Monthly Archives: February 2013

Garlic Soba Noodles with Shrimp

Last month, I made soba noodles for the first time (Soy Citrus Scallops with Soba Noodles), and my family loved them! Since then, I’ve been looking for another tasty recipe to use the rest of the noodles I bought. So when I came across this recipe the other day on Foodie Crush, I had to try it.

It was so delicious! The flavors are so fresh and bright, but the dish is comforting at the same time. I can’t wait to make this again in the summer when we can throw the shrimp on the grill for a little extra flavor.

Garlic Soba Noodles with Grilled Shrimp
From Foodie Crush
serves 4

for the sauce
1/4 cup ponzu sauce, found in the Asian aisle of most grocers
1/2 teaspoon dark sesame oil
1/2 teaspoon sugar
the juice of one lime

for the noodles & shrimp
1 8 or 9 ounce package of soba noodles (substitute whole wheat spaghetti if needed)
3/4 pound medium shrimp, peeled and deveined
1 teaspoon kosher salt
2 tablespoons grapeseed or vegetable oil, divided
1 shallot, thinly sliced
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 tablespoon ginger, chopped
8-10 brown mushrooms, sliced
1/2 jalapeno, thinly sliced
1/4 cup cliantro, chopped
1 green onion, chopped for garnish
1 lime, quartered and sliced

1. In a small bowl, combine all sauce ingredients and mix until sugar dissolves. Set aside.

2. Fill a large pot 2/3 full of water and bring to a boil. Season water with 1 to 2 tablespoons of salt and add soba noodles. Cook for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally, until noodles are tender. Drain in colander, rinse well with cold water and set aside.

3. Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a skillet on medium-high heat until oil slithers about the pan and add garlic, shallots and ginger. Cook for 1-2 minutes, stirring frequently taking care that garlic doesn’t burn. Reduce heat to medium, add mushrooms and cook for 5-7 minutes, stirring occasionally, until mushrooms are tender and shallots a bit crispy. Remove from heat and let cool.

4. Meanwhile, heat a skillet or grill over medium high heat and lightly coat with cooking spray. Add remaining tablespoon of oil to shrimp, season with 1 teaspoon kosher salt and cook for 3 minutes on each side or until just opaque on the inside. Shrimp will continue to cook once taken off the heat so cook carefully or they’ll become tough.

5. Transfer noodles and mushroom mixture to a bowl, season with sauce mixture and combine. Plate noodles in mounds and top with grilled shrimp. Serve with cilantro, green onion and jalapeno slices.


The Look for Less: Jenny Lind Bed

Before long, Olivia is going to be making the move to a big girl bed. I’ve been looking at our options, and I am absolutely in love with the Jenny Lind bed from The Land of Nod. It reminds me of my bed growing up, and it would look adorable with a colorful little quilt. The only problem? They’re freaking expensive! Call me crazy, but I’d prefer not to drop $550 on a kid’s bed.

So I set out to see if I could find a cheaper knock-off version, and you’ll never guess what store delivered … Walmart! And for $300 less than the nearly identical Land of Nod version! Granted, the Land of Nod beds come in fun colors, but it’s nothing an afternoon and a can of spray paint can’t achieve.

What do you think, pretty good right?!

Now to find a cute quilt!


Best Breakfast Casserole. Ever.

In this age of Pinterest, I have pinned and tried a LOT of breakfast casseroles, most of which have been abysmal disasters. I once tried making this tater tot casserole that had been repinned a gazillion times. It was the greasiest, most disgusting thing … we couldn’t even eat it. It kills me to throw food away but that one went straight in the bin and we went straight to McDonald’s (yes, the casserole was greasier than McDonald’s, it was that bad!).

So this past Christmas, I really tried to research recipes and read reviews before choosing our breakfast dish for Christmas morning. I finally decided on this Easy Breakfast Casserole recipe from Food.com, with a few changes. Instead of ham, I used sausage, and I also added a bunch of veggies. Everyone raved about this casserole, even going so far as to say it was the best one they’d ever had!

I’ve since made it a few more times, swapping out sausage for turkey bacon and using whatever seasonal veggies were on sale at the store. You can really make it whatever you want, but the combo below is my fav so far. The success of this casserole is all down to one unexpected ingredient—Stove Top stuffing! Strange, yes, but it holds everything together while injecting some killer flavor.

Best Breakfast Casserole
Adapted from Food.com 

2 cups Stove Top Chicken Stuffing mix
2 cups milk
6 eggs, beaten
½ tsp salt
6 slices bacon, cooked and chopped (I used Hormel Fully Cooked Bacon—easier and less calories)
1 cup shredded gouda cheese
1 small tomato, diced
½ bunch of asparagus, chopped
4 oz sliced portabella mushrooms
½ red pepper, diced
½ cup diced onion
1 tsp minced garlic
Olive oil

1. Preheat your oven to 350°. Grease a 9 x 12 casserole dish with cooking spray.

2. Heat olive oil in a large sauté pan over medium-high heat. Add garlic and sauté for one minute. Add asparagus, mushrooms, red pepper, and onion and cook until tender, about 10 minutes. Remove the vegetables from the pan and set them aside to cool slightly.

3. In a large bowl, combine the remaining ingredients. Slowly add in the cooked vegetables and mix well.

4. Pour the mixture into the casserole dish, and bake for 45 to 50 minutes.


The Master Bath Reno Reveal

I can’t believe I am finally writing this post—it’s so exciting! Our master bathroom renovation was a labor of love … a really, really long labor. I will never forget the day I was washing dishes downstairs and heard an ominous banging overhead. I raced upstairs and found my husband standing in the shower of our master bath with a crow bar and a mallet methodically demolishing the tile. Apparently, we were renovating our bathroom.

Over the course of the next several days, our bathroom was ripped apart. And then it stayed that way—for six months. We finally decided that, with both of us working full-time and having a toddler, we needed to hire a contractor or we would never use our master bathroom again.

So finally, one year and two months later, here you go … our big master bath reveal!

Before

Our house was built in 1979, when apparently master baths weren’t a selling point, so ours is on the small side. Expanding the space during the renovation wasn’t an option because of the layout of our house, so we tried to make the most of the space we had. Everything “before” was original to the house, right down to the sweet vanity light and wall-sized mirror.

Drum roll please …

After

This was a total gut job. Turns out we had to replace some of the plumbing, so it was a good thing we took it down to the studs.

 

For the shower tile, we loved the look of the glass tile, but it’s a bit more expensive than your run of the mill white subway tile, so we decided to just work some glass tiles into the white shower surround. Before the white tile went up, we went through with a Sharpie and marked X’s on the sheet rock where we wanted the glass tiles to go. This whole idea was a leap of faith because we couldn’t find any similar pictures or ideas online on which to base the design. We were thrilled with the way it turned out! We feel like we got a custom-looking shower for a much lower price tag.

A real point of contention during the design process was the shower door. While we both agreed that we wanted a glass door, I was fine with one with a chrome frame across the top. My husband, on the other hand, was really pushing for a frameless shower door. I don’t know if you’ve ever priced out frameless glass shower doors but they’re waaaaaaay more expensive than regular glass doors. I wasn’t ready to break the budget over a stupid frame. But my determined hubby found a frameless door online for much cheaper than all the others we had seen. It was still more than a regular door, but it was a price I could live with. And I will say this (honey, are you reading this?), he. was. right. There, I admit it.

We had a challenge finding a vanity out of the box that would fit the space. Because of where the rough-in was for the toilet, the vanity couldn’t be more than 42 inches wide, which isn’t a standard vanity size. We also really wanted a marble top, which limited our options even further. At the end of the day, we opted to convert a piece of furniture into a bathroom vanity. Best decision we ever made. Yes, it was more work than just picking something out at Home Depot, but we were able to get the exact look we wanted at the right size (and price, thanks to the cabinet being on clearance!).

The real reason it’s taken me so long to write this post is because it took us forever to find a mirror. What can I say? We’re very particular. We bought five or six mirrors, but the second we held each one up in the bathroom, we instantly hated it. Imagine my excitement (and shock) when we both agreed that this last mirror was “the one.” FINALLY. To top it off, it was only $60 from HomeGoods!

 

The fixtures are all part of the Moen Waterhill family, right down to the towel hooks. We saved around $115 by ordering them through Plumbersstock.com instead of picking them up at Home Depot or Lowes.

I think my favorite part of our bathroom is the flooring. I love the look of wood floors in the bathroom, but it’s just not practical. So we went with a faux wood porcelain tile instead. It really warms up the small space and feeds the vintage-y look we were going for.

To really maximize the natural light we get from the window in our bathroom, we decided to apply a frosted treatment to the window rather than covering it with blinds. It’s amazing how much lighter the bathroom feels now!

We are so happy with our new master bath, and we really feel like we made the most of our small space.

A few tips we learned to really maximize the space in your small bathroom:

1. Take your shower tile up to the ceiling to heighten the room.

2. Keep the color palette light and airy to really open up the space.

3. Go for a small scale toilet to gain a little extra space.

4. Make the most of any natural light you have by keeping your window free of blinds and applying a frost treatment for privacy without sacrificing light.

5. A glass shower door can make your bathroom appear a couple of feet larger.

Materials we used:

Shower DoorDreamline Mirage Sliding Tub Door *We ordered ours from Overstock.com but it looks like it’s no longer available on that site.
FlooringBayur Borneo from The Tile Shop
Mirror—HomeGoods
ToiletAmerican Standard Clean White High Efficiency Toilet
Fixtures—Moen Waterhill collection
Shower Tile—3 x 6 basic white ceramic subway tile and 3 x 6 Daltile Arctic Ice Glass Tile
Marble—White Carrera marble from USA Marble and Granite
Vanity Cabinet—HomeGoods
LightingHinkley Avon Chrome Wall Sconce  *We opted to flip ours the other way for more lighting.

 


Emi Jay’s New Spring Colors

I may have been late to the whole Emi Jay craze, but I am now officially a fan! When I bought some of these hair ties for my sister for Christmas, I picked up a pack for myself as well. I am so happy I did!

Before I discovered these hair ties, if I wore my hair up, I would have to keep it up all day because it would get the dreaded kink. I absolutely LOVE that I can wear my fine hair in a ponytail for an hour or all day and it still doesn’t have a dent!

Right now, I am loving the new color and ombre packs for spring. At $10.99 for a pack of five, they’re not the cheapest hair ties in the world, but they’re worth it!

Sorbet 5-Pack

Pink Ombre 5-Pack

Seabreeze 5-Pack

Green Ombre 5-Pack


Chicken and Dumplings

Growing up in southern Virginia, this comforting dish was a staple at our dinner table the moment the temperature dropped. I consider myself something of a connoisseur when it comes to chicken and dumplings, so when I came across a healthier version in Cooking Light, I wasn’t expecting much.

How could this low-cal version possibly compare to my beloved (and now closed *sniff sniff!) Rodman’s Bones & Buddy’s? I’d say it compared pretty well! I made a couple of changes to the original recipe to make it a bit easier and to up the veggie count. You need to try this one before the winter’s out—trust me, you won’t be disappointed (Mom, I’m talking to you!).

Chicken and Dumplings
Adapted from Cooking Light 

1 cup chopped onion
1 tsp minced garlic
¼ cup dry sherry
½ tsp salt
¼ tsp black pepper
4 cups fat-free, low sodium chicken broth
1 can condensed, reduced-fat, reduced-sodium cream of mushroom soup, undiluted
4 lbs boneless skinless chicken breast, cut into bite-size pieces
2 cups frozen mixed vegetables (carrots, peas, green beans, and corn)
¼ cup water
2 tbsp cornstarch
2 cups Bisquick mix
2/3 cup skim milk

1. Heat a Dutch oven over medium-high heat and coat with cooking spray.  Add onion and garlic and sauté for 5 minutes.

2. Stir in the next five ingredients (sherry through soup) and bring to a boil. Add the chicken and bring back up to a boil. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer for 35 minutes.

3. Stir in the frozen vegetables.

4. In a small bowl, whisk together the water and the cornstarch, and then add the mixture to the pot, stirring well.

5. In another bowl, mix together the Bisquick and the milk. Drop the dough in spoonfuls into the pot.

6. Bring the chicken mixture to a simmer and continue to cook for 20 minutes, turning over the dumplings and stirring occasionally.

7. Cover and cook for another 10 minutes or until the dumplings are done. 


Southwestern Mac and Cheese

It’s no secret that kids love mac and cheese, but it’s not exactly a well-balanced, healthy meal on its own. So I’m always looking for ways to sneak in the good stuff under cover of cheesy goodness. I recently used the sun-dried tomato mozzarella Laughing Cow Light cheese in pasta and added spinach and chicken to make it a meal.

Below, I use the Queso Chipotle variety to make a yummy southwestern mac and cheese. You can use whatever veggies and/or meat you want to really make this a meal your family will love!

Southwestern Mac and Cheese

12 oz veggie pasta
4 wedges of Laughing Cow Light Queso Chipotle cheese
¼ cup skim milk
1 cup corn
1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
1 cup sliced mushrooms
1/2 cup canned or fresh chopped tomatoes
2 chicken breasts, cut into bite-sized pieces
Olive oil

1. Cook the pasta according to the directions on the box. Drain and set aside.

2.  In a large sauté pan, heat about a ½ tbsp olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the chicken and cook until nearly done. Stir in the mushrooms and continue cooking until the chicken is done all the way through.

3. Turn the heat to medium-low and add in the pasta, corn, black beans, tomatoes, cheese, and milk. Combine all the ingredients and continue stirring until the cheese has melted and everything is heated through.

Note: You can save a bit of time by using frozen, cooked grilled chicken strips, such as Tyson Grilled and Ready Chicken. You will still need to sauté it until it’s heated through, but it should only take 2-3 minutes.


Find Your Perfect Valentine’s Dress

Admittedly, I’m not that into Valentine’s Day, but I do like a good excuse to step out of my role as mom for a night and put both feet firmly in the role of wife. Yes, I know yoga pants are ridiculously comfortable and practical. I am wearing them right now. But they don’t exactly make me feel sexy. This Valentine’s Day, I don’t want to feel like mom, with snot crusted on the shoulder of my shirt and jelly on my pants in the perfect shape of a little hand. I want to look hot, and more importantly, I want to feel like I look hot.

An amazing dress doesn’t have to be skin tight or cut down to there. It just needs to make you feel good; make you hold your shoulders back and stand up a little straighter; make you feel confident. Here are five dresses that will do just that. While you’re at it, pick up a fun little surprise to go underneath!

Bandana Dress, $24.80 from Forever 21

BB Dakota, $99.99

Prabal Gurung for Target, $39.99

Diane von Furstenberg, $135

The Candy Apple, $150 by Stop Staring Clothing


Toddler Treats for Valentine’s Day

I made these treats for a Valentine’s Day play date last year, and they were a smash with the little ones! Several of my girlfriends texted me later to say how much the treats were a lifesaver on the car ride home. This is a great option for little ones who aren’t quite ready for candy—and they’re a cinch to put together, so they’re mom-friendly too! 

Since all of O’s friends are around her age (i.e. not really old enough for sugary candy valentines), I started thinking of what we could do for Valentine’s Day that would be toddler-friendly. After walking through Target for about 45 minutes trying to come up with something brilliant, I found Quaker Whole Hearts cereal, which is basically heart-shaped Cheerios, lightly sweetened. Perfect! What toddler doesn’t eat cereal?! But it needed a little something extra. Then my husband suggested freeze dried strawberry slices. Even more perfect! Not only are the strawberries all natural with no added sugar, they add a pop of Valentine’s Day color and they’re (kind of) heart-shaped themselves. Done and Done. I think these turned out really cute! They aren’t exactly my most time-consuming or elaborate project, but I think they’ll be a hit with the little ones!


Lemon Pepper Shrimp Scampi

This dish originally appeared in the March 2009 issue of Cooking Light but was resurrected for the Best Recipes issue in November 2012, and after making it for dinner recently, I can see why! The flavors are so simple and delicious, and it was ready in under 20 minutes, which made it perfect {and kid-friendly!} for a hectic Wednesday night.

Lemon Pepper Shrimp Scampi
From Cooking Light

1 cup uncooked orzo
2 tbsp chopped fresh parsley
½ tsp salt, divided
7 tsp unsalted butter, divided
1 ½ lbs peeled and deveined jumbo shrimp
2 tsp minced fresh garlic
2 tbsp fresh lemon juice
¼ tsp freshly ground black pepper

1. Cook orzo according to package directions, omitting salt and fat. Drain. Place orzo in a medium bowl. Stir in parsley and 1/4 teaspoon salt; cover and keep warm.

2. While orzo cooks, melt 1 tablespoon butter in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Sprinkle shrimp with remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt. Add half of shrimp to pan; sauté 2 minutes or until almost done. Transfer shrimp to a plate. Melt 1 teaspoon butter in pan. Add remaining shrimp to pan; sauté 2 minutes or until almost done. Transfer to plate.

3. Melt remaining 1 tablespoon butter in pan. Add garlic to pan; cook 30 seconds, stirring constantly. Stir in shrimp, juice, and pepper; cook 1 minute or until shrimp are done.