Monday, March 29, 2010

Home Sweet Hot-lanta

After a long 8 hour drive, mom, Janet, and I all made it to Altanta. We were a little road weary, but with the sun shining and my dad here to greet us we couldn't be too crabby. My dad took us out to a great resturant to enjoy our first taste of the south.


He took us to the best place he knew in town; Murphy's. It was absolutley fabulous. They had the doors open letting in all the fresh air. We feasted on Fried Calamari, BBQ glazed salmon, Shrimp and Grits, and the special was a pan seared Halibut served with delicious garlic roasted potatoes and greens. We also got the most beautiful and decadent desserts. One was a triple chocolate layer cake and the other was a lemon tart. The wait staff are well seasoned in describing the food and my mouth watered with just the description. They also have a full wine bar stocked full of great wine to choose from. We selected a Savignon Blanc as well as a Chardonnay to serve with our fish for dinner.

My dad had loose ends to tie up so it was mostly us three women running amuck in Hot-lanta. We all had breakfast together before us women were set loose in Atlanta. We ate one morning at the Highland Bakery. Dad had the Caprese salad that was delicioous and fresh. Mom and I shared the Breakfast BLT and Janet had the grits and black eyed peas.

After breakfasts, we had a car, a few dollars, and a GPS named Lucky L'il. She got PMS pretty bad there in the middle, but luckily I suddenly discovered my intuitive road side instincts. We miraculously found the Martin Luther King Memorial Center just as I  thought we would before our GPS even put her eye glasses on to help. It was a magical sort of turn of events and I was glad to have my intuition tuned in just right.

Janet, mom, and I wandered around for several days making ourselves at home. Really too much. We started planning the how to re-decorate the loft that was so graciously donated to us for our stay. We even developed a letter of eviction to the owners offering to take care of the place for them while they were away if they would continue to pay the bills. We thought it was a pretty good deal...

Despite all of our planning, my dad did graduate and they let him go. He now as no hair. He looks ppretty much like Yoda. Yeah, really. Some people say he looks like Ghandi, but Yoda is more accurate. And I have learned a thing or two about love and marriage. They do go together like a horse and carriage, but almost more accurately ommitment and perserverence are just as important. Sometimes absense makes the heart grow fonder and other times, it can make a person crazy. It is hard to say what exactly happened to my parents, but the good news is they are reunited (thank God). I don't think I could have taken one more minute!

We are all back together now and on to our next destination... Savannah, GA!

Come along as us Hot Messes eat our way through America. I'll definitely need a diet after this Foodie Reserch Adventure...

Wish us luck!

~ "Too Lovely" Hot Messes from the road

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Old Friend's + Good Food = Great Times

After spending a long weekend at my Grandpa's, we road-tripped down to Southern, IL, my mom and dad's old stomping grounds. It was only a few short hours away and we got to catch up with old friends of my parents. When we had called to share with them our plans for a Great American Road Trip, they had graciously invited us to be one of their stops along the way and we, never refusing an invitation, gladly accepted.

When we arrived, it was spring time weather and we got to sit out on the back porch and listen to the cows next door and watch the sun set on the horizon. As the dinner hour approached, I went inside to help our gracious hostess cook dinner. While preparing easy Spaghetti Bolognese - Easy Style. We all wanted to create an easy meal that could be prepared in no time so that we could enjoy each other's company since we don't get together that often anymore. Life seems to have a way with getting in the way and making us all extremely busy. Our friends have several grandkids that are too cute for words and they each have careers and duties that keep them busy as we all do.

Our dear hostess and I created this easy Spaghetti Bolognese along with a Garden Fresh Salad and garlic bread in no time flat. We called everyone to this dinner table and over a warm Italian meal we laughed, talked about what we have been up to since the last time we were all together and reminisced about the good times shared.

Spaghetti Bolognese - Easy Style

1 lb. ground beef
1/2 white onion; diced
2 jars of your favorite organic tomato sauce
1 tbsp. garlic powder
1 tbsp. Italian seasonings
1 box spaghetti noodles

Saute the ground beef and onions in a large skillet until browned and onions are transluscent. Add the seasonings and tomato sauce and cook over low heat for 20-30 minutes.

Meanwhile cook the pasta according to the directions on the box.

To serve, swirl the cooks spaghetti on a plate and add the thick and chunky tomato sauce over the top. Serve with parmesean cheese on the table for the ultimate comfort food that is easy and delicious to serve to your family or a crowd!

Garden Fresh Salad

1 package fresh spinach; washed
2 cups carrots; peeled and sliced
2 cups cucumbers; peeled and sliced
2 cups strawberries; sliced

Mix all of the above ingredients together in a beautiful bowl and serve with a Vidalia Onion dressing or a Poppyseed dressing. You don't have to make it yourself, although you could. Our favorite store brands are Anne's Organic varieties!

We also used the store bought garlic bread and heated it in the oven for just a few minutes at 475 degrees. My favorite tip for garlic bread is to sprinkle fresh basil and oregano over the top and a little sprinkle of parmesean cheese. It doesn't take that much effort, but makes for an enhanced and delicious flavors.

Mental Health Benefit: I love to make things from scratch, but some times I am just too much of a Hot Mess to make it happen. There is nothing wrong with conveniece foods as long as you add fresh ingredients to them to make them your own and add more nutrition. Sometimes life it too short to spend slaving in the kitchen. Use this meal as a quick go to when you have friends or family over that are too important for you to miss out on!

Here's to celebrating friends in their kitchen or yours!

~ "Too Lovely" Hot Messes on the road

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Hot Buns!


I consider myself pretty lucky to have a great relationship with my grandpa (my mom's dad) who has officially been around for 88 years now. When I lived in Illinois I had dinner with him every Monday. During my visits, he would tell me stories about the 'old times'. One night over dinner he told me what it was like growing up during the Great Depression. He used to head down to the railroad tracks after dinner and hang out with the hobos. I KNOW! can you believe it? Times sure have changed. I can't hardly believe it. He used to sit around a 'garbage can' camp fire and shoot the shit with men that were out of work and riding the rails. Amazing stuff. His mom would kiss him and send him off to hang out with the hobo's. Exactly! I can't believe it either, but times were different and people were more trusting evidently. These stories and memories are priceless to me.

For his birthday gift, I wanted to give the gift of history back to him so I decided to make his favorite thing from scratch: Cinnamon Rolls. They are one of his favorite things and I had never made them before, but was determined to figure it out. I woke up bright and early and got all of my ingredients out. My mom's best friend emerged as I was kneeding the dough before the first round of rising. "Always up to something." She comments. "Yep, I'm making the cinnamon rolls. I have never done this before. We'll see how it goes." I say. not wanting to get anyone's hopes up. "Well, the good thing is that you always look like you know what you're doing."

Huh, that's funny? Most of the time I feel like I have absolutley no idea what the hell I am doing. Kind of like a beached whale or a slippery fish flopping on the shore. I can't believe that people actually believe that I know what I am doing. I responded, "Fake it 'til you make it." Ooops, I sort of gave myself up just then didn't I?? Oh. well, now you know, I pretend to have a clue. I follow recipes (loosely), use road maps (occasionally), and accept all the help I can come up with. Sometimes I wander around lost and other times, things work out perfectly. Luckily for my grandpa, the Cinnamon Rolls turned out delicious. Everyone ate at least 3 and I got orders from all over to ship them. Sorry friends, we ate them all. If you want some, you will just have to invite me over. We'll see if I can fake my way through it again.

Cinnamon Hot Buns

Rolls:

2 cups milk
2 packages active dry yeast
1/4 cup warm water
1/2 cup butter
1 /2 cup granulated sugar (you can also use splenda)
2 eggs
1 tbsp. salt
7 cups flour (you can use half whole wheat)

Syrup:

1 package light brown sugar (16 oz)
1/2 cup sugar free maple syrup
1/2 cup milk
1/4 butter
1 1/2 cup pecans; chopped

Filling:

1 cup brown sugar
5 tbsp. cinnamon
1/4 cup butter; softened

For the rolls: Heat milk in the microwave for 2 minutes and set aside while you combine the yeast with the warm water. Let both the milk and yeast sit for 3 minutes. Yeast will become bubbly.

Meanwhile, combine the butter and sugar and cream together using a mixer until light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs and salt. Then add the yeast mixture and warm milk continuing to beat with the mixer.

Reduce mixer speed and add 3 cups of flour adding 1 cup at a time until a stiff dough forms. Continue to mix in the remaining cups of flour one cup at a time using a wooden spoon. Turn out dough to a floured surface and kneed for 5 minutes. Return to a clean bowl that has been sprayed with cooking spray and coat the dough with the cooking spray. Cover and leave in a warm place to rise for 1-2 hours. The dough will double in size.

For the syrup: Combine the syrup ingredients in a large sauce pan and heat over medium heat until the brown sugar has melted and the syrup is smooth. Do not allow to boil. Set aside once the desired consistency has been reached.

To assemble: Combine the brown sugar and cinnamon for the filling in a small dish. Coat the bottom of two large rectangle cake baking pans with cooking spray. Pour 5 tbsp. syrup on the bottom of each pan and sprinkle each with the pecan peices. Kneed the dough 2 or 3 times and divide into 4 peices. Keep each peice covered until used. Take one piece of dough and roll out into a 1/2 inch rectangle. Spread the top with butter and sprinkle with the cinnamon/sugar filling mixture. Pour 5 tbsp. of syrup covering the top of the dough. Roll up jelly roll style and slice into 4 inch segments. Place each of the rolls in the baking pan leaving at least one inch in between each roll. Repeat with remaining dough. Cover the rolls and let rise for another hour.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and bake for 18 minutes or until golden brown. Remove from the oven and let stand for 5 minutes then peel them out of the pan and eat them standing right over the oven with a mug of fresh brewed coffee (or milk for the kids).

This will make tons so you can share with friends and neighbors if you like, or save them all for yourself! They are sure to put a smile on your face.

Mental Health Benefit: Okay, so these aren't exactly low fat, calorie concious, or low sugar. But, you know what? They are absolutley delicious and worth every calorie rich decadent bite. Every once and a while it's okay to dive off the deep end and into the rich deep tapestry that our history is filled with. And when you need to take a nap; go ahead and do it. My grandpa and his brother graciously demonstrated the 'art of napping' in this photo.

Hoping you rich and gooey memories from my grandpa's kitchen to yours!

~ "Too Lovely" Hot Messes in the Kitchen

Monday, March 22, 2010

Middle East in the Mid-West

I am back visiting my family in Illinois, as you all already know. The most important thing about these visits is to get to spend as important thing about this is that I don't get to see all of my fabulous friends and family as much anymore living 2,000 miles away. I love to cook and create meals for those that I care most about. To me, cooking for people means sharing love, nurishment, and life. However, I also don't want to become a slave in the kitchen which could lead to ugliness and resentment. We wouldn't want that now, would we?

 I wanted to create a great menu that my friends and family would love without spending all night in the kitchen. My new best friend that I employed to help me is the crock pot. The recipes that I have included in this blog are easy to prepare ahead of time so that you can spend the quality time with your friends and family. I got to sit and drink local Shelbyville wine with my fabulous aunts, cousins, and friends at the table instead of slaving in the kitchen. And I still got to serve them a meal that was packed with love, tenderness, and nutrients. I created a Coconut Curry Shrimp with Jazzy Jasmine Rice, and Wilted Spinach. To start I make a Creamy Hummus and served it with crackers and fresh veggies to dip. Dessert was even easier when I combined store bought cheesecake with homemade ganache for a Tuxedo Cheesecake that was easy and delicious! Please enjoy and make room for yourself at the table, you will get to sit with everyone and catch up knowing that everything in the kitchen will be delicious and turn out perfect, just like you!

Coconut Curry Seafood

2 cans coconut milk (13.5 oz)
2 1/2 cups low fat milk
2 cups green onions; chopped
1 can water chestnut (8 oz)
2 cans sliced bamboo shoots (8oz)
8 cloves of garlic; minced
1 cup water
2 tbsp. fish sauce
4 tbsp. red curry powder
1 1/2 tsp. sesame oil
1 tbsp. red cayanne pepper
Juice of two lemons
1 tsp. sea salt
1 tsp. pepper
3 tbsp. fresh parlsey
1 can sweet corn
6 cups uncooked shrimp

Place all ingredients in a slow cooker except the shrimp. Allow to cook on low for 1-2 hours. In the last 15 minutes of cooking add the shrimp and stir the shrimp in and allow to cook for 15-20 minutes or until shrimp has turned pink. Serve immediately over Jasmine rice with fresh chopped cilantro tossed over the top.

Jasmine Rice

6 cups milk
1 tsp. sea salt
3 tbsp. fresh cilantro; chopped
3 tbsp. fresh parsely; chopped
Juice of half a lemon
4 cups jasmine rice

Combine all ingredients in a large pot. Bring to a boil and simmer for 15-20 minutes. Rice will be sticky and deliciously rich.

Wilted Spinach

8 cups fresh spinach
3 cloves garlic; minced
1 tbsp. olive oil
1 tsp. sea salt
1 tsp. pepper

Combine all ingredients in a large skillet over low heat and cover and cook for 10-15 minutes until spinach is wilted. The spinach will shrink substantially.

Creamy Hummus
2 cans chick peas
1/2 cup sour cream
1 tbsp. curry powder
1 tsp. sesame oil
1 tsp. cumin
1 tbsp. curry powder
1/4 cup olive oil
Juice of one lemon
Junice of half a lime

Mix all ingredients in a food processor or mixer and process until smooth. There can be some chunks for texture.

Serve with celery, carrots, and home made tortilla chips. Recipe below.

Tuxedo Cheesecake

Store bought cheesecake (that's what we used, you can't make everything from scratch)
Ganache (see recipe in previous blog)
Whip cream

Slice a thin layer of cheesecake. Top with one ice cream scoop of ganache. Top with whip cream for a delicious and easy desert that will knock everyone's socks off and they will think that you were in the kitchen all day creating it. Let it be your secret if you want!

Mental Health Benefit: I did as much of the prep as I possibly could before everyone arrived. That meant that I wasn't rushing around when they got there. It also meant that when everyone did come, hopefully they immediately felt relaxed and at peace like I wanted them to feel. I wanted to create an atmosphere where not only was I relaxed and happy, but they could be too! I hope it worked!

Smiles, From our kitchen to yours!

~ "Too Lovely" Hot Messes in the Kitchen

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Hanging with Friends


I arrived safely in Chicago not too worse for ware after the 33 hour train ride. The first night in Chicago wouldn't have been complete without a trip to Bob Chinn's Crab House. It is literally the best seafood in America. I am a huge fan of steamed crab legs drenched in butter and there isn't a better place to get it then Bob Chinn's. If you are ever in Wheeling, IL it is worth your while to make a visit. The garlic bread is dripping with olive oil and garlic (deliciously sinful) and the crab, fish, shrimp, and all the fresh seafood is flown in from the coast daily. It is the ultimate treat for seafood lovers.

After a meal at Chinn's, there is only one option, go to bed. My mom, her best friend, Janet, and I all headed home and immediately curled into bed. The next day we were starting our road trip. We head to my old stomping grounds Bloomington, IL. That is where I moved from and where some of my best friends are. We arrived in time for lunch at my favorite resturant Rosie's Pub. They have the most delicious flat bread, sandwiches, quesadillas, and my ultimate favorite Cobb Salad ever! Another great spot to stop if you are in the area. They do a great dinner menu and have an excellent chef!

I stay over with my best friend and fellow foodie, Mike. After lunch we take off to a new fancy grocery store and get lost wandering up and down the aisles in awe for about an hour before we decide on our menu for the night. We decide to cook Flank Steak Pinwheels, Roasted Root Vegetables, and serve it alongside a green salad and store bought bread (you can't always bake everything from scratch). Then Mike finished it off with something that I will just call Chocolate from Heaven. It is chocolate, with chocolate, laced in chocolate topped with fresh whipped cream. For a chocolate lover this is a dream come true. Consider me delighted!

My friends came, we had dinner and got to catch up. And by catching up, I mean they spend most of the night making fun of me, poking fun of me, and then laughing at me. What can I say they're my closest friends and I have to keep them that way because they know WAY too much about me. I think we all have friends like that. The friends who hold a mirror up and make sure that you never forget where you come from. Those are the friends that I will always cherish.

Flank Steak Pinwheels

Flank steak
Bunch asparagus spears
Smoked gouda cheese slices

Steak Rub

Dry ingredients

4 tbsp. Onion powder
4 tbsp. Garlic powder
4 tbsp. Paprika – Spanish
1 tsp. Salt
1 tsp. Pepper
1 tbsp. Sugar

Liquid

¼ cup Olive oil
1 tbsp. Lime juice
¼ cup Rice wine vinegar

Mix all dry ingredients together to create a dry rub and rub over the flank steak. Reserve any remaining dry rub for next time. Place steak in a zip lock bag. Add the liquid ingredients and seal. Marinade the steak for 6 hours or overnight. We used a vaccum sealer machine to lock in the marinade and only had to marinade for 4 hours.

To assemble, remove the steak from the zip lock back and pound the steak until abouit 1/2 thin using a wooden or metal mallet.
On one side of the steak, place 3 slices of smoked gouda cheese and 4 asparagus spears. Roll up the steak around the cheese and asparagus and secure with large wooden skewers. Place on a hot grill set at high and seer each side with grill marks.  Leave one side of the grill on high and move meat to other side of the grill and let it roast for 20 minutes to cook center. Let sit for 10 minutes and then slice making beautiful pinwheels! It is beautiful and delicious.

Roasted Root Vegetables

3 red skinned potatoes; chopped with skins on
4 carrots; peeled and chopped
2 rutabagas; peeled and chopped
2 sweet potatoes; peeled and chopped
5 clove garlic; minced
2 tbsp. olive oil
2 tbsp. onion powder
2 tbsp. dried mustard
1 tbsp. salt
1 tbsp. pepper
1/2 cup parmesean cheese

Mix all ingredients in a large roasting pan leaving off the parmesean cheese. Place in a 400 degree oven for 1 hour. Sprinkle the parmesean cheese over the potatoes and vegetables and cook for an additional 5 minutes until cheese is melted. Serve immediately!

Chocolate from Heaven

1 stick butter
2 cups flour
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup cpocoa Powder
2 tbsp. vanilla
2 tbsp. grey salt
1 cup chocolate chips (semi-sweet)
1 tbsp. butter


Mix 1 stick of butter, flour, sugar, and cocoa together to make a cookie batter. Add the vanilla and grey salt to add a little extra bite. Melt the chocolate chips and tablespoon of butter in a double boiler whisking constantly until smooth. You can also use the microwave heating in 1 minute intervals stiring in between until smooth. Mix the melted chocolate into the batter. Smooth on a greased cookie sheet and bake for 20 minutes in a 350 degree oven.

2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 tbsp. butter
2 cups of heavy whipping cream

To make the ganache pudding. Boil the butter and cream together in a sauce pan over medium heat only until it begins to bubble. Once it starts bubbling, remove from the heat. Pour the hot cream and butter into a bowl with the chocolate chips and mix together until the chocolate is melted and consistency is smooth like butta.

Pour the ganache into serving dishes and refrigerate for at least an hour to allow it to set up.

To serve, pull the ganache from the fridge, break cookie into little pieces and crumble over the ganache. Top with fresh whipped cream (or store bought if you feel like it). To make the fresh whipped cream, chill 2 cups whipping cream in a metal bowl, add 1/4 cup sugar (or splenda) and 1 tbsp. vanilla. Whip vigorously with a mixer until enough air incorporates to make it fluffy.

If this dessert doesn't curl your toes, I don't know what will. Serve with the fresh whip on top and enjoy!


Mental Health Benefit: Sitting with old friends, laughing, and sharing memories is one of the best things that I can do for my mental health. My friends also help keep me grounded by reminding me of all the mistakes I have made, all my mis-steps, and stupid things I have done along the way. My mother taught me was that when you don't know what to say 'Oooops' is the perfect anecdote! No one is perfect and true friends are the ones who speak the truth no matter how hilariously stupid it is. At least we can all laugh about it!

Wishing you laughter and fun with your friends tonight!

~ Your Hot Mess on the Road!

Saturday, March 20, 2010

I'm on a Train...

Thirty three hours on a train. I would love to share with all you foodies out there exactly how good (or disgusting) the train food was. Tell you fabulous tales about the amazing people I met, but I have to be honest. I decided when I got on the train and found my perfect seat with my plug in for my lap top right in front of me, that this train ride was “just for me”. This month long road trip I am on is going to come with enough adventures, I decided and I wanted time just for me.


This has been a long and winding year for me. I have met amazing new friends, started new business adventures (or working on it) and I decided I deserved a small moment all to myself to relax and do exactly what I wanted to do. So, I did without remorse. I wrote some of my book, which is crazily close to having a first draft which almost seems impossible to me. I read the entire Julie and Julia; My Year of Cooking Dangerously. I have been wanting to do this for some time and shit. It was hilarious. If you haven’t read it, call me and I will let you borrow my copy. She literally says everything. And I mean EVERYTHING that I think on a daily basis. Things like, “What the hell am I doing?” and “Who cares what I am doing?” and “Am I crazy for doing this?” She says it all and I love the honesty because those quiet moments when it is just my mom and I are great, but sometimes my inner critic makes an uninvited appearance. We whole heartedly want to bring families closer together through cooking and sharing meals around a table. I am PASSIONATE about this. But does anyone else really care? Maybe the better question is; should it matter? If it matters to me and makes me happy, isn’t that all that matters? Who knows, sometimes it is, but sometimes doubt creeps in and it’s an ugly ex-boyfriend; let me tell you. Doubt is something I have been trying to divorce for some time now.

For you foodies, I will share with you what I did pack for this 33-hour train ride. Check it out and if you want, follow the road trip. I have no idea what’s going to happen. All I know is at some point in April I will be back in Montana. That’s all I know.

Here’s what I brought on my train ride:

2 apples; sliced
Lots of celery; sliced into sticks
String cheese sticks; I ate shredded not bitten into (biting them just feels wrong)
Atkins protein bars (after all have to watch the girlish figure, or something like that)
Zip lock bag filled with mixed nuts
Turkey and cheddar sandwich on whole wheat
1 water bottle (filled with white wine naturally; my grandpa always said water is for sissies)
2 airplane bottle of rum (just in case of emergency)

So that is what I did. I wrote, sipped white wine out of a water bottle, snacked, and read. I said hi to a few people even told a few I was on a road trip and a writer. Otherwise, I let myself have this moment for me.

Cheers and stay tuned. You might see some scenery you like. I saw bald eagles throughout the entire trip.

Mental Health Benefit: Take the time to relax when you want. Follow your instincts when you feel the need to be quiet. I really wanted and deserved a moment to myself not doing anything other than what I wanted, so I took it. I hope you do to.

Cheers,

Your Hot Mess on a Train

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Two Hot Messes on the Open Road!

Well, I just dropped mom off at the airport. She is headed to Chicago and I am joining her via train. Yes, not my smartest decision, it will be 31 hours on the rails starting tomorrow morning at an ungodly hour. Mom and I are heading out on a whirlwind road trip of America and are planning to spend a little time in Chicago, road trip with my mom's best friend to Atlanta to get my dad. Once we break dad out we will spend time in Florida with family, meet a dear friend on mine in New Orleans and drive our way back from New Orleans to Northwest Montana.

Leaving and packing for a month is a daunting task and I had done a great job staying in the moment until Monday morning when I watched my boyfriend drive off, not to see him again for a month. I finally was left to face the reality of packing. Today, with only a few hours left, I am almost packed and mom is safely tucked into her small airplane seat with her 3 pretzels they provide. We didn't get here without some turbulence though. Mom and I scurried around the house cussing under our breaths, me near tears at times, and I had to tell my mom to stop acting like a Hot Mess repeatedly (she did the same for me). This morning was the final straw. While making breakfast, my mom poured vinagar into our skillet instead of olive oil three times in a row. Okay, so we are both a Hot Mess, but at least we can admit it.

Our saving grace is that we have a friend who has agreed to live in our house and take care of our one kitty circus. To thank him and give him the ins and outs, we had him over for dinner last night and made comforting soul food. It was exactly what us two Hot Messes needed. We made Spicy Red Beans N Sausage and instead of rice, served it over Fried Polenta Cakes. We also served Asparagus Cigars with Horseradish Dipping Sauce. All of it was easy to prepare, soothing to my frazzled Hot Mess self, and delicious as a 'last supper'.

Deciding to get on a train at a God-awful hour tomorrow morning isn't my best decision, but I am going to get to visit with old friends, see countryside that I haven't seen. Sure I am going to miss my sweetheart, but we finally get my mom's sweetheart back. This is sure to be an adventure and I am inviting all of you to join mom and I. We will be blogging as much as possible and sharing recipes that we cook, resturants that we stop at along the way, and other foodie tips and fun facts. Please join us. It should be a circus. My mom hasn't seen my dad in 3 months and the three of us on a road trip is sure to have its exciting adventures complete with lots of Hot Mess. We aren't sure exactly where all we will be stopping, but it is sure to be an adventure. One that we want to share with all of you. Stay tuned, we don't want you to miss a thing!

I'll report on my 31 hour train ride. It is sure to be complete with interesting events and people. Cross your fingers for me! Yeah, there is nothing like an Irish gal from Montana spending St. Patricks day overnight on a train! Here goes nothing!

Asparagus Cigars
12 fresh asparagus spears
1/2 parmesean cheese
12 slices fresh roast beef
Olive oil spray
Phyllo dough
salt and pepper to taste

Spread phyllo dough on a flat surface. Using one sheet of phyllo dough at a time, spray the phyllo sheet with olive oil. Lay a slice of roast beef on one edge of the phyllo and sprinkle with parmesean cheese. Place the asparagus spear in the middle of the roast beef slice and roll the phyllo up around the asparagus making a tight 'cigar'. Place the phyllo 'cigar' on a baking sheet and repeat with the remaining asparagus spears.

Once they have all been assemble and placed on the baking sheet, spray the 'cigars' with olive oil spray and sprinkle with any remaining parmesean cheese and salt and pepper. Bake in a 300 degree oven for 30 minutes. Slice in half after baking and serve with Horsheradish Dipping sauce (see recipe below).

Horseradish Dipping Sauce

1/2 cup low fat sour cream
2 tbsp. ground fresh horseradish
1 tbsp. spicy mustard
2 tbsp. minced garlic
Juice of half a lemon
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. pepper
1 tbsp. onion powder

Mix all ingredients listed above in a bowl using a spoon. Serve with the Asparagus cigars and enjoy!

Red Beans N' Rice

1 white onion; chopped
1/2 cup deli ham; diced
1 package andouille sausage (16 oz)
7 cloves garlic; minced
1 bag dried red beans (16 oz); rinsed
24 oz. low sodium chicken broth
1 cup prepared salsa
1 can crushed tomatoes (28 oz)
1/2 tsp. cayanne pepper
1 tsp. cumin
1 tsp. chili powder
1 cup water
2 tsp. black pepper

Add all of the ingredients above to a crockpot and cook on low for 6-8 hours or on high for 3-4 hours. We fried up polenta and served over polenta. However, you can can also use traditional white rice as well. We loved the polenta cakes with it though!

Fried Polenta Cakes

1 tube store bought polenta
olive oil

Thinly slice the polenta into 1/4 inch rounds. Heat a skillet with olive oil and saute the polenta for 3 minutes on each side or until golden brown. Serve immediately with Red Beans N Sausage over it for a delicious twist on a cajun favorite.

Mental Health Benefit: This is one of those times when I need to be patient and calm with myself. I am more than a little overwhelmed at the idea of being gone for a month, but at the same time it is important to step outside my comfort zone and do crazy things. This meal was so easy to prepare and was just spicy enough to bring me back to life. It was a meal I ate slowly and deliberately and afterwards, I felt a little less "hot mess" and a little more sane. Here's hoping that this meal will deliver all the mental medicine you need too!

Follow along with us as we travel to everyone else's kitchen, resturants, and gas stations. We will share all of our chaos with you! Next blog will be coming from a city near you!

~ "Too Lovely" Hot Messes on a road trip!

Monday, March 15, 2010

Let Me Help...

I spent the other weekend visiting friends at their ski lodge. I had just met all of these people, but had volunteered to help in the kitchen with dinner. They were grateful and accepted my help. I felt good helping and contributing feeling like I was earning my keep and dinner went off without a hitch.

Later that weekend, Scott and I threw our own dinner party at his house. He wanted to make meatloaf and I was home all day and getting stir crazy and I was planning to start the meatloaf without him. However, I could tell he wanted to help. I remembered how good it felt to help my new friends, so I stepped out of the kitchen, sat outside in the sunshine and waited. When he got home, we had fun measuring and creating the meal together. We made Hot Mess Meatloaf, Smooshed Potatoes with Mushroom Gravy, and I got him out of his comfort zone with Confetti Green Bean Casserole.

Our friends came to dinner and we all ate and had a great time. After dinner one of our friends offered to help clean up. I let her, knowing that she would feel as good helping as I would feel recieving the help. That is a lesson that I learned this year. To let other's help me. Just as much as I like helping people, others get reward from me accepting their help. It is a two way street. I encourage you to accept the assistance that is offered or ask if it isn't. I ask for help more, give help more, and accept help more than before and my life is easier.

It really does take a village to do ANYTHING. Let me help you with dinner tonight by sharing these delicious recipes that are easy and your family is sure to love them. The great thing about meatloaf is that usually everyone has everything they need already in the house to make it. All you need is some ground meat and lots of seasonings. The key to great meatloaf is to keep it light. To do that I have used dried potato flakes as a filler instead of all of the bread crumbs. The potato flakes keep the meat juicy and tender. Ground turkey meat can also be used as a healthy alternative to red meat. This is also a really fun meal to make with kids. Just put everything into one large bowl teaching them the names of all of the spices and roll up their sleeves and let them use their hands to mix the meat loaf. Believe it or not, they might be delighted to help!

Enjoy these simple and down home recipes and meet me here next time for more good ideas for you and your family.

Hot Mess Meatloaf

4 lb. ground beef (we used ground venizon)
1 lb. sausage
1/2 cup bread crumbs
4 eggs
1 tbsp. seasoning salt
2 tbsp. parmesean cheese
1/2 cup A1 sauce
1/4 cup ketchup
2 tbsp. garlic; minced
3 tsp. worchestershire
1 tsp. tobasco sauce
1/4 cup parlsey
1 cup white onion; diced
1 tbsp. steak seasoning
2 tsp. pepper
1 tsp. red pepper
1 tbsp. chili powder
1/2 cup dried mashed potatoe flakes

Mix all ingredients above in a large bowl using your (clean) hands.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and separate the meatloaf into 3 loaf pans. Bake for 70 minutes.

Smooshed Potatoes

8 cups red potatoes; diced with skins left on
1/2 cup low fat sour cream
1/2 reduced fat milk
1/2 cup cheddar cheese; shredded
1/4 cup chives; chopped
salt and pepper to taste

Add potatoes to a large cooking pot and cover completely with water. Add a dash of salt and bring the potatoes to a boil. Allow to boil uncovered for 25 minutes or until a fork can easily pierce the potatoe peices.

Drain the water off the potatoes and add the remaining ingredients and combine using a potato masher. Serve immediately.

Mushroom Gravy

2 cups mushrooms; chopped
2 tbsp. garlic; minced
2 tbsp. butter
1/4 cup white wine
2 tbsp. reduced sodium soy sauce
2 packets brown gravy mix
1 1/2 cups reduced fat milk

Add butter, garlic, mushrooms, and white wine to a medium pan. Cook for 15 minutes or until mushrooms have reduced in size and white wine has reduced by half. Then add the soy sauce, gravy mix, and milk. Whisk the ingredients together and cook for another 15 minutes or until the gravy has thickened. You may also add a little extra flour one tsp. at a time to reach the desired thickness. Serve over the meatloaf and the smooshed potatoes!

Confetti Green Bean Casserole

3 cans greenbeans (14.5 oz)
1/2 white onion; diced
2 cans cream of mushroom soup (14.5 oz)
1 can creamed corn (14.5 oz)
1 tbsp. pepper
1 tbsp. garlic
1/2 cup reduced fat milk
2/3 cup dried onion

Combine all ingredients in a baking pan mixing completely. Preheat oven to 350 degrees and bake for 30 minutes. This is easy and is terrific served alongside the potatoes, meatloaf, and gravy.

Mental Health Benefit: These recipes are simple down-home classics. They are classics because of how good they taste and how easy they are to prepare. With winter wearing on all of us, call your family and friends into the kitchen to help you. These delicious recipes and the help of you loved ones are sure to lift you through the end of these cold winter days.

Wishing you a little help from our kitchen to yours!

~ "Too Lovely" Hot Messes in the kitchen