Sunday, February 23, 2014

Stir Fried Spicy Eggplant

I made this dish last night after trying it out at PF Chang's on Friday during a girls night out with some of my sorority sisters. I normally get their Almond and Cashew Chicken or Orange Peel chicken or beef, but I had ordered some crispy green beans (I must look for a recipe b/c this was delicious!) to go with our wine while we sat at the bar and waited for the other girls to arrive. Then Lauren ordered some edamame after we got seated at our table and waited for a couple more girls to arrive so I wasn't that hungry when it was time to order our entrees. Lauren and I sometimes order 2 different entrees and then split it...that's what we did Friday night. I shared my eggplant dish and I had some of her Kung Pao Chicken. Both were delicious!

I decided to find a copy cat recipe and found this recipe. The picture looked like the dish I had so I decided to try it. I had to make a trip at the Asian Market to buy a couple things I didn't have like chili paste and ground bean sauce. It took forever because I didn't have any idea what I was looking for and the lady just pointed to the Siracha when I asked for chili paste. I was looking for something that actually said chili paste and not just a hot sauce type of condiment. Thankfully my mom brought oyster sauce with her the last time she was down so I didn't have to look for it. I knew I had sesame oil already at home, but wasn't sure how much I had left so I just grabbed it since I found it fairly easily. 20 minutes later, Avery and I found our 2 "mystery" ingredients!

This dish was so good and despite all the ingredients and more steps than I normally like, it was fairly easy to make...and fast too! Kevin said he really liked this dish, but wants some sort of protein to go with it. I think I'm going to mix in some stir fried chicken or beef next time. I think it will go great with the sauce!

I made a few tiny changes to the recipe. Here's my version:

Gather it:
2 large eggplants, peeled and cut into 1" cubes
3 tsp garlic, minced (you can do less, the recipe calls for 1 tsp, but we love garlic)
1/2 Tbsp corn starch, mixed w/ 1 Tbsp water to make a paste
1/2 cup vegetable oil, halved

Gather it for the Spicy Sauce:
2 Tbsp oyster sauce
2 Tbsp soy auce
2 Tbsp water
1 Tbsp white vinegar
1 Tbsp sugar
1.5 tsp chili paste (the original recipe called for 1 tsp, but mine wasn't that spicy)
1/2 tp ground bean sauce
1/2 tsp sesame oil

Make it:
1) Combine all Spicy Sauce ingredients in a small bowl and mix well. Set aside.

2) In a wok, heat 1/4 cup of the vegetable oil over high heat. Stir fry half of the eggplant for 4-5 minutes until tender. Remove eggplant and drain on a plate with paper towels.

3) Add remaining vegetable oil and repeat #2. Two eggplants seem like a lot, but they shrink a lot! I was originally only going to do 1 eggplant, but then I realized it wouldn't be enough for Kevin and me so I decided to do both eggplants.

4) After cooking eggplants, remove all but ~1/2 tsp of oil from wok. Stir fry your garlic for about 5 seconds over high heat then add the spicy sauce.

5) Reduce heat and let sauce simmer for about 20 seconds. Add all of the eggplant and simmer for another 20 seconds.

6) Stir in cornstarch paste a little bit at a time until your sauce is to your desire consistency. I used 2 spoonfuls (regular sized dinner spoon). Serve immediately over a bed of rice.

I decided to take Avery with me to the Asian Market after she woke up from her nap...she was excited to go

I'm 100% Filipino, but was so lost at the store! 

Both my ingredients were in the same aisle and on the same side, but it still took me 20 minutes to find them!

Avery found Hello Kitty cookies! She started liking Hello Kitty when I bought her an FSU shirt w/ HK on it and then she got sparkly HK tennis shoes from her cousin. Funny enough there was a lady wearing a HK costume at the mall earlier that day doing a promo for a store. She kept yelling "Hello Kitty!" for about 10 minutes and yet wouldn't go anywhere near her. 

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Baked Acorn Squash Stuffed With Quinoa and Feta

Earlier this week I pinned a bunch of quinoa recipes and one of them was a squash stuffed with quinoa and blue cheese (I think). I decided to make it last minute this morning while the kids played outside. I searched my pinboards for the recipe and couldn't find it. What board did I pin it to??? I do this all the time..."lose" pins. I would have spent some time looking for it, but Avery was starting to lose it and throw tantrums so I figured I needed to head out and get my ingredients before she melted any further. I figured I would just "wing it" and hope it turned out ok. I decided to just go to the nearest produce stand since I needed to get a bunch of produce since I was going to be making this other quinoa recipe for lunches this week for work. With that said I wouldn't have any blue cheese so I figured I would sub feta, which I had a bunch of. This turned out pretty good and it was really easy to make. Even the hubby who is not a fan of squash or quinoa for that matter (but he's trying to eat healthier) said it was "pretty good". I think next time though I'm going to try using butternut squash to add some color. The acorn squash and the quinoa are basically the same color and you can't really see the squash very well.

Gather it:
3 small acorn squash
1.5 cups cooked quinoa
1/4 cup of red bell pepper, diced
1/4 cup of yellow bell pepper, diced
1/2 cup of feta cheese (we like feta so you can certainly use a little less if you like)
olive oil
salt and pepper, to taste

Make it:
1) Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and boil 3/4 cup of quinoa with 1.5 cups of water in a small sauce pan with a lid. Once it starts to boil, simmer for 12 minutes until the water is gone and the quinoa has puffed up and has little "white tails". Mine typically still has a little it of water in the pot after 12 minutes, but I just turn the burner off, fluff the quinoa, replace the lid and leave it on the burner. Allow to cool.

2) Wash the acorn squash. Cut in half lengthwise and rub a small amount of olive oil. Place cut side up on a baking dish. Bake for 25 minutes.

3) Scoop out the flesh of the squash while it is still hot so it will be easy to scoop out. Be careful not to tear the skin - it will be somewhat soft from baking. Place the squash shells back in the oven to help crisp out the skin while you do the next stop.

4) Mix together the scooped out squash, quinoa, bell peppers, feta, and salt and pepper. 

5) Place mixture into squash shell. I piled mine up and ended up not using one of the shells. Place back in oven and bake for another 10-15 min. 

I can't wait to have this for leftover lunch!!!

Can't beat $0.79 each for red and yellow peppers at the produce stand! It's normally over $1 at Publix. I spent just under $10 and got a bunch of produce!

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Southwest Quinoa Salad w/ Spinach

It's after midnight and I just finished making and devouring this salad. I do feel a little bit guilty for eating so late, but in my defense it was a healthy salad and I just couldn't help myself. I was text messaging all night with a friend whose mother has to go on an unprocessed diet and was having to eat a lot of brown rice. I suggested trying out quinoa and shared with her my tropical quinoa granola recipe and fried quinoa (think fried rice) recipe. The more we talked about food, the hungrier I got. Then I went to the kitchen to take a picture of the bag of quinoa I use so she could see what it looked like and before I knew it I was scooping some out to cook. I had no idea what I would add to it since we haven't gone to the grocery store since last week! After some rummaging, I had a pile of ingredients and started to chop my veggies and cook the quinoa. Then my heart fell as I realized I didn't have any lemons for my dressing (I was going to make a simple lemon/olive oil dressing). But a bottle of white wine vinegar that was tucked way back in the corner of my cabinet saved the day. As I cooked, I kept sending my friend pics and she will now be making this tomorrow since she also has all the ingredients. You probably do too!!! It's so easy and yummy!

Note: 1/2 cup of uncooked quinoa will make about 1 cup of cooked quinoa. Those tiny little things expand quite a bit! 

Grab it:
1 cup cooked quinoa, cooled
1 can of black beans, drained and rinsed
4-5 stalks of scallions, sliced
1 small red bell pepper, seeded and diced
spinach leaves
2 large handfuls of frozen corn (I did not defrost it, see #2 below)
half of a tomato, seeded and diced (I would prefer grape tomatoes, but I was lucky to even have a tomato on hand!)
salt and pepper, to taste

white wine vinegar
olive oil

Make it:
1) Cook the quinoa: boil 1/2 cup quinoa with 1 cup of water in a small sauce pan with a lid. Once it starts to boil, simmer for 10-12 minutes until the water is all gone and the quinoa has puffed up and has little "white tails". 

2) Allow the quinoa to cool. If you are making this last minute, spread the hot quinoa on a plate and toss the frozen corn with it - it will cool the quinoa down quickly and the heat from the quinoa will defrost the corn. I'm so smart! lol

3) Combine all the salad ingredients except for the spinach in a large bowl. 

4) I didn't measure the amount of vinegar and oil I used, but used a rough 1:2 ratio of vinegar to oil.  If I had to guess, I used about 3 Tbsp of white wine vinegar and 6 Tbsp of olive oil. Whisk (or in my case I used a fork) together until mixed well then drizzle over salad and toss salad.

5) Place spinach leaves on a plate and top with salad mixture. Enjoy...and try not to eat the rest of the salad.

this was the whole made a lot! I'm sure nobody will miss the midnight snack I had when it's time for lunch tomorrow (or rather today!)

*** UPDATE *** I had every intention of adding feta cheese to this dish last night, but I got totally caught up with trying to find a replacement for the lemon for the dressing that I totally forgot. So today for lunch I topped my salad off with some feta. It was delicious, light and yet very filling!!! Oh, and my girlfriend made hers this morning and she kept texting me and saying she can't stop eating it! lol

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Peanut Butter and Nutella Puppy Chow

This puppy chow is not for your fur legged's the kind that you put in a bowl, sit by the glow of the Christmas tree light and savor each sweet crunchy bite slowly as you relish in the peace and quiet since your kiddos are snoring softly in their beds. Oh wait, sorry that just might be me??? Anyway, this thing is absolutely amazing!!! I had never made it before so I went to my go to place and I pinned a few recipes on Pinterest, but truthfully there's a basic recipe on the back of the box, but you know me, I don't really follow recipes all that well. This could mean a great big flop or sweet success. The first recipe I made was using peanut butter. I'm not a huge peanut butter fan, but I must admit it was pretty yummy. The Nutella recipe is at the bottom. Here's my version:

Gather it:
6 cups of Rice Chex
~ 1 cup of powdered sugar
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
4 large spoonfuls of peanut butter
1 tsp of vanilla
~ 1 Tbsp of coconut oil (you can probably also use vegetable oil or butter)

Make it:
1. Place chocolate chips, peanut butter, vanilla, and coconut oil in a small bowl or even in a glass measuring cup. Melt together in 30 second increments and stirring in between. Mine took about 1 minute. 

2. Place Rice Chex in a large Ziploc bag or a large plastic container with a lid (I chose the latter) and pour melted chocolate mixture over the Chex. Shake it around until all the Chex is covered with the chocolate mixture. No matter what you do, don't melt the chocolate in a large bowl and then dump the Chex into the bowl and mix will cause a lumpy Puppy Chow. How do I know this??? Because that's how my first batch came out. I tried to save a step and not have to wash 1 extra bowl. Unfortunately the kids teachers received lumpy Peanut Butter Puppy Chow, but the Nutella Puppy Chow that it was mixed out turned out perfectly. 

3. Pour half of the powdered sugar into the mixture and shake. Add more as needed until the Chex is coated with the powdered sugar.

Gather it:
3/4 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
1/2 cup Nutella
Everything is the same as above except NO peanut butter 

Make it: 
Same directions as above!

And that's I dare you to not eat it all at once!!!

A basket full of Puppy Chow and a gift car for all EIGHT of the kid's teachers. I had a slight freak out moment when I realized I had 8 teachers to buy for. Parker has 1 speech teacher (his teacher's aide is no longer with them otherwise it would have been 9), 2 morning teachers at his preschool and 2 in the afternoon. Avery has 2 morning teachers and 1 afternoon teacher. 

A gift was also sent out in the mail...

Tuesday, December 3, 2013


I have been wanting to get family photos done professionally for a while, but have just never gotten around to it. Well actually, I had a reason for putting it off. I didn't want to shell out big bucks for photos and my kids not cooperate. Let's face it, if there's an opportunity to look in opposite directions, pick their nose, look anywhere but the camera, frown, stare off in space, etc my kids will do it. But I really talked myself into getting them done this year since we haven't had pictures taken professionally since Avery's newborn session...2.5 years ago!!! I figured Avery usually loves the camera and she often hams it up and Parker listens so much better now...and he can often be bribed with an ice cream cone. No I'm not ashamed to say that I was willing to bribe my children to get decent photos. Nope, I will do almost anything to get a decent pic of the family...much to my husband's annoyance!

But I had a dilemma...who's going to take our photos? The fabulous photographer I used for our 3 previous sessions had just delivered a beautiful baby boy and can't travel 4 hours away! After a little research and some recs, I booked Alaina Elliott. We got along great from the first moment I contacted her. I think I went a little crazy with all the texting as we planned the location, date/time, and outfits...I probably drove her nuts!

The afternoon of the session was beautiful! It was slightly (very slightly) cool from the rain we had the day before, which meant Kevin wouldn't be grouchy and sweating. Nov 2nd was also the first day of day light savings time so the sun was setting 1 hour earlier so nap schedules had to bumped up earlier so that we could take sunset photos. Call  me crazy, but I was very optimistic that we would get fabulous photos. That is until we tried to get our first shot with Avery. My sweet and sassy little bunny refused to hold hands, sit, lay down, stand up, look at the camera or smile. She did the opposite of whatever it was we asked her. She wanted NOTHING to do with this photo session...that is until we would leave her out and then she'd walk up to the person being photographed and just stand there and stare off in space. Sigh! I just kept hearing "ka-ching! ka-ching!" and a toilet flushing as my money went down the toilet. I was so sure we didn't have any photos of Avery smiling or that she absolutely ruined all of our pics!

But then I saw these pics:

Avery was pretty attached to me and refused to smile...but you know what, I don't mind it now as much as I did when we were getting our pics taken. I think it showed her sassy personality. 

LOVE this pic of my mini me and me!!! This was the first sneak peek that Alaina sent me and it was such a tease! I wanted to see the rest right then and then I still had like 2 weeks til the rest were edited! Avery was pouting, but there was a little hint of a smile. 

Avery does this thing where she closes her eyes when she doesn't want to do something you want her to if you will think she is asleep and won't bother her anymore. She did it even as a little toddler when I would try to feed her veggies she didn't like. She would just sit in her high chair and close her eyes. In this case, she's closing her eyes b/c she doesn't want to smile, hold Parker's hand or stand up. Sigh!

my babies and me...LOVE this pic too!

this trike caused a few tears...she wanted to ride it from the moment she saw it on the back of Kevin's truck. Granted the morning of the session was when Avery first started using the trike pedals...that we know of anyway. 

such a sweet little smile

still not a full out smile, but I'll take it!

Avery LOVES it when Daddy swings her around like this! They both like to make my Mommy heart stop with their crazy least he didn't throw her up in the air this time!

sweet kisses from Daddy

and this little girl def has her Daddy wrapped around her little finger...from the moment she was born!

Then there was Parker. He did pretty good overall. He listened to Ms. Alaina for the most part. He did goof around, gave his crazy smile, and lost his listening ears a few times, but hey he's 4 years old and smiling for 2 hours is hard work!

My little did he get so big! He looks so much older than 4 years and 2 months in this picture. Make time slooooow down! 

this was a last minute photo that we took before leaving the park. I'm glad we stopped and get this fabulous picture of Parker...even though he was copying my hand on hips pose. lol

another great pic of Parker! LOVE!!!

this didn't come with the original ones on my gallery, but I begged Alaina to review them and pick the best one...Not trying to be vain, but I looked pretty darn good. Alaina, whatever editing you did on this pic, I like!  Now if only I looked like this all the time! lol I just wish Parker wasn't looking off to the side!

my boys...LOVE them!

Parker did so well during the 20 minutes or so that we spent on this bridge! Avery...not so much. 

this picture ended up being the main pic on our Xmas cards. 

one of the first few family pics that we were just warming up...

Alaina: "Mae, look at up at Kevin." So what does Parker do, but also look up...or maybe he was looking at a bird that flew by??? lol

this picture cracks me up. First b/c I was trying to not twist my ankles on the huge roots. Second b/c Avery has this "oh crap, my Dad's gonna drop me" look on her face and is gripping Kevin's shirt/arm pretty tight. Third b/c Kevin's got that smile like "hehehe...I'm not sure if I've got a good grip on my squirmy daughter, but I hope we get the shot" look. And fourth Parker's off on his own little doubt side tracked by a squirrel or something. 

can I just say how much i LOOOOOOOVE this pic? one b/c both kids are looking at the the same time...and they are both smiling! it was as if avery was like "well ok i will grace you with one fabulous smile!"

this was one of Alaina's sneak peeks and i literally squealed b/c it was too cute! this is absolutely without a doubt one of my favorite pics of the kids! i would have put this on our Xmas cards, but Kevin liked the picture before where both kids are smiling and looking at the camera. he doesn't ask for much so i figured i'd let him "win". 

one of the first few pics that Alaina took of the kids. Look at that scowl on Avery's face. Parker knew the = special place after the park and maybe a special treat

love this pic of the kids too. kevin wishes avery's hand wasn't up over her lips, but i think it's cute...she was slowly warming up to alaina. 

love this man!

we were trying to take a cute pic of avery leaning down to give me a kiss, but kevin's 6'3'' and avery's pretty tall herself so even with my wedges on and standing on the roots i was still too short to reach that pretty pink pout!

hitching a ride from daddy

this pic cracks me up b/c avery was in such a zone and didn't even blink, she was like off in space. she didn't respond to her name, kevin and me jumping up and down yelling and making faces to get her to smile. she zoned out for a few minutes, which caused alaina to remark how very independent she is and that you can't make her do something she doesn't want to do. yep...i know this attitude all too well. she should be fun when she's like 12-13 yrs old. 

one of our last pics at the park...this was my mom's favorite shot!!! 

Alaina had a second location for us to go to after the park. I immediately jumped at the chance b/c I knew Parker would LOOOOVE it!!!! I had told Parker that he smiled a lot and listened well that we would take him to a special place to take more pics and if he smiled and listened at the special place then we would get a special treat afterwards. Bribery, folks, works least for Parker. Avery could care less.

there's a place near the town house kevin and i used to live at (and Parker for the first 11 month of his life) that has a small train museum (it was closed when we went), but that's ok, we just wanted to use the small section of train tracks and the caboose. i don't ever remember seeing this place when we lived near it, but kevin said it's always been there. 

parker has a slight obsession w/ trains. it has kind of taken a back seat in the last 6-8 mos to Match Box cars (or similar cars). he still plays with them when he goes to a friend's house or even at pre-school, but at home he primarily plays w/ his cars now. and he always asks for a new car whenever we go to publix or target. if he has been good we usually buy him one since they are less than $1.

alaina brought this cute little wagon and her daughters' puppy that avery refused to part with...she even wanted to bring it home! poor alaina felt so bad that she ended up giving avery a little plastic dolphin...which avery called a whale and refused to let go of. 

these are real train tracks and real trains go through them...not like the prior one that parker was playing on. parker would have been on cloud 9 if we could have seen a train go by, but no luck!

parker was so amazed by the caboose that he got too busy to smile and look at the camera. 

our family of 3...why 3 you ask? well b/ avery had had it and alaina was taking these photos w/ avery sitting on her lap.

it's pretty rare that kevin and i get a pic of just us two...even rare that i get pic of me unless it's a selfie. lol

would have been so cute if parker was looking up! oh well, can't have everything! oh and this caboose has signs all over it that says don't climb. but alaina was there a few days before checking out the location and an employee basically told her that they look the other way when they see someone on the caboose.