Monday, April 29, 2013

Cauliflower Soup

I recently discovered the wonderful blog, The Kitchn, which is the foodie version of Apartment Therapy (also good). I love all the wonderful recipes, ideas, and great kitchens featured on it.

While perusing the site, I found a recipe for Creamy Curried Cauliflower Soup. It sounded really good, healthy, and pretty inexpensive, so I figured I'd give it a try. It turned out very delicious and was easy to put together. The only changes I made were with the garnishes. I used cilantro instead of parsley and I did not add any cashews, although I do think it would have been good. Josh and I both enjoyed this soup and it was especially good with some grilled naan for dipping. Another change I might attempt next time is sauteing a serrano pepper with the onions to add a bit more spice and flavor.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Lemon Chicken Piccata

Last week I made one of our favorite meals, Meyer Lemon Chicken Piccata from a recipe I found in Cooking Light a couple of years ago. This is a go-to meal for us when I want to make something easy, tasty, and light.

The recipe calls for Meyer Lemons, but I use regular lemons and they work fine. I usually serve it with whole wheat thin spaghetti or angel hair pasta and veggies, this time it was broccoli. I usually pour some of the extra sauce and a little olive oil over the pasta.

Jack enjoyed it too, I just gave him some without the sauce over it. I didn't think he would be a big fan of capers!

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

White Sands

Last weekend we went down to El Paso to visit my parents.  We have been wanting to take Jack to White Sands National Monument, and figured this would be a good time of year to go. So on Saturday morning, we all drove from El Paso over to White Sands, which is about an hour and a half to two hour drive.

When we lived in Las Cruces, we went to White Sands often since it was just about 45 minutes away. It is such an incredible place to visit, unlike anywhere else on earth. Even if you have visited other sand dunes, none compare to these. We knew Jack would love going too given the fact that it's like a gigantic sandbox. Plus my parents had never been.

We all had a wonderful time. Jack loved sledding down the dunes, digging in the sand, and running around. My parents couldn't believe how soft and white the sand was. We played in the dunes and had a wonderful picnic. When we left Jack kept saying, "More White Sands, more White Sands."

If you're planning on visiting White Sands, here are a few things I recommend:
  • Check the National Parks website ahead of time for hours, directions, pricing, and other details. 
  • Bring sunscreen, sunglasses, and hats for everyone in your group. The white sand reflects the  bright New Mexico sun, so if you do not have sunglasses, you will be miserable.
  • Check the forecast before you go. Spring afternoons can be very windy. I went one time on a windy day and it was terrible with sand blowing everywhere. Also, summer can be very hot, so go very early in the day if you are planning a summer trip. 
  • Bring plenty of water and if you would like to have a picnic, there are lots of picnic tables if you drive all the way to the end of the park road. There are drinks and snacks available at the visitor's center, but you will pay a little more for them.
  • If you have a sled bring it or borrow one from a friend. You can buy them at the visitor's center, but they are a little pricey.
  • If you have little ones, bring shovels, buckets, and other sand toys for them.

There is no camping at the park, but up the highway in the Organ Mountains is Aguirre Spring Campground. If you would like to stay in a hotel, Alamogordo is the nearest town, and Las Cruces is close as well. There are more hotel and restaurant options in Las Cruces plus Old Mesilla, which is a nice historic plaza with shops, restaurants, and other fun spots. Think a smaller version of Santa Fe. You could also go a little further to El Paso which is a much larger city.

If you have not been to White Sands, consider it the next time you are in the southwest. It's a beautiful spot and a wonderful place to make fun memories with your family and friends (not to mention, it's budget-friendly too)!

Broccoli Snack

A few weeks ago I came across this recipe for roasted broccoli and decided to give it a try for a late afternoon snack. It was unexpectedly delicious! It had a nice crunchy texture and salty taste. It was super easy to make and very inexpensive. It's definitely something I will make again!

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Cocina Azul

Last weekend Josh and I had a date night. Once you have kids, date nights are rare, but amazing. It's incredible how much easier it is to have a conversation without a blonde 2 year old stealing our attention.

This time we decided we wanted to try something new, but were trying to find a place that wouldn't be too pricey. After reading reviews online, we chose Cocina Azul. We had driven by this restaurant before and thought it looked good. It's just down the street from Explora, which we frequent with Jack. It's a great children's science museum. If you have young kids, I highly recommend it.

Cocina Azul has a simple but bright interior with lots of natural light from the large windows. It's very family friendly and the service was great. We ordered the chile con queso for an appetizer, which was served in a crispy tortilla bowl. The queso and salsas served with them were very good, although not too spicy, especially if you're a New Mexican.

We split the carne adovado enchilada plate for our main course. We chose the red sauce with sides of beans and potatoes. The meat was tender and delicious, and although the sauce was mild like the salsa, it was still very tasty. The portions were huge, so we were very glad we decided to split it! 

Overall, we thought Cocina Azul had great food, good service, and good atmosphere. It was a great place for a casual date, and would also be a good spot for a family meal. They are open for breakfast as well, so I am thinking the next time we go to Explora as a family, we may have to stop at Cocina Azul for breakfast.

Cocina AzĂșl on Urbanspoon

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Game Night Nachos

Last week when Josh and I were watching the NCAA Final Four Championship game, which was an incredible game, I decided to make nachos. My favorite way to cook nachos is by spreading tortilla chips on a baking sheet, topping it with refried beans, taco meat (I had some leftover from making tacos the night before), shredded Mexican cheese blend, jarred sliced jalapenos, chili powder, and pepper.

Bake at 350 for about 5 minutes or until cheese is completely melted. Top with salsa and enjoy! The perfect game night meal!

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Fabulous Light French Toast

This morning I created something glorious, easy, and oh so delicious. When I looked around my kitchen for inspiration for breakfast, I saw a loaf of French bread I bought yesterday. I am planning on using some of it for dinner tonight, but do not need the whole loaf. I decided this would be the perfect foundation for some great French toast. Good bread is a key component when making French toast. I also had 3 pounds of strawberries I bought on sale yesterday and figured they would be a perfect topping.

So with these two components in mind, I didn't need much more. This version is a little lighter than most, using skim milk and adding no sugar (other than what is in the syrup). Here is how to create my Fabulous Light French Toast:
  • Cut 4 slices of French bread (about 1 inch. thick)
  • Whisk together 1/2 cup of skim milk, 1 egg, and a dash of cinnamon. 
  • Dip each slice of bread into the milk mixture, making sure both sides are coated. 
  • Heat 1/2 tbsp. butter in a non-stick skillet over medium-high heat. Add bread to skillet, cook until golden brown, flip bread and cook until other side is golden brown as well.
  • Top each serving (2 slices per person) with sliced strawberries and a light drizzle of maple syrup. 
This was so incredibly delicious and easy to make! Plus, it's a great way to use what's left of that loaf of French bread you have hanging out in your kitchen. 

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Hawaiian Pizza (with Easter Leftovers)

After our wonderful Easter lunch, we had more leftover ham than I cared to spend an entire week eating in sandwiches. So as I tried to think of creative ways to use the leftovers, Hawaiian Pizza came to mind. This was a very simple yet fun way to use our plethora of ham.

I used the canned Pillsbury pizza crust and followed the directions on it for baking the pizza. If you have a homemade crust recipe you like, that would be great too. I spread a little Stubb's Bar-B-Q Sauce on top, which is delicious if you have not tried it. As a native Texan, I cannot buy plain Bar-B-Q sauce. It's just wrong. I then topped it with mozzarella cheese, chopped ham, and canned pineapple chunks (drain first, of course).

So if you're looking for a way to use your leftover ham in the future, try Hawaiian pizza!

Tuesday, April 2, 2013


Isn't he adorable? I just couldn't resist sharing this picture. He got this bunny in his Easter basket and gave it a hug after he pulled it out.

We had a wonderful Easter weekend with our little family and friends. On Saturday our neighborhood hosted an Easter Egg Hunt at the park. It was so much fun to see all of our friends from the neighborhood out there with their families. Jack had a fun time too. Although, we think he had more fun playing at the park post-hunt than he did during the actual hunt. I think he would stay at the park all day if we let him.

On Sunday we invited some friends from church over for an Easter lunch. We thought it would be fun to invite people that, like us, do not have extended family in town. We ended up with a total of 8 adults and 5 kids. I really enjoyed putting the menu together, cooking, and especially the time spent with friends! 

As I planned the menu, I was looking for dishes that would be easy to prepare ahead of time and inexpensive. I love hosting for large groups, but the cost of the meal can add up very quickly if I am not careful. So in order to not blow our grocery budget for the month, I scoured the grocery store ads for deals. Because we were planning on having everyone come over right after church, I wanted to cook food that I could prepare in advance or throw together easily when we got home. So I settled on ham, potatoes au gratin, roasted asparagus, store-bought rolls, and deviled eggs. In the end, I spent under $40 on a meal that fed 13 with plenty of leftovers- not bad! 

Target had their Archer Farms ham on sale for $1.89/lb. After reading great reviews on it, I figured I would give it a try. It is already roasted and sliced, so all you need to do is heat it up in the oven and use the glaze included with it. I was able to put it in the oven before we left for church, and it was ready by the time we got home. It could not have been easier or more delicious!

Albertson's had their 10 pound bag of potatoes on sale for $1.59. I had already thought I would make a potato dish, so when I noticed the sale, it was perfect. I love potatoes au gratin, so I looked on the Food Network website to try to find a good recipe. I decided to use the recipe from The Pioneer Woman show. You've got to try this recipe, it was so delicious and easy! I made them before church (except for the last little bit with cheese on top) then turned the temperature down to "warm." I left them in there during church then bumped the temperature back up when I got home, added the cheese, and cooked them for another 10 minutes. The only other change I made to her recipe was adding a dash of garlic powder and a dash of onion powder to the cream mixture for a little extra flavor.

I also made deviled eggs and my roasted asparagus and bought King's Hawaiin Sweet Dinner Rolls. I have always loved these, but they are especially great to make little ham sandwiches. Add a little Dijon mustard, and you have one delicious sandwich! The deviled eggs were easy to make a day in advance, and the asparagus was easy to cook when I got home from church. 

This meal was simple, comforting, and delicious. I look forward to hosting more holiday meals in the future!