in?

Here is a not so great, but still a photo of the table.  I had a chalk board that simply said, "CRAVING STATION" on it.  Everyone seemed happy with the food, I personally thought it was genius.  Pizza, pickles, peanut butter and jelly, etc.........very fun and unexpected!

For drinks I simply served a blue raspberry lemonade and some cucumber water.

I hope you enjoyed how I threw my baby shower on a budget!  Anyone can do it.  OH WAIT, I forgot the whale shaped cheese crackers that I found, so I simply had to toss them in the mix as well!!

Here are a couple of maternity photos I wanted to share............. (yes, I took them)

I can't wait to be a Nonna again, number 4 for me!  I am so thankful Kayla got to celebrate this birth with her new friends here in Nebraska and her aunts and cousins who love her so much.

Now...............we wait.................

Friday, August 12, 2016

Induction Cookies

DISCLAIMER:  This is NOT medically proven.  This is not medical advice, this is for entertainment and an old wives tale.  I assume no responsibility for the consequences of eating these, or any health issues that may result. (which will probably not even be the ones they are SUPPOSED to cause)

OK, now that, that is all clear,  lets get to the reason I made these to begin with.  Shall we?

My poor, POOR daughter in law is so pregnant, that I think even her pregnancy is pregnant.  She, due to other health issues will not be allowed to get past 37 weeks and she is so there.  She is so ready that she will try about anything for a natural induction.  ALMOST!!

She has tried it all, accept castor oil, she will NOT go that far.  The things she reads and I find on the internet are hysterical.  I have read anything from eating eggplant Parmesan to bumpy car rides, castor oil smoothies, and everything in between.

These cookies were just the icing on the cake and I HAD to amuse her and make them today!  I don't recall where I got the recipes since I hand wrote it down but, if I find it again, I will post it.  There was just no way I couldn't give them a shot.  This poor girl can't tie her shoes, can't dress herself, and can barely drive!

Without further explanation let me give this recipe to you.  She said they are good, but as you swallow them it has a kick from the red pepper!  I might have added a WEE bit more red pepper.  Don't judge, I want to meet my grandson too!

 2 1/2 cups  flour
1 1/2 tsp. baking soda
3/4 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp/ ground ginger
1/2 tsp. ground cloves
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
8 T butter
1/2 cup granulated sugar plus extra for rolling cookies in
1 cup  brown sugar, packed
1/3 cup molasses 
2 egg whites

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F,.

Combine flour, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger, cloves, salt and cayenne pepper in a medium bowl or the bowl of your standing mixer.  Mix until combines.  Add in softened butter, sugars, and egg whites.  Mix until combined.  The dough may seem a bit crumbly but no worries it will all work out.

Place your extra granulated sugar in a bowl.  Roll dough into balls, about 3/4 inch balls and then roll in sugar and place on a parchment lined cookie sheet.  Do this with all of your dough, molasses, and then bake for 8-10 minutes or until golden brown!  

Enjoy the this fun wives tale and don't forget to BREEEEEATH! 


Monday, August 8, 2016

Mozzarella Stuffed Pizza Burgers

 How many of you have pizza night at your house?  You know, every this day or that day you have pizza for dinner?  We always had Chinese food night at our house but, I know TONS of people who do pizza night.  Maybe this could be a little change up one of those nights that you surprise your family with!

I have made pizza burgers for years, but my husband, the wonderful genius that he is (yes, he made me say that) suggested I try a new version and stuff it.  Well, I don't know about you but when someone uses the words "stuffed" and "mozzarella" in the same sentence, something amazing is likely about to happen.  That being said, I of course tried it for him because after all, he is awesome and his birthday is tomorrow.  Wowzers, is about all I have to say.  I might have teased you on Instagram or Facebook!  (insert innocent face)

I hope you give this a try, if you do, post me photos friends!  I love to see how your versions of my recipes turn out!  Share the love!  Tag me, everywhere!

Heeeeeeeere we go!

2 lbs Ground Beef
1 T. Italian Seasoning
1 tsp. salt
1 1/2 tsp onion powder
1 tsp. oregano
1/4 tsp. black pepper
sliced mozzarella
shredded or thick slices of mozzarella for the "stuffed part"
pizza sauce

Preheat your oven to 375 degrees F.  In a large bowl combine your ground beef and all of your seasonings.  Mix well with your hands.  Yes, your hands!  Just do it!

When you have the meat mixed completely and the seasoning is distributed throughout, divide into equal parts, according to how many burgers you want.  I got 7 burgers, you might be able to get 8.   Once they are divided, divide eat part in half, making two THIN patties.  Place a chunk of mozz in the middle and carefully seal the edges.  I always just seal mine by going over the edges repeatedly but, you can use some water to help seal it.

When you have them all formed, stuffed and sealed, fry in a bit of olive oil for 2-3 minutes per side.  (Notice, ZERO cheese leaking out?) My husband and I had a bet.  You clearly see who won.   Anyway, when you have fried both sides, place on a parchment lined cookie sheet.  Finish all the burgers.

Top each burger with a generous amount of pizza sauce, and then lay down the goodness.  One piece of mozz or shredded if you prefer on top.

Pop this beautiful burgers into the oven for 10 minutes.  They will be done absolutely perfectly.  I could lightly squeeze the burger and see the beautiful juiciness. Eat the hot, so the cheese in the middle stretches and is gooey!

Now, what takes these over the top is the bun.  Use regular hamburger buns.  Spread a light layer or butter on all of the tops and bottoms.  Sprinkle with Italian seasoning, a bit of salt and pepper and some Parmesan cheese.  Pop under your broiler for a couple of minutes until you pull them out and they look like this....

Now, go make it me.


Monday, August 1, 2016

Tiramisu Crunch No Churn Ice Cream

Good evening friends!  Can you believe it is AUGUST?  Where did the summer go?  WHOOSH, gone.  I wanted to get you another no churn ice cream creation because sadly, and unfortunately for the world, some people think ice cream is only for summer.  (Insert dramatic gasp here)  It is true.

Tiramisu is my favorite dessert.  HOWEVER, there is one thing that makes me nuts.  I hate the dark cocoa on top. A lot.  In my world, it should be topped with crushed amaretti cookies.  Are you pickin' up what I am throwin' down friends?  Uh huh, my fantasy and reality collided, and made ice cream.  That was so cheesy.....teetering on sounding like an 80's love song.

You will notice some odd ingredients.  Trust me on this one.  I wanted to still have different textures, and all the "mouth feelings" of tiramisu.  Now, if you want to omit the amaretti cookies, and crush a different kind of cookie on top, don't let me stop you.  But don't skimp on the espresso sprinkled on top and please love this as much as I do!!

1 pkg vanilla pudding
2 1/2 tsp. espresso powder
1 cup milk

Add all ingredients to a small bowl and whisk until completely combined, set aside.

Then you will need:

1 1/2 cups heavy cream
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 can sweetened condensed milk
1 cup coarsely crushed amaretti cookies

In the bowl of your stand mixer OR just a bowl and a hand mixer, whip the heavy cream to stiff peaks.  Add in vanilla extract and whisk a couple of more seconds.  Now, fold in the sweetened condensed milk.  When the mixture is completely combined, add spoonfuls of the pudding mixture on top.

Carefully use your spatula to swirls the pudding mixture through the whipped cream mixture.  You don't want it to mix all the way in, just swirl it.

Slowly pour mixture into a container suitable for freezing.

Take your cookie crumbs and cover the top.  Sprinkle a little espresso powder on top and freeze for at least 5 hours.

Enjoy my version of the perfect tiramisu, in ice cream form!  Make sure to tag me on Instagram, Twitter or post a photo on Facebook!  I love seeing how you recreate my food!

If you like this recipe you might also like:
Homemade Vanilla Ice Cream with Peanut Butter Sauce
Butter Pecan Ice Cream
Extreme Sundae Pie

Monday, July 18, 2016

Taco Burgers

Oh you guys.  It is so HOT! I lost my swimsuit, I need to get another one, my kids pool is calling me is just so HOT!  Anyway, I digress....

Taco burgers are a family favorite for the Simmermans.  These date way back and when I made homemade taco seasoning I decided to surprise my husband with taco burgers for dinner.  Neither of us are big on sloppy joes, but taco burgers man, they are an entirely different ballgame.

I don't think there is a lot of explaining that needs to happen.  Just remember for anyone who doesn't care for the "burger" aspect, at least make this taco meat because seriously, it is amazing.  And you can keep a few taco shells on hand for the anti burger people.  Top it with whatever you like, we are lettuce, cheese and a thick slice of tomato kind of family but you do you!

I did 2 lbs of meat because what is better than taco burgers or tacos for dinner?  The same thing for lunch the next day!

2 lbs ground beef
1 can of diced tomatoes with green chilies
3-4 T homemade taco seasoning (2 pkgs of the store bought stuff)
1/2 cup water

Brown your hamburger as you normally would.  Drain off any excess fat and place back in the pot.  Add in the rest of the ingredients, stir to combine and let simmer about 3-5 minutes.

OH the flavor!

See how easy it is?  Make sure not to skip draining off the fat, nobody wants a soggy burger.  The water will just loosen it up a bit so no worries there.

Now toast your bun or don't, I do NOT toast it for this.  Make sure your lettuce is shredded.  It tastes better.  Stop looking at me like THAT.  It does!  Dive in.  Over and over!


Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Swiss Mushroom Burger Mac

 Hellllllooooooo!!!  I haven't given you a new recipe for over a week I don't think.  I have a few ready for you, I just got busy as my oldest "little" (granddaughter) got here from Jersey last weekend.  We have been busy in magical forests and fairy wonderlands, swimming, playing, having sleepovers,  and eating spaghetti and meatballs.  I mean, come on, this is the life for a 7 year old!  It is so good to have her back for the summer.  So that is what I have been doing and while family and life always come first, I consider you all part of my life as well, so I hope this one potter, gets you all jittery in the joints around your knees!

My husband has been asking for a recipe like this for awhile and I obliged him.  ALTHOUGH, it is pretty different than how he presented it to me, I needed to turn it into a one pot meal.  It is summer, nobody needs hours of work, and busy moms and dads and grandmoms and grandpops we just need easy and delish!  This is going to be a hit.  Use fresh mushrooms if you like, I just used canned.  And certainly feel free to trade out the ground beef for a ground meat of your choice!  Don't skimp on the cheese, and make sure to let it sit a few minutes to thicken even more before serving! 

1 lb ground beef (turkey or chicken would work fine)
2 T butter
8 ounces mushrooms (2 cans or 8 ounces fresh, sliced)

3 cups milk
2 cups water (or beef stock)
2 tsp salt
1 tsp pepper
16 ounces rotini or other short cut pasta
12 ounces shredded Swiss cheese (don't skimp, and if you like it a lot, add more)

In a large pot, brown your ground beef until fully cooked through.  Drain if needed and return to pot.  Add in butter and let melt.  Add in mushrooms and saute until softened.

I used canned mushrooms for this, you do you.  Turning your heat to medium-high-ish, add in milk and water, salt and pepper.  Stir and bring to a boil.  When the mixture is boiling add in pasta, give it a quick stir, turn the heat to medium and simmer for the amount of time listed on the pasta box.

Stir once or twice during cooking, but do it quickly and replace the lid.

When your pasta is cooked, turn off heat, add in cheese, give it a good stir, and replace lid for 2-3 minutes.

Stir again and let sit about 3 or 4 minutes with the lid off.  Stir one last time, and wa-la, dinner!

Enjoy another one pot dinner.  Oh make sure to serve this with sliced tomatoes and corn on the cob!  I mean...ya know, if you feel like it.

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Homemade Taco Seasoning

Hey guys!  Thanks for making the "click" and reading!  We are in the middle of a 96+ degree everyday heat wave.  Feels like 105-110 most days.  Cooking oddly has NOT been the last thing on my mind in the heat.  This is good weather for cold sandwiches, salads, and slow cooker recipes.  No heating up of the kitchen and not a lot of work.

For me, this weather keeps me in the AC, and wanting to cook!  In this case the beginning of something spicy and hot!  Or potentially anyway!

I have been working on being more, oh.....what's the word, health conscience?  No.  Just, more aware, maybe that is a more fitting term.  I am working on reducing salt.  Slow but sure.  I keep noticing all of the salt in these store bought seasonings and I just had to work something else out.  I enjoy making my own spice blends so I took a shot in the dark and went with it.  I must say, this is better than anything out of a package.  Perhaps I am partial, but, my husband agreed.  I will share a recipe soon using this seasoning.

I would suggest 2 T. per pound of ground beef, go easier if you like less spice.  I mean, you can certainly leave out the ground red pepper, or reduce it with no problems.  I say keep it in, just use less if you are a little apprehensive.  Get spicy friends, get SPICAAHHHH!

I just tossed mine in a pint size ball jar.  Add the following ingredients in and shake!

2 T. Paprika
1/4 tsp. Ground Red Pepper
2 T. Chili Powder
1 tsp. Garlic Powder
1 T. Cumin
1 1/2 tsp. Salt
1/4 tsp. Black Pepper
2 T. Onion Powder
1 T. Dried Parsley

Notice I used garlic POWDER and onion POWDER not salt.  If you choose to use the salt versions, please omit the addition of regular salt.  Twist the lid on and shake, shake, shake it!  1-2 T. for each pound of ground meat!

Enjoy and let me know what you think!