Saturday, June 28, 2014

How to Roast Peanuts

My husband and son came home from the fruit stand with a big bag of peanuts.  My son was so excited to dig in until he realized that they were raw peanuts.  Mom to the rescue!  I told him we could roast them very easily.  Here's how we did it:


1 lb raw peanuts
1 TBS canola oil (or peanut oil)
1/2 - 1 TBS kosher salt (depending on how salty you like them)

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.  If the peanuts are dirty, rinse and dry them.  Place them on a big cookie sheet with sides.  It needs to be big enough for them to lay in a single layer. (I used my giant cast iron skillet).  Drizzle oil over the peanuts.  Sprinkle with salt and toss to coat evenly.

Bake in the oven for about 30 minutes or until golden, stirring halfway through.  They will start to smell a little like popcorn.  Yum!  Once you take them out of the oven, let them cool a few minutes before eating.

See how easy that was!  Now, go to the fruit stand or farmers market, pick up some raw peanuts and impress your family with freshly roasted peanuts! (They don't need to know how easy it is).

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Great Grilling

I grill all the time.  Living in South Louisiana, the winters are usually mild, so I can grill year round.  I recently asked my husband for an outdoor sink (to make it easier to cook outside, I already have a mini fridge out there.  I was going for a simple outdoor camping-type set up).  He, going overboard as usual, built me a complete outdoor kitchen.  I'm talking pergola overhead with ceiling fans and lights, cabinets with granite counter tops, and a sink.  Don't get me wrong, I'm not complaining.  I love my outdoor kitchen!  I just find it funny.  I'm almost afraid to ask for a sink in my laundry room, he might remodel the whole house!

Now that I have this great outdoor space, I am a grilling fool!  I grill almost every night.  I have been searching for new recipes and ideas because there's only so many burgers and dogs a person can eat.  Here is what I made the other night.


4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (I cut them into tenders, but you can leave whole)

1 tsp Dijon mustard
2 TBS red wine vinegar
2 tsp sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp black pepper
1/2 tsp dried oregano
1/2 tsp dried basil
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/4 tsp onion powder
6 TBS olive oil (or canola oil)
2 TBS grated Parmesan cheese

There is no better way to make salad dressings or marinades than using a jar with a tight-fitting lid.  It's so easy!  Plus, if you have extra, you can just keep it in the jar in the fridge.  Just clean out that jelly jar after you've finished off the jelly and keep it in a cabinet.

Place all of the marinade ingredients into the jar.  Make sure the lid is on tight, then shake it until well blended.  Place the chicken breasts in a zip top freezer bag (they are a little thicker than storage bags) and pour the marinade in.  Close the bag and squeeze it until the marinade is evenly distributed.  You can place this in the fridge for several hours.  If you don't have that much time, just leave it out on the counter at room temperature for 30-45 minutes.  This does two things, it infuses the meat with flavor and it lets the meat come to room temperature before it goes on the grill.  That is super important when grilling!  Even if you marinate something overnight in the fridge, you must let it sit and come to room temperature.  If the meat is too cold when it goes on the grill, it will seize up and be tough.  Those extra 30 minutes will make a huge difference!

Once the meat is at room temp, place it on a clean, hot grill.  Another tip is clean your grill regularly.  Meat will stick to a dirty grill.  You can cut a lemon in half, hold it with some tongs, and clean the grates when they are hot.

Grilling time depends on the size of your chicken breasts.  Obviously, larger breasts will take more time and tenders will cook pretty quickly.  The USDA says to cook chicken to an internal temperature of 165 degrees.  Take it off at 160 as it will continue to cook as it rests.  If you don't have a thermometer, just cook it until it's no longer pink and the juices run clear.  I have found that on medium heat an average size chicken breast takes about 6 minutes on each side.

Once the chicken comes off the grill, let it rest!  That goes for any meat.  If you cut into it right away, all the juices will run out onto your plate and your chicken will be dry.  Let it sit a few minutes and the juices will redistribute throughout the meat and every bite will be tender and juicy and delicious.

Any leftover chicken goes great mixed with pasta and grilled veggies.  Make a little extra chicken and grill the veggies so you'll have an easy supper the next night.  All you'll have to do is boil some pasta!

An easy side dish for any grilled supper is potato packets.


1 russet potato per person (or 2 reds), diced
1 pat of butter per person
green onions, sliced
canola oil
1 square of heavy-duty foil per person

In a large microwave-safe bowl, place diced potatoes.  Add a few tablespoons of water.  Cover and microwave for 5 minutes.  (If you have a microwave steamer, that works great for this)  This partially cooks the potatoes to cut down on grilling time.

Evenly distribute potatoes between each foil packet.  Drizzle with a little oil.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.  Sprinkle with greens onions.  Place a pat of butter on top of each.

Fold each packet, leaving room inside, but closing tightly.

Place on indirect heat on the grill.  I put them on the top rack of my gas grill.  Let them grill about 10-15 minutes on indirect heat.

These are fun.  Everyone gets their own packet full of potatoes.  Open them carefully (there will be steam!).

You can add anything you like to these, diced bell pepper or jalepeno, bacon bits, ham.  We added bacon salt.  Yes, you heard  right, bacon salt.  My son loves bacon!  He had a gift card from Think Geek and when he saw this, he had to have it.  We sprinkled some on the potatoes and it was awesome!  If you want some, go to

So, there you have it.  Two easy, delicious additions to your grilling routine.  Hope you enjoy!

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Snack Attack at Disney World

Hello again!  Sorry it's been a while but I was on vacation in one of my favorite places, Disney World!  This trip was very special because we brought my Mama and Daddy along.  They have never been there so it was awesome to see their reactions.  My Mama grew up watching Walt Disney on television and watched all the movies with us kids, so I knew she would enjoy herself.  My Daddy, on the other hand, is not really into anything Disney.  His idea of a vacation is hunting or camping.  He said the only reason he was tagging along was so he didn't get stuck babysitting my dog.  So, I didn't have high hopes that he would love it.  However, they both had a wonderful time.  My Daddy really enjoyed Animal Kingdom, especially Kilimanjaro Safaris.  It's like being on the African savanna.  You ride in these big beat-up-looking trucks and can view all kinds of animals, giraffes, zebras, rhinos, even lions lounging on rocks.   Pretty cool.

I'd say he got into the spirit of it all!

He also loved Soarin'.  It's a ride at EPCOT where you hang glide over California.  As you swing back and forth, you are surrounded by this ginormous screen with views of the ocean, orange groves, even Disneyland.  Wind blows in your face and you can even smell the oranges and the ocean.  It's so realistic and very cool.

My Mama loved everything.  Seriously, everything.  She even loved when it rained.  She said it was a blast walking around in our ponchos and splashing.  She's awesome.

Here she is (in her poncho) with a souvenir bucket of popcorn.  There really is something distinctly different about the popcorn at Disney World.  It tastes so much better than any other popcorn I have ever had.  When I get home, I use these buckets for cookie jars, to hold snacks for the kids, as ice buckets, etc.  I buy one every time we visit.

She also adored the Festival of the Lion King show in Animal Kingdom.  Disney built a brand-new theater and recently reopened the show.  It was wonderful, a Broadway quality production.  My husband was (chosen to be) a volunteer (hee-hee).  He had to lead our side of the theater in making the sound an elephant would make.  He did great!  Sounded just like an elephant!  The kids got a kick out of seeing dear old Dad as a part of the show.

My favorite part of vacation is eating.  If you read my blog regularly, you know that I believe everything in moderation.  I would rather have a little bit of something delicious than a lot of something "diet".  However, on vacation I throw that out the window.  I eat what I want when I want it.  Boy did I do that on this trip!  Wow, did I eat some good stuff!  Here is just a sampling of what I ate during my snack attack at Disney World.

I already mentioned the popcorn, which is a must-have for my son.  My must-have is a Dole Whip.  If you are a Disney World traveler,  the Dole Whip needs no introduction.  If not, here goes.  It is heavenly.  Simply put, it's pineapple soft serve.  But, there is just something about it.  You can only get it in the Magic Kingdom at this little shop in Adventureland called Aloha Isle.   I always get one.  This year I got a Dole Whip Float, pineapple soft serve with fresh pineapple juice.  OMG!  It was delicious.  My Mama got an orange Dole Whip and my husband got orange and pineapple swirl.  Anyway you choose, you can't miss.

We like to dine at the Rainforest Cafe in Animal Kingdom for lunch.  We get to the park early, hit all of our favorite attractions, then have lunch before heading back to the hotel.  I must say, for a chain restaurant, Rainforest Cafe has some delicious food.  From coconut shrimp to BBQ ribs, everything was good.  I had the crab cakes, which was, according to my waitress, a new item.  They were packed with lump crab meat and seasoned just right.  I ate so much I barely had room for dessert.  (I said "barely").  We opted to try a few different things.  One of Rainforest Cafe's signatures is the Volcano.  When someone orders it, the wait staff brings it out and they all yell "Volcano!" and clap in unison.  It's enough to feed 4 people (at least).  It's made with brownies, vanilla ice cream and chocolate syrup.  Plus, it has a cute little garnish that looks like a sparkler (or an erupting volcano).

This was a big hit with everyone.  Fun, traditional ingredients that everyone loves.  If you have a group, this is a smart dessert pick.  If you are on the Disney dining plan, you can pool 3 peoples dessert credits to get the volcano.  It's pretty big, so that's probably a good way to go.

My daughter and I love cheesecake.  So, we opted for that.  It was smooth and silky, just what you want in a cheesecake.  It was garnished with a dollop of whipped cream, mint leaves and drizzles of chocolate and raspberry sauces.

My husband likes chocolate cake, so that's what he ordered.  He said it was good.  Typical chocolate layer cake, garnished the same way as the cheesecake.

Hollywood Studios was in the middle of Star Wars Weekends during our visit.  We did not attend on the weekend (too crowded) as we have done Star Wars Weekends in the past, but I did get to try a Darth Vader Cupcake.  First of all, it's huge.  I couldn't eat it all in one sitting.  (Don't worry, I ate the rest later in my hotel room)  It's a dark chocolate cupcake (naturally) with a peanut butter frosting that will rock your world.  It has a dark chocolate Darth Vader and some chocolate curls on the top.  He even has a red light saber, which I think is some sort of gummy candy.  This probably has a gazillion calories, but so what.  Calories don't count in Disney World, right?  This cupcake will "force" you to come over to the dark side!  (Too many Star Wars puns?)

While at EPCOT, my daughter and I ate at our favorite quick service restaurant, the Tangerine Cafe in the Morocco section of the World Showcase.  She had the Chicken Shawarma plate (her fav) and I had the Mediterranean sliders combo.  It was three small pitas.  One filled with lamb, one with chicken, and one with falafel.  It had sides of humus and salad.  Delicious!  But the best part of the meal was (of course) dessert.  In this case, baklava.  Crispy layers of phylo dough stuffed with nuts and honey.  Oh my word.

   One night, we ate dinner at O'Hana (which, if you have seen Lilo and Stitch, you know means "family").  They give you this wonderful sweet Hawaiian bread when you sit down.  It has pineapple and coconut in it.  Yum!  You'll fight over the last piece!

The bread pudding here is also good.  It's made with this sweet bread.  I forgot to snap a pic of it.  It was good, but not as good as the bread pudding at Raglan Road, the Irish pub in Downtown Disney.  This was hands down the best thing I have ever eaten.  No joke.  I made myself sick because I couldn't stop eating it.  It comes in a giant mug and on the side they give you a vanilla glaze and a butterscotch sauce.  It's dotted with golden raisins.  Heaven!  Just heaven!

The morning before we left to come home, we had breakfast at our hotel food court.  It's sort of a tradition of ours.  We eat our Mickey Waffles and say goodbye to Disney World.

Now that our kids are growing up, I'm not sure how many Disney trips will be in our future.  But we always have the great memories of the fun we had and the photos of these amazing foods!  This was just a sampling of the snacks we ate (if I told you everything I ate I would be embarrassed.  Trust me.)  So, if you get the opportunity to go to Disney World, I hope you enjoy the food as much as I did.  There is such a wide variety of options that you're bound to find something you'll love.

Sunday, June 1, 2014

My Daughter is a High School Grad!

When did she get so old?  I just don't know how it happened?  Wasn't she just born the other day?  What's that?  It's been 18 years?  Oh, that's right.  Wow!  Time really does fly.  It's a cliche because it's true.  My daughter is now officially a high school grad, starting college in the fall.  (Brag alert:  She received an honors scholarship to college, just saying)  After I got over the initial shock, I planned a party.  (What else would a proud Southern Mama do?)  It had to include family, friends and her favorite foods.  Here are a few:

This first recipe is so good it'll make you slap your Mama.  Every time I make it there is nothing left but the compliments.


1 loaf King's Hawaiian Round Bread (if you can't find this, you can use sour dough or even a loaf of French bread, but the sweet Hawaiian bread makes it unbelievable!  It's worth hunting for)

2 cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese (shred it yourself!  That pre-shredded stuff has a weird anti-clumping agent on it and doesn't melt as good)

1 1/2 cups sour cream
1 TBS Worcestershire sauce
1 (2 oz) jar of pimentos, drained
1 bunch green onions, sliced
1 (4 oz) can chopped green chilies

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.

Cut the top off of the bread and reserve (you'll need this later).

Remove the insides of the bread.  Leave enough so the bread bowl will still be sturdy.  If you remove too much it won't be stable.  You can save the scraps of bread to make sweet bread crumbs (or just snack on it like I do).

Combine cheese, sour cream, Worcestershire, pimentos, green onions and chilies.  Stuff this mixture inside the hollowed out bread round.

Replace the top and wrap it in foil.  Bake it in 325 degree oven for 1 1/2 hours.  It sounds like a long time, but so worth it.  Just put it in the oven then go get ready for your party :)

Yum!  So delicious!  I serve this with Fritos Scoops or Melba Toasts.  I am telling you, people love this stuff!  It is my daughter's favorite, so it was a must for the party.  She and her friends had already put a hurt on it before I could take a picture of the finished product!

Next, I will show you my easy, no-bake strawberry cheesecake.  She loves cheesecake and always gets it for dessert at every restaurant we go to.  This version freezes beautifully!  Perfect to make ahead of time then just thaw in the fridge the day before the party.  Plus, it's easy to double or triple this recipe to make as many as you need.


1 graham cracker pie crust (you can make your own, but these taste good and are so easy)
1 block cream cheese, softened
1/4 + 2 TBS cup sugar, divided
2 TBS strawberry preserves
1/2 pint strawberries (cleaned and sliced)
4 oz Cool Whip, thawed (that's half the container)

Place cleaned and sliced strawberries in a bowl.  Add 2 TBS sugar and mash a little.  Set aside and let the berries break down a bit.

Meanwhile, beat softened cream cheese with 1/4 cup sugar until smooth.

Add preserves.

Stir mashed strawberries into cream cheese mixture.

Then, gently fold in the Cool Whip.

Spoon into crust.

Cover and chill at least 4 hours or until firm (I like to chill overnight).  Store any leftovers in the fridge.

This is easy, delicious, and a crowd pleaser!  Cool and refreshing after a BBQ.  You will definitely want to give this one a try this summer!

So, the graduation party BBQ was a success.  My daughter loved the food!  But, most of all, she loved seeing her family and friends.  And I am happy I got to give her a wonderful memory she will take with her to college and beyond.