Friday, March 30

Low Country Smothered Pork Chops

recipe and photo from

This is a first for me. Not using my own photos for a recipe. I love original content and this goes against my blogging "beliefs" but for whatever reason, I didn't save or deleted my photos when making this. No matter how awful (and some are really awful) my photos are, I still use them. 

Another recipe from the talented Paula Deen and I couldn't pass up the opportunity to share this recipe with you as it was fantastic. I can fry up pork chops plain and eat them. I love them that much. John doesn't and needs some extra persuading. These were tender and juicy and full of flavor. He had seconds. 

4 center-cut pork chops, 1" thick
salt & pepper
ground cayenne pepper
2 TBLS. butter
1/4 cup all purpose flour, spread on a plate
2 medium green peppers, stemmed and cored, cut into strips
2 yellow onions, trimmed, cut lengthwise
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 cups chicken broth
2 to 3 dashes Worcestershire sauce

Trim the excess fat from the chops and season well with the salt, pepper and cayenne. Melt the butter in a skillet over medium heat. Lightly roll the chops in flour, shake off the excess and slip them into the pan. Brown well, about 3 minutes per side and remove them to a plate.

Add the peppers and onion to the skillet and saute until softened, about 3 minutes. 

Stir in garlic and cook until fragrant, about 1/2 minute longer. Push the vegetables to the side of the skillet. Add chops back to the pan and place vegetables on top.

Pour  in the broth and sprinkle with Worcestershire sauce. Cover pan with foil and allow to simmer 45 minutes or until chops are tender.

Thursday, March 29

Edible Koi Ponds ~ Fun Snack for Kids

Good morning! Spencer's special needs class had a Chinese New Year's lunch at school this year. For the life of me, I couldn't come up with an idea on what to send and I had to send something. His teachers always do such fun things to interact the kids and anytime I can be a part of that, I am. Being that they are special needs kids of all ages, I wanted something visually fun for them, plus somewhat healthy. I can be so cheesy at times and this is one of those times. I mean come on, rice cakes, Chinese New Year? 

Spencer's teacher said the class loved them and there were no leftovers. Yay!

Super easy and the kids can make their own too.

4 rice cakes (your choice of flavor)
1/4 cup whipped cream cheese (I used strawberry flavored)
blue food coloring

Put whipped cream cheese into a small bowl and add the blue food coloring a little at a time until you get the desired color for your water. Mix well after each addition before adding more.

Spread 1 TBLS. of cream cheese on each rice cake.

Top with goldfish. 

I think these are so cute!

Wednesday, March 28

Lens Day ~ Night Photo

Those who dream by day are cognizant of many things that escape those who dream only at night.
Edgar Allan Poe

I really, really, really wish I had captured this without the shadow on the bottom right. I am also glad that the spider was a tiny one. I took this last fall when my best friend and I went to a park and stayed after dark. I used my point and shoot on "night shot" mode, relying completely on instinct as I could only see vague shapes. The results, although often unreliable, in this case were quite fun!

I linked up with Lens Day and their photo challenge: Night 

Monday, March 26

Copycat (better than) P.F. Chang's Chicken Lettuce Wraps

Year's ago, I ventured out to my first P.F. Chang's restaurant. They boasted of fresh, quality food with natural ingredients. Well, I am sorry to say, that unless massive amounts of grease and over-processed food have suddenly become natural ingredients, this wasn't to be so. I was disappointed to say the least. Overpriced and very overrated for those of us who appreciate authentic Chinese dishes.

One of the dishes I had ordered was their "famous" lettuce wraps. Grease seemed to be the main ingredient. I did love the concept behind them, however, so when perusing the internet, I found copycat recipe, a much healthier version, I had to try them.

This is what P.F. Chang's boasts of. Absolutely yummy! Not a drop of grease to be found! I shamelessly admit I ate them until I couldn't take another bite.

1 lb. ground chicken breast
1/2 medium onion, minced
1 dash each of salt and pepper
2 large garlic cloves, minced
1 inch nob fresh ginger, peeled and minced
1 TBLS. sesame oil
2 1/2 TBLS. soy sauce
1/2 TBLS. water
1 TBLS. natural peanut butter
1/2 TBLS. honey
1 TBLS. + 1 tsp. rice vinegar
2 tsps. chili garlic sauce
dash of pepper
3 green onions, chopped
1/2 of an 8 oz. can sliced water chestnuts, drained and chopped
1/4 cup peanuts, chopped
10 - 12 large outer lettuce leaves, rinsed and patted dry

Heat a large non stick skillet on high. Add chicken, onion, salt and pepper and cook until chicken is nearly done, stirring often to break up the meat. Add in minced garlic and ginger and continue cooking until chicken is no longer pink.

Meanwhile, in a microwave safe bowl, combine sesame oil, soy sauce, water, peanut butter, honey, rice vinegar, chili garlic sauce and pepper. Microwave for 20 seconds, then stir until smooth. Add into skillet and stir to combine.

Add green onions and water chestnuts to the skillet, then cook for 1 -2 minutes until the onions are soft and the water chestnuts are heated through. 

Sprinkle with chopped peanuts and serve on cold lettuce leaves.


Friday, March 23

Photo Friday ~ Rain

I love the rain. I want the feeling of it on my face. 
Katherine Mansfield

I really do love rain. As a child, I played in the warm summer rain. As an adult, I have often wished I could. And yes, I have danced in the rain...I think everyone should know what it feels like.

I linked up with Photo Friday.

Thursday, March 22

Thursday Photo Challenge ~ Green

The day the Lord created hope was probably the same day he created Spring.  
~Bern Williams

Ahhh, spring!

I linked up with Spun with Tears.

Wednesday, March 21

Cheeseburger Flatbread Melts

recipe from

Have I mentioned my passion for cheeseburgers? Ever since my very first one, I have loved them above and beyond most anything. Nothing fancy either. Some lean beef and Wisconsin cheese...yeah baby!

Now these don't replace cheeseburgers. More of a fun way to try something new. Perfect finger food snacks or add your favorite side dish to them for lunch or dinner. Either way, everyone wins.

1/2 lb. lean ground beef, browned and drained
1/4 cup water
1/2 TBLS. apple cider vinegar
1 pkg. dry onion soup mix
1/4 cup ketchup
1 TBLS. mustard
1 garlic clove, minced
2 TBLS. canola or vegetable oil
11 oz. thin crust pizza dough
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese

Brown and drain ground beef. Add water, vinegar, onion soup mix, ketchup, mustard and garlic. Stir to combine and simmer over low heat. Meanwhile, heat canola oil over medium heat in a large skillet. Divide the pizza dough into six equal portions and roll into a tortilla like shape. Fry the dough for 1 minute on each side until golden brown and bubbly. Remove to a paper towel to drain. Top with beef mixture and shredded cheese. 

Tuesday, March 20

Photoblog Challenge ~ Movement

When you put your hand in a flowing stream, you touch the last that has gone before and the first of what is still to come." Leonardo da Vinci
I linked up with Photoblog Challenge and their theme: Movement

Monday, March 19

Slow Cooker Ranch Pork Chops with Parmesan Mashed Potatoes

Is it Monday already? *sigh... Well here's to a wonderful week to you all. I am looking forward to seeing green again!

This slow cooker combo has so many things our family enjoys. Pork, ranch, Parmesan and mashed potatoes. Oh and garlic! The chops come out so tender, you can pile them on your potatoes, no knife required.

The crock pot mixture makes a nice thick gravy with no additional mixing required after cooking too. 

6 pork chops, 1/2" thick
1 packet dry Ranch dressing mix
10 oz. can cream of chicken soup
4 lbls. peeled and cubed potatoes
5 TBLS. butter
1 cup fresh grated Parmesan cheese
4 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
1 1/2 cups warm skim milk
salt and pepper to taste

Place pork chops, ranch seasoning and soup into crock pot over high heat for 4 to 6 hours. 

Boil cubed potatoes until fork tender. Drain and transfer to a bowl. Mash. Add butter, Parmesan, garlic and milk. Season with salt and pepper to your liking. 

Scoop potatoes onto plate, top with pork chops and then gravy. Delicious!

Friday, March 16

Photo Friday ~ Unwind

Nothing makes me happier than when I see Spencer enjoying life. When he can take time to slow down and be content. His brain is often so busy; he is so easily overwhelmed. Days like this where I see him taking in his surroundings, or just enjoying the beauty God gave us, are days dear to my heart. 

I linked up with Photo Friday Challenge ~ Unwind

Thursday, March 15

Pasta Carbonara

Pasta alla carbonara (usually spaghetti, but also fettuccine, rigatoni or bucatini), is an Italian pasta dish based on eggs, cheese, bacon and black pepper. 

Being Italian, pasta, of almost any fashion, could be on my menu any day of the week. I have passed on my love of pasta to Spencer also. Any "noodle" dish is gobbled up by my boy in great amounts. John, on the other hand, is definitely a meat/potato/gravy kind of guy. I am slowly wooing him over though. The fact that bacon is a main ingredient in carbonara is a plus. I also added sliced mushrooms, one of John's favorites, to this. See how that works?

This is my basic carbonara recipe that is quick and easy to make and absolutely delicious.

1 lb. bacon
12 eggs
8 oz. Parmesan cheese, shredded
16 oz. pasta noodles (cooked), I used Angel Hair pasta
sliced mushrooms, optional
black pepper, to taste

Chop and fry bacon and mushrooms together until done. At the same time, start cooking your pasta.

In a large bowl, crack eggs, add Parmesan cheese and whisk until well combined.

When pasta is done, drain and pour over egg/cheese mixture. Quickly combine until noodles have a creamy coating. 

Add fried bacon and mushrooms and combine.

*note: I don't add the black pepper to the entire mixture to keep it kid friendly for Spencer. I season each individual plate as I am serving. 

Wednesday, March 14

Magic Layer Brownies

When I make brownies, I like them to be very dense and gooey. The kind that you roll around with your tongue to catch all that flavor. Frosting is also high on my list. To me, a brownie without frosting, is like Thelma without Louise; it's just not right. Now add to that perfect combo, browned butter frosting. Haven't had browned butter frosting before? Well, why ever not? You need to try it, like right now! You're missing out.

Gooey, chocolaty, gritty morsels of goodness...

1/2 cup butter (1 stick)
6 oz. unsweetened chocolate
2 cups sugar
4 large eggs
1/4 tsp. salt
1 cup flour
1 tsp. vanilla extract

Browned Butter Frosting:
1/2 cup butter (1 stick)
2 cups powdered sugar
1/4 cup heavy cream
1 tsp. vanilla extract

3 TBLS. butter
4 oz. semi sweet chocolate (chopped)

Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Lightly grease or spray a 9 x 13 inch and cut parchment paper to fit bottom. Also lightly grease or spray the paper. Set aside.

For the brownies: Melt butter and unsweetened chocolate in a small saucepan, stirring until smooth. Set aside to cool slightly. In a large bowl, combine sugar, eggs and salt. Mix with a mixer for 3 - 4 minutes, until the mixture is lighter and very thick. Fold in the slightly cooled chocolate mixture. Stir in flour and vanilla. Pour into prepared pan and even out smoothly.

Bake for 25 - 30 minutes or until the sides pull away from the pan just a little. Remove from pan and cool completely on a wire rack.

For the browned butter frosting: put butter in a small saucepan over  low heat. Let it melt and turn a caramel color (about 15 minutes). Don't let it burn! Once it has turned a nice medium brown, remove from heat. Pour it into a medium sized bowl and immediately add powdered sugar, heavy cream and vanilla. Mix well with a mixer until frosting is smooth and thick.

Spread the frosting over the cooled brownies.

For the glaze: Melt the butter and chocolate together in the microwave or on the stove top until smooth. Pour over the frosted brownies. Tip the pan from side to side to evenly spread the glaze. Chill the brownies until the glaze is set and brownies are chilled through, about 2 hours. 

These taste best cold. They also are great to make for a get together as they go far and are sure to be liked by everyone!

Tuesday, March 13

Negative Space

As always, I had a difficult time straying away from color here. I go to great depths when capturing a photo to grab the vibrancy the subject portrays. In this case, I absolutely love how it turned out, void of primary colors yet full of contrast and character. A new favorite for me. 

I do really plan to go outside my comfort zone this spring in my photography. I can't wait actually. As soon as this gray Wisconsin winter is gone, it's on! One of my many goals...

What goals are you working on? How are you challenging yourself? Love to hear your ideas too.

I linked up with Photoblog Challenges: Negative Space

Thursday, March 8

Thursday Photo Challenge ~ Pink

Another beauty from my best friend's garden. Moss rose. 

I linked up with Spun with Tears for their Thursday Challenge ~ Pink.

The stomach flu has hit our house, hard. At least for poor Spencer. Can I just say how much that really sucks?

Wednesday, March 7

Slow Cooker Cube Steak with Gravy

recipe from

I was a little leery to try this recipe. It looked much too easy and cube steak is well, cube steak. I am so glad I did try it. So easy to throw together on a busy weeknight and absolutely delicious. The tenderness and texture of the steak along with the thick hearty gravy is a perfect combo.

I paired this with mashed potatoes but it would be great with pasta too.

1 - 1/2 lbs. cube steak
1 pkg. brown gravy mix
1 pkg. Aus Jus mix
1 can cream of chicken soup
1 can french onion soup

In a medium bowl, combine soups and package mixes well. Put cube steak in slow cooker and pour mixture over the top. 

Cover and cook on low for 6 to 8 hours. Serve with potatoes or pasta.

Tuesday, March 6

Photoblog Challenge: Vignetting

Prairie Coreopsis

Good morning! I love this shot. See the little guy trying to be inconspicuous back there? 

I linked up with Photoblog Challenges and their theme: Vignetting

Have a great day, my friends!

Monday, March 5

Cookies 'n' Cream Layer Cake

I have so many recipes backlogged for this blog. I made this cake for John on his birthday. Way back in early January! I was so excited to drop it off at work for him that I didn't make it as "pretty" as I wanted to but nothing says , "I Love You" like a homemade birthday cake. He loves Oreos and I love layered cakes. 

He was kind enough to save me a slice for a photo too!

Cake layers:
1 box white cake mix
1 - 1/4 cups water
1/3 cup cooking oil
3 egg whites
1 cup coarsely crushed Oreo cookies with white filling

Prepare cake mix according to box directions; using the water oil and egg whites. Fold in crushed Oreos.

Pour into 2 greased and floured 9 x 1 - 1/2 round cake pans. Bake in 350 degree oven for 25 to 30 minutes or until toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Cool for 10 minutes in pans on wire racks, then remove from pans and cool completely.

Creamy White Frosting:
1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup shortening
2 tsp. vanilla
4 cups powdered sugar
2 shakes of salt
2  TBLS. milk
2 oz. semi - sweet chocolate
1 tsp. shortening

Add butter, shortening, vanilla and salt to your mixing bowl. Cream. Add powdered sugar one cup at a time and salt and blend well. Add milk to thin if necessary. Beat until fluffy.

Frost each cake layer completely (besides the bottom layers). Tops and sides. Stack and smooth the sides to look like one cake.

In a saucepan, melt semi-sweet chocolate and shortening over low heat. Drizzle chocolate over top edge of the cake. Garnish with additional Oreos.

Friday, March 2

Bacon Crumble Egg Bake

I have mentioned before that John and I are not big breakfast people. At least breakfast in the morning people. A couple of times a month, we have breakfast for dinner. I threw together some of our favorite breakfast foods all in one for this bake. Tater tots, eggs, bacon and cheese. Yum! The peppers and onion add some great flavor without spicing it up too much so that Spencer could enjoy it too. 

Easy to reheat any leftovers also!

3/4 bag of tater tots
salt and pepper to taste
1 small onion, diced
1/2 red bell pepper, diced
1/2 green bell pepper, diced
1 lb. bacon, crumbled
8 large eggs
2 cups milk
3 cups colby jack cheese, shredded

Add frozen tater tots to a 9 x 13 inch baking dish. Spice with salt and pepper. Bake in preheated 400 degree oven until tater tots are golden brown. Remove from oven and set aside.

Lower oven temp to 350 degrees. In a mixing bowl, add eggs, milk and cheese. Mix well and set aside.

In a frying pan, fry bacon until crisp, then cool slightly and crumble. Discard all bacon grease except 1 TBLS. 

Saute diced onions and peppers in the bacon grease (using the same pan as you just fried the bacon in) until soft. Layer onion and pepper mixture on top of the cooled tater tots. Layer bacon crumbles next.

Pour the egg/cheese mixture over the bacon. Cover with aluminum foil and bake in preheated oven for about 45 minutes. Uncover and bake an additional 30 minutes.

Serve warm with biscuits or toast. 

Thursday, March 1

Homemade Cheesy Garlic Bread

Not that long ago I posted this recipe for homemade garlic bread with the secret ingredient, honey. I loved this recipe, but John did not so I tried another version. Again, I thought these very good, but John, not so much. So I will share it with you but will be trying to find that right combo that both of us like. If you have a tried and true recipe, please share!

1 loaf Italian bread
4 TBLS. butter, softened
1/2 TBLS. minced garlic
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 cup shredded mozzarella

Slice loaf of bread in half, lengthwise. Mix garlic into softened butter. Spread evenly on both open faced sides of bread. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese, then mozzarella and oregano.

Bake at 350 degrees for about 10 ten minutes. Turn oven to broil and broil just until cheese begins to brown. 

Cool slightly, slice and enjoy!