Shrimp Bow Tie Pasta

 

I was so tired last night that I forgot to post my Bow Tie Pasta with Shrimp in a Lemon Butter Sauce recipe. It’s basically a super easy pasta dish that really doesn’t take more than 30 minutes. Honestly, you won’t believe it until you see it. While I should be staying away from anything and everything pasta, bread and rice, it was a perfect first day back to work after a three-day weekend dinner. I fell asleep shortly after rinsing out my bowl.

 

Shrimp Bow Tie Pasta with Lemon Butter Sauce

Ingredients

2 cups Frozen Cooked Shrimp
2 cups Bow Tie Pasta
Dried Rosemary, to taste
Dried Oregano, to taste
¼ cup I can’t Believe it’s Not Butter Light
Lemon Pepper, to taste (I usually use a lot)
 

Directions

Boil pasta as directed
In a medium saucepan heat shrimp, add lemon pepper
Then melt in the I Can’t Believe it’s Not Butter Light
Add rosemary and oregano, to taste
Drain pasta, mix together shrimp/sauce and pasta. 

Bridal Shower Rose Cake

A very dear friend of mine is getting married soon. As you know, it’s almost impossible to have a wedding without some sort of girls only event like a bridal shower or bachelorette party. For her bridal shower, I wanted to replicate this beautiful cake I had seen on Apron of Grace.

The theme was so fun, a tea party. Since experiencing afternoon tea in London last year, I’ve had an affinity for high tea. There’s something special about dressing up to sip from carefully crafted tea cups and nibbling on delectable scones, cakes, and finger sandwiches. In London, it’s a three-course affair and highly unlikely that you spend less than an hour, at least, chatting, sipping and eating.

I dressed the part – when you have the opportunity to dress up, why not! I’m talking big hat, heels and a shimmery suit.

 

 

Since the colors were white and purple, I thought I’d create a delightful little surprise by having the outside be white, and making the vanilla-flavored insides purple. The cake was a success! I didn’t realize it was going to be the center of attention.

 

 

 

I admit, I used boxed ingredients – but that’s because I didn’t want to change too many variables.

 

Purple Almond Rose Cake with Vanilla Frosting

Ingredients

2 packages White Cake Mix
6 Egg Whites
2/3 cup Vegetable Oil
2 ½ cups Water
2x Food coloring: 24 Red+16 Blue
2 teaspoons Almond Extract
2  packages Vanilla Frosting
 

Directions

Mix together cake mix, egg whites, oil and water.
Add almond extract, mix well
Add food coloring, mix well
Pour into 3 eight-inch pans
Bake at 350 for 19-23 minutes
Allow to cool for 30 minutes
 

Frost with vanilla icing. Then decorate as shown in the following video

Buttercream Cupcake Rose

 

There will be extra batter and icing – I used the rest for cupcakes.

 

 

Dinner Party

We had some people over Saturday night for dinner. Everything turned out great, and I even received some compliments on my cooking.

On an easiness scale, this dinner was on the easier end of the spectrum. I’m not sure if that’s because we only had two guests, or if the easiness should be attributed to the dishes I made. Either way, prep, execution and cleanup went very smoothly.

The most difficult part of the cooking process was roasting the chicken. Let’s take a moment to discuss the almost disaster I had with my chicken. First thing in the morning, I took it out of the freezer and placed it in the fridge to defrost. The chicken had been in there for a good 8 hours before I took it out to prepare. It was still frozen on the inside, at which point I almost had a meltdown because I was unable to remove the bag of gizzards from the inside of the chicken. I did not have a backup plan. After defrosting in the microwave for a few minutes, I took a corer to the chicken. Then, I started talking to it – yes, talking to it. I finally – after fighting with the chicken – removed the insides and washed the heck out of the chicken. From there, I faced another minor challenge. Basting the chicken every 15 minutes. On the first try, I recruited someone to help. They held the roasting pan while I basted. After that, I decided to attempt a balancing act holding the sauce in one hand, and pulling the roasting pan out ever so slowly with the oven rack trying as hard as possible not to break anything.

I can happily say that I succeeded. The chicken turned out moist and delicious despite the behind-the-scenes issues. I’m happy to share a couple of my dinner recipes. You’ll have to stay tuned for the rest of them.

 

Menu

Appetizer: Hummus with small pita rounds and pita chips

Salad: Spinach Couscous Salad

Main: Freekeh with Roast Chicken

Side: Roast Mushroom Asparagus

Dessert: Store bought Chocolate Cake and Purple Almond Cupcakes.

 

 

Hummus Recipe 

Ingredients

1 Can Hummus
1 Lemon, squeezed for juice
Salt
2-4 tablespoons Tahini
½ cup Water
1-2 cloves Garlic, smashed
 

Directions

In a large bowl, add tahini, garlic, salt, and squeezed lemon juice
Mix well.
Add hummus, mix again.
Then add water.
Mix until you have a thick consistency. Add more tahini if the consistency is too runny.
 


 

Freekeh Recipe

Ingredients

2 cups Freekeh
3 cups Low Sodium Chicken Broth
 

Directions

Wash the freekeh very well with water until the water is clear.
Soak the freekeh in water for about an hour, then Drain
Add freekeh in a pot
Cover freekeh with chicken broth
Once it boils, turn down the heat to medium-low
Cover and simmer until it is tender and soft and all the broth has been absorbed for about 20-30 minutes.
Serve in a platter, topped with fried almonds.
Serve with plain yogurt or fresh green salad
 
 

 

Julia Child’s Roast Chicken Recipe  (From Mastering the Art of French Cooking)

Ingredients

3 lbs roasting chickens or 3 lbs frying chicken
3/4 teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons softened butter
1 small sliced carrot
1 small sliced onion
1 tablespoon good cooking oil
 

Directions

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
Sprinkle the inside of the chicken with 1/4 teaspoons salt and 1 Tb. butter.
Truss the chicken and dry it thoroughly. 
Rub the skin with 1 Tb. butter.
In a small saucepan melt 2 tb. butter, and 1 tb. cooking oil. Set aside for basting.
Place the chicken, breast up, in a shallow roasting pan. Strew the vegetables around it and set it on the rack in the middle of a preheated oven.
Allow the chicken to brown lightly for 15 minutes, turning it on the left side after 5 minutes, and the right side for the remaining 5 minutes. Baste after each turn with the butter and oil mixture.
Reduce oven to 350 degrees.
Leave the chicken on its side and baste every 8 to 10 minutes using the fat in the roasting pan when the butter and oil are exhausted.
Halfway through estimated roasting time (about 40 minutes in) salt the chicken with 1/4 teaspoons of salt and turn it on its other side. Continue basting.
Fifteen minutes before the end of estimated roasting time (about 1 hour and 5 minutes in) salt again and turn the chicken breast up. Continue basting.
When done, discard trussing strings and set on a hot platter. Chicken should sit at room temperature for 5 to 10 minutes before being carved so the juices are absorbed by the meat. Chicken is done when it registers between 175 and 190 degrees, depending on your preferred doneness.
While the chicken is sitting, remove all but two tablespoons of fat from the pan.
 

For help trussing a chicken, I found this very useful: How To Truss a Chicken

 

 

Mushroom Asparagus Roast Recipe

Ingredients

1 pound asparagus, woody stalk ends trimmed
8 ounces sliced mushrooms or whole if small
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 clove garlic, minced
Salt and pepper
 

Directions

Heat oven to 425°.
Toss the asparagus and mushrooms in a Ziplock bag with the olive oil and garlic until well coated. Spread the out in a large baking dish. Sprinkle liberally with salt and pepper.
Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, until tender and lightly browned.
Serves 4.
 


Dinner Party Planning

We’re having some friends over Saturday night. I love entertaining whether it’s a family brunch, dinner party, or post-dinner dessert and coffee – sign me up! For dinner parties, I prefer to schedule those on the weekend. However, I can make some sacrifices in the name of good friends.

Usually, a dinner party means I’m spending practically the whole day in the kitchen prepping, cooking, and organizing. Because I work full time, That means dinner parties are strictly weekend events, unless I want to use up PTO to cook.

Although we’ll be having them over this weekend – it happens to be one of the busiest weekends I have planned – oh and did I mention I’m recovering from being sick? Thankfully we’re only having one couple – but that doesn’t mean we won’t lay out the red carpet for them. In the name of time management, I should give myself enough time to prep, cook and set up for the day. First things first – set a menu and make a plan.

I’ll need an easy to assemble appetizer, a simple salad that only requires tossing, a main dish that takes no more than 1 ½ hours to cook, and an easy side dish. For dinner parties, I don’t think it’s necessary to make the dessert as well, especially when I’m a little short on time. We’ll just buy a tart or something. Although this can be mixed up if desserts are easy for you, make the dessert and buy a ready-made appetizer. Either way, using ready-to-eat items is not frowned upon.

After much indecisiveness, I have settled on a menu and made my grocery list. Luckily I’m only in need of a few items. Once my menu is set, I mentally pick out which serving dishes I’ll be using for each menu item. It’s not unlikely that I’ll jot it down on my list.

I have learned a few things from my last few dinner parties that I must share…

 

Check with your guests for dietary restrictions

You’ve spent the day slaving away in the kitchen making this amazing lamb and yogurt dish, which your only serving with salad. You’re your guests sit down for dinner and you find out that 1/3 don’t eat lamb, and another 1/3 is lactose intolerant. What a nightmare. Let’s face it, you don’t want to have this happen to you. So check ahead of time with your guests for any allergies or dietary restrictions.

 

Grocery shop the weekend before the event

Get your dinner party shopping in with your weekly shopping. Be sure to write down what you need, and how much you need. I failed to do this last time and ended up with way too much butternut squash. If you don’t have time to do it the weekend before, do it the night before. It gives me peace of mind to know that I have what I need before I start prepping.

 

Know ahead of time which serving dishes your using

Knowing which serving dishes your using can save you a setting up headache. I usually pull them out in advance and label each with a sticky note so I don’t have to think about what goes where.

 

Set the table ahead of time

I usually set the table several hours before the guests arrive. That way, even if the food isn’t ready on time, you’re table looks presentable.

 

Don’t wait until the last minute to take a shower

The host should always be ready to receive guests on time. If you’re afraid you’ll smell like food, do all the smell-heavy cooking earlier in the day or the night before. As a rule of thumb, I try be fully dressed (that means, hair and makeup) 30 minutes before guests arrive. Keep your perfume handy so that you can spritz it on when the doorbell rings, and your shoes by the door so you can slip them on before you open the door.

 

Plan a Low-Maintenance Meal

The Nest suggests planning for a “no-fuss” meal. Trust me, they know what they’re talking about. One dish that must be served hot is more than enough to keep you busy. Lukewarm side dishes, and simple salads go perfectly with right-off-the stove rice or just-out-of-the-oven chicken.

 

 Have a clean-up plan

If you have a dishwasher, I recommend clearing it out before guests arrive. When dinner is finished, one of you can entertain your guests while the other rinses the dishes and places them in the dishwasher. Not only are the dirty dishes out of sight; cleanup has been reduced to the press of a button. Remember, never run the dishwasher while guests are still there.

 

 

Have fool-proof tips? Share them in the comments.

 

Stay tuned for post-dinner party photos and recipes.

 

Chicken Noodle Soup for the Sick of Being Sick Soul

All year, I work to try to avoid this very thing – getting sick. And I’m not talking cough, sniffle, sneeze sick, I’m talking shivers, trouble swallowing, ear aching, nose won’t stop running even though you blew it dry, sick.  Let me tell you, it sucks.

I felt it coming on late Monday, after I spent my whole day (starting at 6:45am) on site at a client conference.  Then, bam! Tuesday morning I woke up with half a sore throat, an aching ear and an inability to swallow anything with a consistency more solid than mashed potatoes.

Blame it on the change in weather – which by the way, is amazing at the moment but I can’t enjoy it because I’m home, sick as a dog, working while laying on the couch with the TV off. What frustrates me is that I can’t do anything about it. After seeing my doctor. Pure luck that I scheduled an appointment for yesterday. She broke the news to me. “It looks like you have a virus.” Dum dum dum. My world came crashing down. A virus? How in the world did that happen? I wash my hands, eat well, make sure I stay away from sick people, and yet … I have been diagnosed by the professional. The only good news is that she put me on a Z-Pak, a five-day antibiotic treatment whose powers are so great that hopefully it will have me feeling better before the long weekend rolls around.

Between email and projects, I’ve managed to create a giant pile of Kleenex and also make myself some really easy chicken noodle soup.

Why chicken noodle soup? You might ask. Well, a handful of scientific studies show that chicken soup really could have medicinal value. A study published in 2000 in the medical journal Chest by Dr. Stephen Rennard of the University of Nebraska Medical Center in Omaha found that chicken noodle soup helps reduce upper respiratory cold symptoms by inhibiting the migration neutrophils, infection-fighting cells.

Dr. Rennard conducted lab tests to determine why chicken soup might help colds, starting with his wife’s homemade recipe. The recipe was handed down by her Lithuanian grandmother. Using blood samples from volunteers, he showed that the soup inhibited the movement of neutrophils, the most common type of white blood cell that defends against infection.  To find out more about Dr. Rennard’s findings, visit http://www.unmc.edu/chickensoup/index.htm

So here’s my chicken noodle soup recipe. Mostly made of food I had in my fridge (not much really).

 

 

Chicken Noodle Soup Recipe

Ingredients

2 Chicken Breasts
2 large Carrots
1 Medium Onion, chopped
2 Red Potatoes, chopped
1 box Low Sodium Chicken Broth
1  ½ cups Thin Spaghetti, broken in half
Olive Oil
Salt to taste
Oregano to taste
 
 

Directions

Boil chicken breasts for 20 minutes, drain water.
Cut chicken into small squares, or shreds
Sauté onion with 1 tablespoon (I used 2 swirls) olive oil until translucent
Add carrots and potatoes, sauté for 2 minutes.
Add chicken broth
Add noodles
Add chicken
Stir carefully as not to break the noodles.
Let boil once it boils, add salt and oregano to taste
Allow the soup to continue boiling on low-medium for another 20 minutes.
 

Serve with a box of Kleenex and a warm blanket.

Happy One Month Birthday!

One month ago, on this very day, Measuring Cups, Optional was born. You all caught a glimpse of my measuring cups  and got to know me, Mrs. Measurement, and my blog in its early stages. So here we are one month later, and we’ve done a little bit of growing up:

 So let’s celebrate with chocolate and a birthday song.

 

 

 

Chocolate Brownies with Walnuts Recipe

 Ingredients

 1 stick Unsalted Butter
1/4 cup Cocoa
3 Eggs
1 cup Sugar
1 cup Flour
1 teaspoon Baking Powder
1 cup chopped Walnuts
1 teaspoon Vanilla
 
 

Directions

Grease and flour a baking pan.
In a small saucepan, melt butter with cocoa.
Beat eggs until foamy, then gradually beat in sugar.
Add cocoa-butter mixture to egg mixture.
Sift flour and baking powder then sift half of it into batter.
Mix walnuts into the remaining flour; add to batter; stir to blend.
Add vanilla. Spread batter into the pan
Bake at 350° for 20 to 25 minutes
Ice cooled brownies with icing
 
 
 

Chocolate Icing Recipe

 Ingredients

2 cups Powdered Sugar
4 tablespoons Cocoa
Heavy Cream
1 teaspoon Vanilla
 

Directions

Sift powdered sugar and cocoa into a mixing bowl.
Add vanilla and enough cream to be of desired spreading consistency.

 

 

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