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Mason Jar Salads

by on Jan.21, 2014, under Yummies

Mason Jar Salads

If  you’ve spent any time on pinterest recently, you’re sure to have noticed the current mason jar craze taking over feeds everywhere. Oh, you haven’t seen this?!? Well maybe I just have a few jar-crazy friends ;) Sadly, I too have now become another statistic to the mason jar epidemic.

It started innocently enough. The polar vortex has been bringing lots of cold air to my little slice of heaven in the south, thus I have been eating an inordinate amount of soup as of late. Soup is one of those weird things that I typically don’t think of as a ‘meal’ except when I am sick. Lately though I have actually been craving it, which is totally bizarre for me. Along with all this soup I still wanted something of substance to crunch on, thus the idea of a pairing salad with it. I know, revolutionary, right? Watch out world, I’ll be figuring out this whole ‘internet’ thing next!

Now I kept seeing these pins for salads in mason jars claiming that they stay fresh for days, and I finally had a friend share a post that made some sense for me out of these claims. It detailed how to layer your jar salad to keep things from becoming soggy and unappetizing. So off to the store I zoomed for salad fixing and some jars* to try this out.

So, according to eHow, the proper way to layer your mason jar salad (from bottom to top) to keep them fresh is as follows:

  1. Dressing (your wettest ingredient)
  2. Marinade-able ingredients. Examples are dried fruit, picked veggies, and/or root veggies like carrots, onion, or radishes.
  3. Wet Ingredients. Such as cucumber, tomatoes, corn, apple, or anything else that would make the lettuce go soggy.
  4. Dry Ingredients. Beans, meats, cheese, whole berries, etc.
  5. Lettuce and toppings. I am still experimenting if its works better to do croutons bellow or on top of the lettuce. This is also where you can include such things as edible flowers, nuts, or tortilla strips.

*Jars – I never realized how many different types of mason jars there are. I went with a wide-mouth quart jar, which has turned out to be just perfect. Easy to get things in and out of, and makes a good main entree salad serving size.

The great thing about these salads is, once you get the basics of layering down, they are infinitely customizable. Below are 4 salads I have made recently that I came up with off the top of my head. Don’t like something in my version, no worries, kick it out and replace with something you do like!

Taco Salad

My version was meatless, but you could easily throw some leftover taco filling or fajita meat in for some extra protein.

 

Taco Salad

Chipotle Dressing
Tomatoes
Corn
Avocado
Onion
Cheese
Lettuce
Tortilla Strips

 

 

BLT Salad

This salad was sooo good I wanted to do x-rated things to it!

BLT Salad

Ranch Dressing
Tomatos
Red Onion
Crumbled Bacon
Hard Boiled Egg slices
Blue Cheese Crumbles
Croutons
Lettuce

 

 

Strawberry Fields

I got so excited to eat this one, I forgot to take a picture before I got it out of the jar and started munching down!

 

 

Strawberry Fields Salad

Raspberry Vinaigrette
Dried Cherries
Sliced Strawberries
Sliced Apples
Honey Roasted Almond Slivers
Feta Cheese Crumbles
Lettuce

 

 

 

Greek Salad

Any excuse to add artichoke hearts to a recipe! Tangy and delicious paired with a lemon chicken orzo soup!

Greek Salad

Greek Dressing
Cucumber
Artichoke Hearts
Tomatoes
Black Olives
Red Onion
Feta Cheese
Lettuce

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Survive a New Year

by on Jan.02, 2014, under Miscellanea

Warning: This is a personal feelings post. I am about to get all existential up in here. No recipe or reviews today. If you are looking for those, feel free to skip this one.

So I just saw a little bit of wisdom on one of these ‘things I learned in the last year’ lists that overflow social network feeds at the beginning of every new year. It said, “Write like no one is reading” and my first thought was, “easy! I’m pretty sure no one reads my blog anyway.” So here I am, writing with the expectation that no one will really read my blather. If you can’t tell, I am feeling even more cynical then usual lately. Life is good in general, but there are always a few things in the mix that nettle me. I am not one of those perpetually cheerful people. I would say I am pretty average in that, I have at least as many ‘bad’ days as ‘good’ days. New Year’s Eve 2013 was one of the bad days.

To preface I just want to just say, I’ve never really gotten the big deal about New Year’s Eve/New Years Day. Yes, its nice to have a random day off work and a reason to hang out with friends/family, but as for as it being of any particular cosmic significance, I don’t see that there is much of note. It’s another day, just like all the ones before it and all those after. The Universe doesn’t care how we humans divide up the orbit of one planet around it’s star. Not even all humans can agree on how to divide it (i.g. Chinese New Year).  I’ve always thought of time like a river. It is a continuous flows regardless of any container our minds put increments of it in. The change from one year to another is rather arbitrary to me. Some like to use it as a chance to start over, wipe the slate clean, and/or mark the beginning of something new but I don’t see why those things can’t be done any other day. Every day is a new day that can be the start of new things.

Now for the more personal reflections about this most recent New Year’s Eve/Day. Not going to air any specific dirty laundry here, but I was just in a general bad mood after having worked most of the day on New Years Eve. At work I had to cover a position that I loathe, in addition, that morning I had gotten some distressing news about our mortgage, and while my husband (aka The Man) was off work and suggested going out for dinner, he offered no concrete plan of where exactly he wanted to go (I very much like to always have a plan). Also, this was the first New Years Eve I can remember where not a single friend reached out to invite us to a gathering of some sort. After coming home in a rather dark mood, The Man poked the bear one too many times and we had a nice explosive fight just before we were supposed to leave for dinner. We finally did get out the door, only to sit in general silence while eating an overpriced mediocre meal at a packed chain restaurant. We were home by 8:30 and The Man was in bed by 9, since he had to be up for work the next day before dawn. I rung in the new year alone, in bed, reading a book, and still generally pissed off with the world. Woohoo.

Don’t fret though, apologies where exchanged and feeling mended the next day between me and The Man. I keep thinking however, about the pressure (real or perceived) the usually exchanged expression of ‘Happy New Year’ puts on one. What if things are going on in one’s life that just do not make for a particularly happy new year? One of my close friends had just lost her mother to complication from Alzheimer’s 5 days prior, and while I know she would be trying, it was probably difficult for her to be really feeling ‘happy’ for the new year. I was unusually quite on my social networks, not really posting much about the New Year or my feelings, sentimental, hopeful or otherwise. A friend of mine posted the below comic and I think it is a perfect summation on the subject.

cyanidehappinessnewyear

So I said all of that to really say, to all my friends and family, Survive a New Year! Happy or sad, good day or bad, I will still love you just the same.

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New Years Resolutions – Nailed it! Sort of….

by on Oct.30, 2013, under Miscellanea

I know your thinking, “Melissa, it’s October, wtf? Why are you talking about New Years Resolutions?!?” Well here’s a little glimpse into how my mind works. Last year was the first year I actually made a real New Years Resolution, I made two in fact. Yeah before then I had done the generic ‘loose weigh’, ‘don’t cuss so much’, ‘be kinder to stupid people’, etc. But this time around I actually made specific goals for myself.

  1. Take reusable bags to the grocery store, quit leaving them in the closet/car trunk.
  2. Start meal planning ahead of time to save money and be more organized.

So I know these are modest goals compared to some, but hey I had to start somewhere.

Anyhoo, I am happy to report I having been doing really good on the remembering my reusable bags for the grocery store. I’d estimate that I only forget them once out of every four trips, so I am totally considering that winning. Also, I do have the occasional need for plastic grocery bags at our house (cat box cleaning, etc), so really even when I forget, I’m winning! BOOM!

On the second goal front, I can say with total modesty that I have rocked it out with my proverbial cock out. I have become a meal planning bad-ass of mom-umnetal (har har!) proportions. Now, there is some credit to be given to this awesome app I found for my iPad, that had made the chore of meal planning so much easier then it was in the pre-kitchen tech dark ages. The app is called Menu Planner. Now let me say, for the record, this is not any kind of sponsored or paid advertisement. This is just my personal experience and appreciation for something that has become indispensable to me. Disclaimer done!

What initially attracted me to this app was it’s ability to import recipes from other sites, along with entering your own. It supports 40+ for full auto-import, but after a small learning curve, you can use it to manually import any text-based recipe from anywhere on the web. I have teamed this up with Pinterest, where I find an organize recipes I find online. Inside Menu Planner’s Import Recipe browser window, I will navigate to my Pinterest page and then from there, find the links to various recipes I’ve pinned. It is a little buggy on the Pinterest site, in that I sometimes have to touch (click) pictures twice to get the links to load. Once you load recipes into your database, you can then go to the Menu tab, select a day, add a meal category type (breakfast, lunch, dinner, etc) to the day, then in that category, add the recipes you want to cook for that day.

Another feature that is dead handy is the ability to move entire meal groups from one day to another. While the idea is to plan everything in advance, when you are struck with a sudden craving for greasy Chinese food (come on, we’ve all been there), it is easy to bump the planned meal to another day. It is even easier on the iPhone version (which can be synced together with the iPad), to just pull days up or down in the list to rearrange menu plans.

My only gripe about this app is that it is a missing an ‘added date’ in the Recipes view. There have been several times where I couldn’t remember the recipe name, but I knew I added it a week ago on Tuesday. Had I been able to see and sort the recipes by there ‘added date’ that would been handy. Usually I can just go back to my Pinterest feed and find it. I have imported 234 to date. I went crazy a couple of weeks ago when my husband, AKA The Man, made it back to day shift and I planned out the next 7 weeks of dinners I would be able to cook for our family. When he is on night shift, I only cook max of 3 nights a week, since otherwise it is just me and a toddler. I didn’t realize how much I was missing being able to cook for him until I went ban-an-as with Menu Planner. I had a ton of new recipes I wanted to try and now I finally can! Hooray! I will be putting up a separate round-up post with all the yummy things I have cooked recently, so keep an eye out for that.

Side note, this app has a crapton of other features that I don’t use:  Shopping lists, Panty Organizer, Nutrition Info, etc. I know there are several other similar apps out there, but this is the pony I bought, so I am riding it to the rodeo. For $2.99 it is totally worth giving a shot.

As mentioned, there is a little learning curve to the manual recipe import feature, but once you get it down, it is a total breeze! There is also a website where you can interact with the app: http://menu-planner.com. Just use the same email address you used initially with the app, and you can log in and check out all your recipes. You can’t actually do any menu planning from the website though. Also, I find the web interface for adding recipes to be tedious, so I only use it for auto-import sites.

I have no idea what I will do for 2014 resolutions and really, after being so successful with these two, it might just be setting myself up for failure to try for anything else for a few years. I think I will just stick with basking in the glory of accomplishing these two things for a while.

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Still Kicking Around

by on Jul.03, 2013, under Miscellanea

Hey y’all. I just wanted to do a quick post to let you know, I am still here. I have just been busy and feeling uninspired lately. Real life is always getting in the way, and well yeah, I am a slacker too. I am not one to post blather just for the sake of post counts, so since nothing has struck me as outstanding enough to share, I have not. Do not fear however, I am still lurking, like the smelly sock in your closet you just can’t seem to find. I hope my mojo will be back soon and I will find some cool stuff to share. Until then, check out my Pinterest boards. No matter how lazy I am feeling, I still manage to pin things on the regular.

My Pinterest Boards (or look down and to the right)

An extraneous picture of my daughter from WDW. Yes, that was one of the things I was doing when I wasn’t here.

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Loaded Cheddar Potato Soup

by on Dec.28, 2012, under Yummies

I am not much of a soup person, and only recently have I started thinking of soup as a dinner option. I still don’t tend to think of it as a main course, but now that winter is really here, it has been more on my mind as a co-star of the dinner table.

I was feeling a little under the weather the day after Christmas this year, and was really craving some warm and hearty comfort food. We had some wonderful left over prime rib from Christmas dinner I wanted to use to make french dip sandwiches with, and when thinking about what to serve with it, Loaded Cheddar Potato soup came to mind. I recalled having made this one before, but that it turned out sub-par. I checked all my usual recipe sources to find a tried and well-reviewed recipe, but every one I came across had an ingredient I or my husband aren’t fans of, or were missing what I felt was a key component. Thus I decided to take the things I liked from several recipes and throw them together to see what came of it. Luckily, it was DELICIOUSNESS!

Soup Recipe Dinner

Loaded Cheddar Potato Soup
 
By:
Type: Soup
Serves: 6-8
Prep Time:
Cook Time:
Total Time:

 
Ingredients
  • 3 large Russet Potatoes, scrubbed and cubed
  • 3 cups Vegetable Stock
  • 1 cup Heavy Cream
  • 16oz Velveeta Cheese, cubed
  • 1 cup Sharp Cheddar, shredded
  • ¼ teaspoon Salt
  • ⅛ teaspoon Pepper
  • 2-4 pieces of Bacon, cooked and crumbled (for topping)
  • 1 Green Onion, sliced (for topping)
  • Additional Sharp Cheddar, shredded (for topping)
  • Sour Cream (for topping)
Instructions
  1. Bring a large pot of water with a generous pinch of kosher salt added to a boil. Once boiling, add potatoes and cook 12-15 minutes until soft, but not totally falling apart.
  2. Drain potatoes and leave in colander. Put pot back on stove.
  3. Add vegetable stock and heavy cream to pot and bring to boil over medium-high heat.
  4. As liquid heats up, add cubes of Velveeta, stirring often to help it melt.
  5. Once all the Velveeta is in and melted and liquid is starting to bubble, add 1 cup of shredded sharp cheddar. Stir to help cheese melt and incorporate.
  6. Add cooked potatoes back into pot with the cheese liquid. Using a handheld potato masher, roughly mash potatoes in the soup, leaving a few chunks.
  7. Stir in salt and pepper. The measurements above are just my best guess, as I just added each to taste.
  8. Turn off heat and ladle into serving bowls.
  9. Top with generous pinches of the extra shredded cheese, crumbled bacon, and green onion. Add a dollop of Sour Cream, if desired.

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