Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Toasted Orzo with Peas and Parmesan

First recipes that makes the list on Perfect Dinner Project is Toasted Orzo with Peas and Parmesan. This recipe comes from Mel's Kitchen Cafe. She has a ton of great recipes on her site and this one will not be the last one I promise. I made this as a vegetarian main course and it was so creamy and yummy!

Toasted Orzo with Peas and Parmesan
Serves 4-6 (as a side dish)

*Be careful when adding the broth to the pan, because it will create a lot of steam.
2 tablespoons butter
1 small onion, minced
3/4 teaspoon salt
2 medium garlic cloves, minced
1 ¼ cups orzo
2 1/2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
1 cup frozen peas, thawed
1 ounce Parmesan cheese, grated (about 1 cup)
2 tablespoons fresh minced parsley leaves
Ground black pepper
1 lemon, cut into wedges, for serving (optional)
Melt the butter in a 12-inch nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and ¾ teaspoon salt and cook, stirring often, until softened, 5 to 7 minutes. Stir in the garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Stir in the orzo and cook, stirring often, until most of the grains are golden, about 5 minutes. Carefully stir in the broth and bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer, stirring occasionally until all of the liquid has been absorbed and the orzo is tender, 10 to 12 minutes. (Be careful not to cook at too high of heat at this point because the liquid will evaporate instead of cook the orzo and you’ll be left with undercooked pasta.)
Off the heat, stir in the peas, Parmesan, and parsley and let sit until the peas are warmed through, about 2 minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste and serve with the lemon wedges.
Recipe Source: adapted from Cook’s Illustrated Best Skillet Recipes

Here are my results:


I just started a new blog. I'm crazy. It's called Perfect Dinner Project and you can find it here: It's only for my recipes. I'll still post them on this blog too, but only my best recipes that make the list will go on Perfect Dinner Project. Just an FYI!

My Rating System

I've had this system in place for a while but am trying to incorporate them into my blog. I haven't got all of them labeled but hopefully I will soon. This way you know what I think of them more clearly.

5★ = Absolute Perfection! If this recipe was on a restaurant menu, I would order it EVERY SINGLE TIME, it's that good! Other people rave about it every time I make it and always ask for the recipe.

4½ ★= Almost perfection. There is probably nothing I could do to make it a 5★ recipe but it comes pretty close. On a restaurant menu I would order it often, but not every time because I like variety. People still rave about it and will probably ask for the recipe.

4★= Really good. Everybody likes it and it tastes great!

3½ ★= Good but just not good enough to go on the PDP list.

3★= Just OK. Some people will like it and some people won't. Bland. Would make if in a dire pinch and had the ingredients on hand. Before I became a foodie, I would say most of my recipes fell into this category. Nothing to be ashamed about just OK food happens.

2★= Edible but we didn't like it. Won't make it again

1★= I'm sorry I even made this recipe. I will NEVER make it again and it will probably go into the trash.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Easy Grape Salad

I brought this to my family's Easter Party yesterday. I kind of feel bad even putting this on my blog because it was just an OK recipe. Nobody asked for the recipe, but it was all gone when we went home. I didn't get a picture, but if you click on the link, you'll see the pics other people have taken at It was REALLY EASY like the title said. Whipped it together in about 7 minutes.

Easy Grape Salad

1 pound seedless green grapes
1 pound seedless red grapes
1 (8 ounce) package cream cheese,softened
1 (7 ounce) jar marshmallow creme
1 (6 ounce) package slivered almonds
1.Wash grapes in a colander under running water, and remove all stems. Place in a large bowl.
2. In a separate bowl, stir together the cream cheese and marshmallow creme until smooth and creamy. Pour the mixture over the grapes. Using a rubber spatula or large serving spoon, fold the mixture into the grapes until well coated. Fold in the almonds.
3.This salad may be served immediately, or covered and refrigerated for 1 hour to set slightly, and to allow flavors to blend.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Princess Academy

Princess Academy by Shannon Hale description from "The thought of being a princess never occurred to the girls living on Mount Eskel. Most plan to work in the quarry like the generations before them. When it is announced that the prince will choose a bride from their village, 14-year-old Miri, who thinks she is being kept from working in the quarry because of her small stature, believes that this is her opportunity to prove her worth to her father. All eligible females are sent off to attend a special academy where they face many challenges and hardships as they are forced to adapt to the cultured life of a lowlander. First, strict Tutor Olana denies a visit home. Then, they are cut off from their village by heavy winter snowstorms. As their isolation increases, competition builds among them. The story is much like the mountains, with plenty of suspenseful moments that peak and fall, building into the next intense event. Miri discovers much about herself, including a special talent called quarry speak, a silent way to communicate. She uses this ability in many ways, most importantly to save herself and the other girls from harm. Each girl's story is brought to a satisfying conclusion, but this is not a fluffy, predictable fairy tale, even though it has wonderful moments of humor. Instead, Hale weaves an intricate, multilayered story about families, relationships, education, and the place we call home."

MY REVIEW: I love Shannon Hale. Her books are always a joy to read. This book is labeled for grades 5-9 but my friend Debbie from had read it and I decided to give it a go. It's obviously written for a younger crowd, but it was still a fun read anyways. It's always exciting to read about princess stories that take you back to your youth. This would be a great book to read at bedtime with little ones as the chapters are relatively short and entertaining.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Spring Rolls

This recipe came from Studio 5. I saw these and thought they looked amazingly cool. I had never worked with rice wrappers before and they were awesome. Hubby thought they were weird because of the texture and they were see-through. I would recommend the video to see how they were put together. The rice wrappers are hard at first, slightly soften after dipped in water and then really pliable once the the roll is ready to be wrapped up.

*I made this recipe with spinach and basil and we didn't like it. I think the basil is too strong and would recommend cilantro and probably a leafy romaine lettuce. The canned shrimp was a little weird too, diced chicken would be better. ( I know a lot of changes but I think it could be great with those changes)

Spring Rolls

1 (8 ounce) package rice vermicelli
8 ounces cooked, peeled shrimp, cut in half lengthwise (Or chicken)
8 rice wrappers (6.5 inch diameter)
(They are round disks that have a basket weave texture on them. You can find them just about anywhere.)
1 carrot, julienned
1 cup shredded lettuce chopped Napa Cabbage or purple cabbage
1/4 cup chopped fresh basil or mint or cilantro

Directions: Bring a medium saucepan of water to boil. Remove from heat. Place rice vermicelli in boiling water, remove from heat, and let soak 3 to 5 minutes, until soft. Drain, and rinse with cold water. Fill a large bowl with hot water. Dip one rice wrapper in the hot water for 5-10 seconds to soften. You don't want them too soft. They'll be totally soft by the time it is ready to roll up. Lay wrapper flat, and place desired amounts of noodles, shrimp, carrot, lettuce and basil in the center. Roll the edges of the wrapper slightly inward. Beginning at the bottom edge of wrapper, tightly wrap the ingredients. Repeat with remaining ingredients. Serve the spring rolls with dipping sauce.

Here are the results:
At least they turned out pretty!

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Friday, April 15, 2011

Beefy Cheesy Pasta

When I don't have much on hand, this is my go-to recipe. Simple and surprisingly delicious!

Beefy Cheesy Pasta

1/2 pound lean ground beef
1 onion, diced
1/4 cup soy sauce
1 clove garlic, minced
5 cups rotelle (spiral) pasta
1/4 cup milk
1 tablespoon butter
5 slices processed American cheese (This works but I usually used grated cheddar)

1. In a large skillet over medium heat, cook beef, onion, soy sauce and garlic until beef is brown and juices run clear.
2.While beef is cooking, bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Add pasta and cook for 8 to 10 minutes or until al dente; drain.
3. Return cooked pasta to its pot over low heat; stir in milk and butter. Stir in beef mixture until well combined. Stir in cheese slices, one at a time, until melted. Serve at once.
Here are my results:


The description from
"This clever, must-have debut focuses on sassy Evie, 16, who calls the International Paranormal Containment Agency home. Armed with her unique ability to see through all paranormal “glamours” and her trusty pink taser, Evie bags, tags, and helps IPCA track and contain a variety of familiar creatures. Despite her unconventional life (no origin story, mermaid best friend, werewolf colleagues, etc.), she considers herself to be pretty normal–until shape-shifting elemental and extremely cute Lend breaks into IPCA looking for answers and ironically becomes one of the agency's latest puzzles. The more pressing concern: Who's been murdering paranormals? Lend's arrival; fae ex-boyfriend's (literally) hot, increasingly threatening advances; unsettling dreams; and a well-planned attack on the agency force Evie to face surprising revelations about IPCA and herself. White's storytelling successfully balances the fun and the sinister. There's an interesting mix of magic and technology. The pace is brisk with plenty of action. White's faeries (not vamps) are the beautiful and manipulative paranormals to watch out for, a refreshing change for some readers. Characterization is consistent, though Evie is the most fleshed out. A perfect blend of normal/supernatural, she simultaneously doubts her genetic makeup while yearning for and worrying about typical teenage concerns."

MY REVIEW: Loved it. I know there are a lot of books about vampires and werewolves out there and this was a nice shift from the normal (does contain them but in very minor parts). The plot was intriguing and always left me wanting to go on to the next chapter. Very entertaining.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Spring Crafts

Spring is here! I always get Spring fever and I've been trying out some new crafts.

First up... Birdie Wall Art from 

This was a simple craft I made from supplies I had on hand. It just takes an hour or two from start to finish. Cutting everything out is the most time consuming part.
It's 3-D so I took another picture to show that aspect:
The originals are much more modern and I'm somewhat a traditionalist so mine turned out way different but I enjoyed making them! All the patterns are on the site and they are FREE!

Next up, Spring Chick Block!
I LOVE LITTLE CHICK! I went to a crafting social with my sister and they were doing these chicks. They are wood blocks painted and sanded with the feathers glued on. They got the kits from this Etsy shop and they were so fun to put together. I love this type of craft because other people are so creative, I just let them do the creative part and then I assemble it and I'm a happy camper! Cost for this craft is $4 plus shipping.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Marshmallow Fondant

My little boy has his first birthday coming up in June and I just can't believe it! My little baby is turning 1!!! My very talented friend Debbie is holding a cake contest over at her blog and it gave me the perfect opportunity to try out my (nonexistent) cake decorating skills out. Click on the above link to check out all the entries and vote!

It was SUPER easy to make this fondant. I have heard regular fondant is very difficult and fickle to make. NOT the case with this fondant. One person described it as adult play-dough and I have to agree. If cake decorating is not your thing, I think you'll be pleasantly surprised by this fondant.


Marshmallow Fondant

1/4 cup Crisco
1 (16 ounce) package miniature
4 tablespoons water
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 pounds confectioners' sugar, divided

1. Place the Crisco  in a shallow bowl, and set aside.

2.Place the marshmallows in a large microwave-safe bowl, and microwave on High for 30 seconds to 1 minute to start melting the marshmallows. Carefully stir the water and vanilla extract into the hot marshmallows, and stir until the mixture is smooth. Slowly beat in the confectioners' sugar, a cup at a time, until you have a sticky dough. Reserve 1 cup of powdered sugar for kneading. The dough will be very stiff.

3.Rub your hands thoroughly with Crisco, and begin kneading the sticky dough. As you knead, the dough will become workable and pliable. Turn the dough out onto a working surface dusted with confectioners' sugar and continue kneading until the fondant is smooth and no longer sticky to the touch, 5 to 10 minutes.

4.Form the fondant into a ball, wrap it tightly in plastic wrap, and refrigerate overnight. To use, allow the fondant to come to room temperature, and roll it out onto a flat surface that has Crisco smeared on it.(I SKIPPED THE REFRIDGERATION STEP AND MINE WAS JUST FINE)

I decided to pattern mine after the classic book Green Eggs and Ham.
Here are the results:

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