Saturday, March 26, 2011

Copy Cat Recipes

I was opened to a new world of cooking when it dawned on me that I could find recipes of my favorite recipes from my favorite restaurants and make them at home! And it's easier than you might think! Doing this not only saves you money but you can modify it to your family's taste, diet and budget needs!

Our family favorite is Red Lobster's Cajun Shrimp Linguini.

This recipe is great because it is very versatile. I make it with shrimp and/or chicken and a little less spicey than called for. For those gluten/low carbers, just leave out the pasta and you have a yummy sauce with protein!

So I start off in the afternoon making my bread (that takes about 3 hrs-mostly wait time). I'll blog that eventually :) .
I cover the protein in cajun seasonings and put them in the skillet with butter (if cooking chicken you'll need extra fat. ie. butter, oil, lard).  I start my water for boil for the pasta and make up my salad.

I will remove the chicken- but if I'm using shrimp I'll leave it in. I let the chicken rest and work on the sauce.

I use the lower side of the recipe for the amount of cream. This time I used a lot of chicken and probably should have used more cream.Toss in the other spices and stir it in(sometimes to save time and stress I will measure out the spices and have them in stand by in a custard bowl).

Add in your protein and pasta and make sure your burner is on a low setting. You want it to simmer and thicken/reduce a little.

I toss in a hand full of parmesean cheese. I usually grade some myself but this was on sale...don't judge me :).


½ pound peeled shrimp uncooked 
2 teaspoons cajun seasoning 
2 tablespoons butter 
1-2 cup heavy cream 
1/4 teaspoon dried basil 
1/2 teaspoon lemon-pepper seasoning 
¼-½ tsp. Cayenne pepper 
1/4 teaspoon salt 
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder 
1/4 teaspoon pepper 
4 ounces linguine, cooked and drained 
grated parmesan cheese (optional) 
Place shrimp and ½ Cajun seasoning in a bowl or resealable plastic bag, toss or shake to coat.
In a large skillet over medium heat sauté shrimp in butter until almost tender, about 4 minutes, just until pink
Reduce heat.
Add cream, the rest of the cajun seasoning and remaining seasonings; heat through.
Add linguine to sauce and toss; heat through.
Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese if desired.

And that's it! mmmm. Fast and delicious!
Not including the bread, I can get this meal out in 20-30 minutes- not bad!

So, the weather getting warmer gets me in the mood for a yummy iced coffee. I  am almost always in the mood for an iced coffee...
So, my knock off iced coffee is super simple.
I like a nice strong coffee flavor and punch, so I like to use espresso. 

2 shots espresso 
2 tablespoons homemade vanilla syrup (I do a mix of 1 part water and 1 part sugar and bring it to a boil then after it's cooled just slightly I put tsp of vanilla- then I store it in a glass jar in the fridge) 
2 tablespoons half and half 
1 cup ice 
1 cup ice cold water.

I do use espresso, but you could make it with strong coffee. If you wanted to you could even make a few trays of ice with coffee so that it doesn't water it down as they melt. My sister got me a cool silicone coffee bean shaped ice "tray." How fun is that!?

Cheaper and healthier than going out to McDonald's or Starbucks. And you're in complete control!

Sunday, March 6, 2011

prepping for warmer weather: free skirts and yummy no hassle breakfast

When I started sewing, I did it all by hand. I didn't have a sewing machine until a little over a year ago and I am loving it!  I've done so many jobs by hand that took me hours that could have been finished in minutes with a machine! I started with small jobs of appliquéing a canvas bag, and napkins to larger jobs like making play capes for little boys. As soon as I got a sewing machine the first thing I made (besides more napkins) was a skirt. I will share that pattern later.
I hope to share the little things that helped me and that I learn along the way.
For now I want to share a very easy project. This is great for a little girl or even yourself!

What you'll need is a pair of jeans, preferably ones that don't fit well length wise or that the knees are worn out
Other choice of material
sewing machine
measuring tape

First cut the jeans right about the crotch. I like to cut them face down to pay attention to the back pockets which helps to cut more evenly and that I don't cut into the pockets.

Measure the length of the denim and then how long you want it to be. The difference is how long the other material needs to be plus and inch for hemming and seam allowance.  Here I used an old bed sheet that was already hemmed.
For the width, measure the width of the bottom of the denim and do somewhere near, but not over, double that number. For example, this skirt was measured 26in. I didn't want it too full so I cut it to about 46in wide. I folded the material in half and measure it 23 x 9in.
If you want to add any ribbon or trim it's good to do that now.
Sew the two short ends together with the right sides facing. Making it a complete circle.

Next at 1/4in from the top of other material do a running stitch (big stitch with out sewing it off at either end) all the way around the top. I like to start at the seam I just made.
Then hold on to one string, the start or finish, and pull the material along the the string to gather it.  Keep gathering and spreading so as to evenly distribute material. I like to do it one side at a time, from the starting string and then from the finishing string, until it all measures the same as the bottom of the jeans. The first time I did this it took me forever. I still don't like to do it but it's getting easier and faster.

Now you need to pin the "skirt" to the jeans. This ensures that your gathers stay relatively well distributed and that you have gathered it to the right amount.  You  can pin with right sides facing and the bottom of the jeans matching with the top of the skirt so that you have no raw edges. That is definitely the easiest way to do it. I'm kinda liking some raw edges and wanted to try something different, so I pinned the skirt right on top of the jeans so some unraveling will be seen. I did find it easier to put it around then end of the ironing board.

Then simply sew around the skirt, removing pins as you go. If it all lines up right then you sew around again and you're done!  This skirt was made from old jeans and an old bed linen. To olds made a "new"! That's like getting it for free- right!?

The other favorite I'd like to share is granola bars. I reverted to this when I was nursing my son and had a VERY limited diet. I was eating oatmeal for breakfast and desperately wanted something different so I made wheat, dairy and corn free granola bars. I based it all off  of this recipe.
I used either soy margarine or coconut oil for the butter, and added in coconut for the sunflower kernels,  flax seed for the wheat germ, dairy free dark chocolate (chopped up Baker's Dark chocolate) for the chocolate chips, and chopped up pecans and walnuts instead of raisins. It's such a versatile recipe!
I've made some more recently and they are always so delicious!  They are easy to throw together and if you do it the night before then you have breakfast for in the morning, especially great if you know you're not going to have time to cook!

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Mini Excursion/ Stay-cation

We recently went on a mini family staycation. Just my husband and two children and I. We met some friends for dinner at our favorite restaurant, Cinzetti's. Then we went back to the hotel to swim. I had too much "simple" fun the next morning though.

We went to see if Crate and Barrel was open, and it was not. We had almost 40 minutes to kill! I saw, to much delight and surprise, that my favorite local coffee roasterie had a cafe. I HAD to stop and took some pictures for you...

It was a very cute place. I ordered my regular, french vanilla americano with whipped cream.

But there was so much to choose from!  Not to mention the Christopher Elbow chocolates. I'd never seen gourmet chocolates in real life! Little things like this excite a simple gal such as myself.

This however was just a side stop to burn time while we waited for Crate and Barrel to open.  It is my new found love thanks to my generous sister who introduced me to it and it's very affordable finds.  Joy and I made our way lazily through and found some great items for my wish list.  I walked out with two great purchases for $15. It felt like my birthday! Simple girl, simple pleasures.

Ceramic Measuring spoons and a candy thermometer.

Oh, and since I got my thermometer I was off to make some weekend doughnuts!
Bad for the diet but I had lots of fun!

All yeast doughnuts with chocolate icing and sprinkles, glazed, cherry filled and Bavarian cream with chocolate icing. I still have a lot to learn about timing the cooking but I was surprised at the ease of the dough.  I followed the recipe and when it began to pull away from the sides I put it to rest in an oiled bowl. I normally would keep flouring until it formed a ball but this actually worked out surprisingly well. Making your own doughnuts may not be cost effective, and is not really good for the waist line but is fun and good to know that you can! It is not very hard and you'll only get better each time! What did they do before the doughnut stores opened! (They were skinnier!!)