Spring Flowers

We’ve had an extremely mild Winter. It started out crazy with snow on Halloween which gave me high hopes for another blizzard and free day or two off work but alas we have gotten no more than that little snow and in fact have gotten warmer temperatures to the point that my daffodils began appearing in February instead of late March! I’ve finally buried my sadness about no snow and am looking forward to an early Spring. Along with Spring, comes beautiful flowers and fresh grass, sunshine and longer days not to mention grilling outside and fresh fruits and vegetables.

In the last year or so, I’ve begun buying flowers at the grocery store. I realized a while back that I really enjoy having something pretty and blooming in my house. It also must be noted that I’m not good with live and growing plants. I do not have one houseplant and I never have; they don’t live in my house it would just be mean to bring a plant in knowing full well that was the beginning of its slow death. (I was even given 3 plants at my desk at work and all have died while my cubicle partner has a forest growing on her desk.) In conclusion, cut flowers with a short shelf life are just my style!

Lately, I’ve been making the effort to display the flowers with other things I can find around the house to create more of a table vignette. Not only is this extremely fun for me (it doesn’t take much!) but it also makes me feel like I live in a West Elm or Crate and Barrel catalogue. These catalogues and Pinterest is where I get most of my inspiration.

I found some nicely discounted blooms a few days after Valentines day and quickly put together this little vignette on my dining room table.

I found these pretty purple flowers:

I placed them into a beautiful purple vase that used to be Eric’s great aunt’s. I placed them onto an espresso colored wooden tray and arranged some light blue cloth napkins we have and an antique bowl filled with a few wine corks.

I also added two rustic wine glasses that we have.

And then as luck would have it, I noticed we had a wine bottle in our rack with a purple label! Onto the tray it went.

The whole displays makes me think of a rustic table in the middle of a winery in Southern France or something. Each time I walk by it, it makes me smile.

These blooms are making me think Spring, how about you guys? Do you like buying flowers at the grocery store? Or have you put together some house decorations using mostly things you already have on hand?

Beer Braised Chicken

I saw this recipe while browsing FoodNetwork.com and thought it looked great. Anything that uses beer and creates a stew is an automatic winner in our house. Although this Winter has been relatively mild compared to the last few years, I’m still trying to make as much stew as possible since it will soon be warm and stew is never as satisfying when it can’t warm you up.

To start the beer braised chicken, cook the cubed bacon in your stew pot until browned.

Using a slotted spoon, remove it to a plated lined with a paper towel. Add olive oil to the hot pot.

While the bacon was cooking, you should have seasoned the chicken with salt and pepper and then dredged it in flour. (The recipe calls for chicken thighs here, but Eric loves drumsticks so I choose to get a variety of thighs and drumsticks. Since they are both in the dark meat family, you can easily substitute your favorite cut of chicken but I do recommend using bone-in chicken, it gives the dish alot more flavor.)

Cook the chicken in the hot oil until nicely browned and then flip over to brown the opposite side.

Yes, the one side of the chicken got a little dark. Hey, it happens! Perhaps this is an example of one of the very few bad reasons to have a TV in the kitchen…perhaps.

Once all sides of the chicken is browned, add the rest of the ingredients to the pot. I used Yeungling Lager as my beer of choice simply because that’s what we had in the fridge. Next time, I would like to try something a bit darker simply for more depth of flavor, but it worked well. I also added carrots to this recipe as per some of the reviews and added it to the recipe, they add a great component that the stew was lacking.

Simmer uncovered for about 20-30 minutes until the chicken is cooked through.

Remove the chicken from the pot and whisk in a mixture of cornstarch and water to thicken the sauce, if desired.

Add the chicken back to the pot, top with fresh parsley and the cooked bacon.

Serve.

The stew was really flavorful and I liked the beer flavors along with the mustard and chicken. You can see the thyme and whole grain mustard seeds throughout the dish. This whole meal was ready in about 45 minutes on a week night and was low in fat! It’s definitely a keeper.

Here’s the recipe from FoodNetwork.com:

Beer Braised Chicken
Print
Author: Adapted from Food Network Kitchens
Prep time: 15 mins
Cook time: 30 mins
Total time: 45 mins
Serves: 6
Ingredients
  • 1/4 pound slab or thick-cut bacon, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 8 skinless, boneless chicken thighs (about 2 1/2 pounds)
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
  • All-purpose flour, for dredging
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 (12-ounce) bottle beer (preferably brown ale)
  • 1 cup frozen pearl onions, thawed
  • 1/2 pound small red-skinned new potatoes, halved
  • 1 pound sliced carrots
  • 2 tablespoons whole-grain mustard
  • 2 tablespoons packed dark brown sugar
  • 4 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 3 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
  • 1 tablespoon water plus 2 teaspoons cornstarch (if desired)
Instructions
  1. Heat a large pot over medium-high heat. Add the bacon and cook until browned, about 5 minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon and transfer to a paper-towel-lined plate.
  2. Season the chicken with salt and pepper and dredge in flour, shaking off the excess. Add the olive oil to the drippings in the pot. Add the chicken in batches and cook over medium-high heat until golden on the bottom, 6 to 7 minutes, then flip and sear the other side, about 1 minute.
  3. Add the beer, onions, potatoes, mustard, sugar, thyme and 1 cup water to the pot and stir, making sure the chicken is fully submerged. Simmer until the chicken is cooked through, about 20 minutes. Discard the thyme and stir in the bacon and parsley.
  4. Remove chicken from pot. Whisk in the water and cornstarch mixture for a thicker sauce. Add chicken back to pot and serve.

 

 

 

Not you mother’s beef stroganoff

I grew up eating beef stroganoff a few times a year and always enjoyed it. The beef flavor along with mushrooms and sour cream, over pasta, sign me up! I recall even requesting it as a birthday meal once. It’s safe to say that I really do love the stuff. I think I grew up eating a very traditional and basic recipe for it which consisted of cooking the floured beef cubes, allowing them to simmer with the mushrooms and finally mixing in the sour cream right before it was time to eat. The first year I was married, I called up my mother, wrote down her recipe and proudly made my very first beef stroganoff.

Eric was less than impressed. Picture the wind in my sails going down, fast. He was not as into the eggs noodles covered in sour cream sauce as I had been. I mean, I still thought it tasted delicious, but I could tell he was forcing it down. Since then, I’ve enjoyed my childhood beef stroganoff only once or twice; I just can’t watch Eric try and eat it so I stopped making it, until last year.

While paging through an issue of Bon Appetit, I came across a new version of beef stroganoff in which I could leave out the egg noodles and instead serve it over toasted bread. It also used sherry and shallots, two things my old beef stroganoff was without. I made the recipe and quickly won back Eric’s heart. Admittedly, it was better than the stuff I grew up with and has become our beef stroganoff staple recipe.

The recipe itself is not complicated, but it does have a few steps, especially when it comes to assembling the final dish.

Start by prepping the ingredients and then cooking the mushrooms. Melt the butter and olive oil over medium heat. Saute the mushrooms until they release their liquid, about 6 minutes.**Try to get a mushroom medley or more than one kind of mushrooms, like white and cremini. The varieties add great flavor.**

Add the sherry or vermouth and simmer the mushrooms until the liquid reduces, about 1 minute. Take off heat and stir in creme fresh or heavy cream, season with salt and pepper. Let sit while you cook the beef.

In a separate skillet, heat the olive oil and butter over medium-high heat. Cook the beef for about 30 seconds on each side to sear it.

Transfer beef to a plate and season with salt and pepper. Set aside.

Reduce the heat to medium. Add the sliced shallots to the skillet and cook until brown, about 4 minutes.

Stir in flour and tomato paste and stir around, it will clump. Add in broth and paprika.

Simmer until the sauce thickens, about 2 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Add the beef cubes back into the sauce and remove from heat.

Stir in sour cream.

While the sauce is cooking, toast the sourdough slices. Mix together olive oil and tomato paste and spread on one side of the bread slice.

Toast about a minute per side under the broiler, on a large baking sheet.

To assemble, spoon some of the beef mixture onto the toast.

Top with a scoop of the mushroom mixture.

This dish is so good and I love the use of tomato paste on the toast, it adds such a great flavor to the dish. If you like mushrooms, you will love this recipe!

Here is the recipe from Epicurious.com:

Tri-Tip Beef Stroganoff with Wild Mushrooms on Sourdough Toasts
Print
Author: Bon Appetit
Prep time: 15 mins
Cook time: 40 mins
Total time: 55 mins
Serves: 6
Ingredients
  • 2 tablespoons (1/4 stick) unsalted butter, divided
  • 5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  • 1 pound assorted fresh wild mushrooms (such as chanterelle, oyster, crimini, and stemmed shiitake), cut into 1/4-inch-thick slices
  • Coarse kosher salt
  • 1/4 cup dry white vermouth or dry Sherry
  • 1/4 cup crème fraîche or heavy whipping cream
  • 1 1 1/2-pound tri-tip roast, excess fat trimmed, meat cut against grain into 1/4-inch-thick slices, slices cut crosswise into 3-inch lengths
  • 1 cup thinly sliced shallots (about 4 large)
  • 1 tablespoon all purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon plus 2 1/2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1 cup beef broth
  • 1/2 teaspoon Hungarian sweet paprika
  • 6 5 x 3 x 1/2-inch slices crusty sourdough bread
  • 1/4 cup sour cream
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh Italian parsley
Instructions
  1. Melt 1 tablespoon butter with 1 tablespoon olive oil in large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add sliced wild mushrooms to skillet; sprinkle with coarse kosher salt and pepper and sauté until mushrooms release juices, about 6 minutes. Increase heat to medium-high; sauté until mushrooms are tender and brown, about 4 minutes longer. DO AHEAD: Can be made 2 hours ahead. Remove from heat. Let stand at room temperature.
  2. Add vermouth to mushrooms and boil until almost evaporated but still moist, scraping up browned bits, about 1 minute. Stir in crème fraîche; remove from heat. Season to taste with coarse kosher salt and pepper. Cover; set aside.
  3. Melt remaining 1 tablespoon butter with 1 tablespoon olive oil in another large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Working in batches, add beef slices to skillet and sauté just until brown outside but still pink in center, about 30 seconds per side. Transfer beef slices to plate; sprinkle with coarse salt and pepper. Add sliced shallots to same skillet, reduce heat to medium, and sauté until golden brown and tender, about 4 minutes. Stir in flour and 1 teaspoon tomato paste (mixture will clump). Add broth and paprika and whisk to blend, scraping up browned bits. Simmer until sauce thickens slightly, about 2 minutes. Season sauce to taste with coarse kosher salt and pepper. Remove from heat; cover and keep warm.
  4. Meanwhile, preheat broiler. Whisk remaining 3 tablespoons oil and 2 1/2 tablespoons tomato paste in small bowl to blend. Arrange bread slices in single layer on rimmed baking sheet. Brush oil-tomato paste mixture lightly over both sides of bread slices. Broil bread just until lightly toasted, watching closely to avoid burning, about 1 minute per side. Arrange sourdough toasts on large platter.
  5. Add beef slices and any accumulated juices to shallot mixture in skillet; bring to simmer, stirring occasionally, then stir in sour cream. Remove from heat. Season to taste with coarse salt and pepper. Rewarm mushroom mixture over medium heat.
  6. Divide beef mixture among toasts, then top each with mushroom mixture. Sprinkle with parsley and serve.

 

Happy Fasnacht Day!

Today is my favorite day of the entire year, yes, its better than Christmas, it’s Fasnacht Day! If you live in Central PA, better yet, Lancaster, PA, then you know this day very well. If you don’t, you have no idea what I’m talking about. Fasnachts are a potato donut that the PA Dutch make in honor of Fat Tuesday. Here is the wikipedia definition:

Fasnacht, sometimes spelled Fastnacht or Faschnacht or Fosnot or Fosnaught, is a fatty doughnut treat served traditionally on Fastnacht Day (Shrove Tuesday), the day before Lent starts. Fasnachts were made as a way to empty the pantry of lard, sugar, fat, and butter, which were traditionally fasted from during Lent.

Basel, Switzerland conducts an annual fasnacht festival. The Pennsylvania Dutch territory surrounding Lancaster, Pennsylvania, celebrates the custom as well. Most chain supermarkets in the eastern Pennsylvania offer fasnachts.

Fasnachts is the way that the PA Dutch celebrate lent. So while others are eating Kings Cake and celebrating mardi gras, we here in PA Dutch country stuff our faces with donuts. Fascnachts are a big church and local club fundraiser; people pre-order dozens of them and pay about $7-$8 per dozen. They can also be found in any local grocery store, but I think the best ones are found at Central Market.

These are the bags that I picked up this morning! Traditional Fasnachts are plain or powdered sugar, but the Stoltzfus Bakery at market makes some glazed and they are my favorite!

So for those of you in Central PA, go out and eat some Fasnachts today! And if you’re not in Central PA, then go eat a donut and tell someone “Happy Fasnacht Day!” They will give you a look that says, “you’re insane.”

I can be found at my office, surrounded by bags of Fasnachts and contemplating eating Fasnachts for breakfast, lunch and dinner. What is better than a day devoted to eating donuts? Really. What about you guys, any Fat Tuesday traditions you’re taking part in today? Eating something special? Do tell.

Surprise, it’s a party!

Last weekend, we had a big weekend. I threw Eric a surprise party for his birthday! This is the first and only surprise party I have ever thrown and it was a huge success. The theme for the evening was the city of Philadelphia, one of Eric’s favorite cities. We have spent alot of time in Philly over the years and Eric is a true Philly sports fan, always rooting for the Phillies, Flyers and Eagles. We even had our first date in Philly.

The theme was executed mostly in the food for the evening. Since I was keeping this whole shindig a surprise, I couldn’t prepare anything in advance at the house. I decided not to make any of the party food and ordered it all. That’s not my first choice, but there was no other options in order to keep it a secret. The menu consisted of Philly hoagies, cheese steaks, soft pretzels, Yuengling beer and a cake decorated in a Phillies motif.

I created my own centerpiece for the food table made up of Tastycakes, peanut chews and some images from Philly that I printed out and attached to bamboo skewers. I also bought Phillies and Eagles napkins and found some Phillies and Eagles balloons to use.

The hardest part, of course, was keeping everything a surprise from Eric. I kept wanting to tell him the details and talk to him about my ideas, plus I’ve never been able to surprise him before. Gifts, dates, anything, he always knows or guesses it. I knew fooling him wasn’t going to be easy but I never expected how difficult it would really be! I think I was more nervous on Saturday while waiting for him to arrive than at our wedding! And orchestrating a cover story and dropping party supplies at our friends’ house all week  was exhausting.

In the end, it was all worth it and Eric was completely surprised and happy! He was so amazed that I had pulled it off and loved having a night with all our friends celebrating his birthday. And now, I can finally relax, no more secrets! Happy birthday Eric! (And here he is toasting himself)

Dinner Club – February

A few weeks ago, we participated in our very first evening of dinner club and I can’t wait until next month’s already! We had so much fun with our friends and eating good food. I wish every night was dinner club!

Back in January, we were given the idea to start a dinner club from our friends we visited in Colorado, see that post here. They told us about their dinner club and I immediately told them we were stealing the idea. The “rules” of the club are to get 3 couples who live fairly close to one another. The evening is progressive, which means you eat each course at a different house and move from house to house throughout the evening. To add on to the progressive fun, we also chose a theme ingredient that had to be used in each dish.

Since we were getting together in the month of February, we all agreed on the theme ingredient of chocolate and then chose courses out of a hat. Eric and I chose the appetizer course, which meant we were kicking off the entire chocolaty evening, no pressure.

I had no clue where to start. First, I rarely make appetizers. I’m not sure why, but finding an appetizer that wasn’t too sweet and contained chocolate was a little daunting. After doing some searching online, I found a recipe for roasted parsnip soup that contained white chocolate and was topped with cocoa dusted croutons. It was perfect in every way, and it looked fairly simple; bonus!

Since the soup was rather simple and I didn’t have the burden of making a main course or dessert, I chose to have some fun and whipped up some chocolate butter (which we first ate at the Hershey Hotel and it was amazing!) for the bread and the chocolate drizzled popcorn that you saw in this post from last week. The popcorn would be the perfect precursor to the soup; we could eat it with drinks while everyone arrived.

To make the soup, start by roasting the parsnips in the oven after coating with olive oil, salt and pepper.

After the parsnips are roasted, saute the onion in melted butter.

Add chicken stock and a vanilla bean sliced lengthwise with the seeds scraped out and into the stock. You can find whole vanilla beans with the regular spices at the grocery store, however they are very expensive so be prepared to pay about $7 for 2 beans. (It’s totally worth it, I assure you.)

Add the roasted parsnips to the stock and bring to a boil. Season with salt and pepper, cover and simmer until the parsnips are tender and cooked through, about 20 minutes.

Stir in the white chocolate chips and remove the vanilla bean pod.

Using an immersion blender or a regular blender in batches, blend until the soup is smooth.

Squeeze fresh lemon juice into the soup and keep warm.

To make the croutons, slice some country bread. Drizzle with olive oil and then gently sift cocoa powder on one side of the bread.

Place in the oven at 400 degrees, just until crispy. Slice into cubes.

Garnish the soup with fresh dill, the croutons and a lemon wedge.

The soup was really good. At first I wasn’t sure about it, I’m not a big fan of vanilla or sweet flavors in my savory meals but this was a perfect balance so that it wasn’t actually very sweet at all. The lemon and dill really brought out the flavors of the soup and along with a slice of bread and chocolate butter, it was the perfect start to our evening.

Next we moved on to the second and main course and the second house. Here we were served a salad that boasted a home made chocolate balsamic vinaigrette. It was so delicious!

And next, we ate short ribs topped with dark chocolate an served over fresh pasta. It was out of this world delicious. The dark chocolate added such a nice sweet and subtle flavor to the dish.

These dishes were paired with a chocolate bread that had a swirl of chocolaty goodness through it. This was home made without a recipe so you’ll just have to look at the picture and wish you were there.

Following dinner, we moved on to the third and final house for dessert. Dessert was a decadent and beautiful chocolate and whiskey bunt cake served with ice cream and strawberries. We also enjoyed chocolate martinis!

Here’s a tutorial from our dessert couple about making the bundt cake. (Wasn’t it stellar of them to write me up a little blog post?!):

The following is the Brobst recipe for Chocolate Whiskey Bundt Cake, with help from Epicurious:

  • 1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder (not Dutch-process) plus 3 tablespoons for dusting pan
  • 1 1/2 cups brewed coffee
  • 1/2 cup American whiskey (the original called for American, I used Jameson.)
  • 2 sticks (1 cup) unsalted butter, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • Special equipment: a 10-inch bundt pan (3 1/4 inches deep; 3-qt capacity)
  • Accompaniment: lightly sweetened whipped cream
  • Garnish: confectioners’ sugar for dusting


Put oven rack in middle position and preheat oven to 325°F.

Butter bundt pan well, then dust with 3 tablespoons cocoa powder, knocking out excess.
Heat coffee, whiskey, butter, and remaining cup cocoa powder in a 3-quart heavy saucepan over moderate heat, whisking, until butter is melted.

Remove from heat, then add sugar and whisk until dissolved, about 1 minute.

Transfer mixture to a large bowl and cool 5 minutes.

While chocolate mixture cools, whisk together flour, baking soda, and salt in a bowl. Whisk together eggs and vanilla in a small bowl, then whisk into cooled chocolate mixture until combined well.

Add chocolate to flour mixture and whisk until just combined (batter will be thin and bubbly).

Pour batter into bundt pan and bake until a wooden pick or skewer inserted in center comes out clean, 40 to 50 minutes.

Cool cake completely in pan on a rack, about 2 hours.

Loosen cake from pan using tip of a dinner knife, then invert rack over pan and turn cake out onto rack.

Enjoy with fresh berries and French Vanilla Ice Cream!

We had so much fun and our next club will be meeting on St. Patrick’s day. I’m sure you can only guess the possibilities for a theme for that dinner! I have to say thanks to our Colorado friends for this awesome dinner club idea and thanks to our fellow dinner club couples who have been so much fun and such great sports through our first dinner club. Food truly does bring people together!

Here is the menu from our evening and each item is a link to the recipe.

First Course:

Chocolate Popcorn

Chocolate Butter

Roasted Parsnip and Vanilla Chocolate Soup

Second Course:

Fresh Greens Salad w/ Chocolate Balsamic Vinaigrette

Short Ribs Tagliatelle

Third Course:

Chocolate Whiskey Bundt Cake

Red Velvet Cupcakes

In preparation for Valentine’s Day, I decided to be a nice co-worker and make red velvet cupcakes to take into the office. I would have rather made a red velvet cake, but the cupcakes are so much better for sharing. I found really cute cupcake wrappers at the grocery store which made the cupcakes even more special.

I found a recipe from Paula Deen, because Southern ladies know their red velvet, and got to work.

Start the recipe by sifting together the dry ingredients.

Using an electric mixer, mix together all the wet ingredients, including the red food coloring and vinegar. Slowly work the dry ingredients into the wet ones.

Once the batter is well incorporated, scoop into the prepared cupcake pans.

Bake at 350 degrees for 22-25 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean.

Cool completely before icing.

I prefer my red velvet cake with butter cream icing, as opposed to the more popular cream cheese. So I whipped up a batch of my favorite butter cream and piped it on top.

I don’t think I’ll use this recipe again, they were decent but not good. I felt the cupcakes lacked in flavor overall and I while I baked them I thought I should have added more cocoa than the recipe called for, but talked myself out of it. I usually like to follow a recipe the first time I make it and then makes notes afterward about how it turned out for the next time I make it.

Even thought they didn’t taste amazing, they certainly were pretty and put everyone at the office in a Valentine’s mood!

Here’s the recipe from Foodnetwork.com:

Red Velvet Cupcakes
Print
Author: Paula Deen
Prep time: 20 mins
Cook time: 20 mins
Total time: 40 mins
Serves: 24 cupcakes
Ingredients
  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon cocoa powder
  • 1 1/2 cups vegetable oil
  • 1 cup buttermilk, room temperature
  • 2 large eggs, room temperature
  • 2 tablespoons red food coloring
  • 1 teaspoon white distilled vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line 2 (12-cup) muffin pans with cupcake papers.
  2. In a medium mixing bowl, sift together the flour, sugar, baking soda, salt, and cocoa powder. In a large bowl gently beat together the oil, buttermilk, eggs, food coloring, vinegar, and vanilla with a handheld electric mixer. Add the sifted dry ingredients to the wet and mix until smooth and thoroughly combined.
  3. Divide the batter evenly among the cupcake tins about 2/3 filled. Bake in oven for about 20 to 22 minutes, turning the pans once, half way through. Test the cupcakes with a toothpick for doneness. Remove from oven and cool completely before frosting.

 

Prepping for Valentine’s Day

 

In case you didn’t realize it, tomorrow is Valentine’s Day, so stop off for a card for your special someone or a box of chocolates that will keep you out of the dog house and score a few extra points with your sweetheart.

Eric and I are not big celebrators of the day of love but we like to do something small to acknowledge it. Typically, I make a nicer dinner at home and I try to have a little something special for Eric. One year it was a pink tie, another year it was a CD he wanted; something small but fun. This year…well you’ll just have to wait to find out!

I was online this morning searching for dinner inspiration for tomorrow and came upon this cute and fun quiz on Epicurious.com. Click on the link or on the image below and it will take you to the quiz.

It’s a few simple questions about you as a couple and then suggests a menu for you to make, including all the recipes for Valentines Day! I took it a few different times using different answers to see the results, all good menu ideas!

How about you guys? Any Valentine’s Day traditions or suggestions? I’d love to hear what you’re planning!

It’s February 9th!

Today is a very special day, it’s Eric’s birthday! We’ll be celebrating with lots of delicious food today and into this weekend and I’m scheduled to make a cherry pie as his birthday dessert (the cherries are already thawed in the fridge!). Eric always asks for cherry pie for his birthday instead of cake and I can’t blame him, I do make a very good cherry pie, if you remember.

I can’t picture life without this guy, I’m so glad he was born!
I can’t imagine sharing my life with anyone else.

Happy Birthday babe!

(Bailey was his birthday present 3 years ago and this photo was taken over this Christmas, she is now completely healed and out of her leg bandage, but isn’t she so cute?!)

Also, if there is not post tomorrow, its because I spent all my time today celebrating with Eric and not writing at my computer.

Popcorn + Chocolate = YUM

This weekend I made one of the best snacks ever. We were preparing dishes for our very first dinner club (you’ll find out more about that in the next post) and wanted something to start the evening off that people could munch on casually upon arriving. Since discovering how to make popcorn on the stove, read about that here, I’ve been on a bit of a popcorn kick. I needed to incorporate chocolate into the snack in some way and chose to make a popcorn drizzled in white and dark chocolate. This means, salty and sweet and buttery all together, yum.

To start, I cooked the popcorn on the stove. For that recipe, click here. Dump the popcorn out on to a baking sheet lined with tin foil or parchment paper. Top with 1/2 cup of melted butter and salt well. Keep tasting it to make sure it’s salty and buttery enough.

This was the first time I’ve ever used the microwave to melt chocolate instead of a double boiler. I wanted this to be a quick and easy snack and have always heard that the microwave is a good way to melt it, just never tried it. For the chocolate, I chose a semisweet chocolate bar, it was already half used and this was a great way to use the rest of it up. I also wanted a darker chocolate because I was using white chocolate with it which is very sweet. I thought dark chocolate would balance it better.

For the white chocolate, I used chocolate chips I had leftover in the pantry.

I made a wonderful discovery on the back of the white chocolate chip bag, melting directions for the microwave! Always read the back of the chocolate chip bag. There is a lot of useful information there.

After melting both chocolates in the microwave, I used a fork to stir and made sure the chocolate was thin enough to drizzle.

Shake the fork back and forth gently over the tray of popcorn to drizzle it on. First I drizzled the dark chocolate and then the white chocolate.

Allow the sheet of popcorn to sit on the counter until the chocolate sets. You can pop it into the fridge to speed it up.

Break up the popcorn and toss in a bowl to serve.

This was such an easy and delicious snack. I can’t tell you how much everyone raved about it and really it took about 20 minutes and used all ingredients I had in my pantry already. This is my new “gourmet” snack recipe, trust me, it will impress all your friends when you tell them you actually made it!