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Sunday, March 12, 2017

Bento Box Week

I am not an organized person.  It's just not one of my personality traits.  Thankfully, people know this about me and love me anyway. Ha!  Lately I've had a surge of motivation to get organized.  Maybe it has something to do with the time of year.  Maybe I was bitten by the Spring Cleaning Bug.  Whatever the reason, I've made some small steps toward getting my home more organized and it feels great already!

The first thing I did was watch some Youtube videos on organization.  There are some great ones available!  The most inspiring chick I watched was Alejandra TV (  She showed how she folds her t-shirts and jeans so they take up the least possible amount of space in your drawers.  She also had great ideas for jewelry, socks and underwear, shoes and accessories.

Feeling inspired and ready to improve my home environment, I headed to Ross, T.J. Maxx and Tuesday Morning to pick up a few decorative/utilitarian baskets and bins.  Here are a few photos of my hard work in my drawers, bathroom and closet...

I must say, it feels good to be organized!...but you're probably thinking, "when are you going to talk about food?"  Well, that is what I would rather talk about any day!

All the putting things in things inspired a very compartmentalized food idea...Bento Box meals!  5 days of them to be exact.  Information about bento boxes from Wikipedia is as follows:  "...a single-portion takeout or home-packed meal common in Japanese cuisine. A traditional bento holds rice, fish or meat, with pickled or cooked vegetables, usually in a box-shaped container. Containers range from disposable mass produced to hand crafted lacquerware. Bentos are readily available in many places throughout Japan, including convenience stores, bento shops (弁当屋bentō-ya?), railway stations, and department stores. However, Japanese homemakers often spend time and energy on a carefully prepared lunch box for their spouse, child, or themselves."
 Here are my bento box ideas for your viewing pleasure and inspiration:

5 Days of Bento Box

Day 1-Lunch Bento
This one was quick and simple!  I simply threw in a pre bagged salad, turkey and cheese rollups, some veggies and fruit.  This would be perfect to take to work for a quick and nutritious lunch break selection.

Day 2-After School Snack Bento
Large Pepperonis, Fresh Mozzarella Cheese Slices, Basil Leaves, Bananas, Nectarines, Celery and Carrots.

Day 3-Asian Flavors Bento
Asian Beef with Lime Ginger Rice, Roasted Brussels Sprouts and Beets and Sauteed Bok Choy.  The recipe for the Beef is below.

Day 4-Mediterranean Flavors Bento
Grilled Chicken and Garlic Pine Nut Couscous with Feta and Fresh Basil, Sauteed Swiss Chard with Walnuts and Roasted Sweet Potatoes.

Day 5-Movie Bento Box
This one was inspired by Gilmore Girls.  If you're a fan of the show, you know that Lorelai and Rory are always watching movies and eating junk food.  My daughter put this one together.  She is a very organized and particular child, so she was totally on board with the bento meals!

Asian Beef with Lime Ginger Rice

Beef Recipe:
2 1b. Ground Beef
2 Garlic Cloves (minced)
1 1/2 tsp Ground Ginger
2/3 cup Hoisin Sauce
2 Tbsp Soy Sauce
1/4 cup Rice Vinegar
3 tsp Sesame Oil
1/2 cup chopped Green Onions
Sesame Seeds for garnish
Cook the ground beef and garlic until meat is thoroughly browned over medium heat.  Drain the excess grease.  Turn the heat to low and add all other ingredients.  To serve, spread mixture over the Lime Ginger Rice and garnish with sesame seeds and green onions.

Rice Recipe:
2 cups cooked White Rice
2 tsp Ground Ginger
the juice of 1 Lime
1 Tsbp Butter
Mix all ingredients together and serve with the Asian Beef.

So this is what I learned from my week of Bento Box research and practice.  The possibilities are really endless. You could make any theme and mix of foods.  This is a way to make eating healthy more fun.  If you make the choices aesthetically pleasing, you and your family are more likely to eat the nutritious stuff.  If you love this idea and want your own set of bento boxes, I've attached the link to the ones I bought, below.  As always, I hope I've inspired you to try something new in the kitchen. Also, I love feedback!  So if you have your own ideas or inspirations for bento box meals, let me know!  Until next time, love to all!  -1cookingchick

Saturday, March 4, 2017

The Best Cheesecake Recipe

All of my family members LOVE cheesecake!  Actually, who doesn't?  This indulgent treat can be intimidating to attempt.  I have the solution for that, courtesy of Giada de Laurentiis.  Her blend of marscarpone cheese, lemon and vanilla flavors paired with an almond graham cracker crust, is a winner every time.  

As always, I like to get a little creative and tweak the recipe just a bit.  Giada doesn't call for it, but I add one or two teaspoons of lemon zest into the cheesecake batter.  It just adds a little something to the overall flavor.  Also, this time, instead of vanilla extract, I used this vanilla bean paste.
It really added something special as well.  There were little bits of vanilla bean visible in the cheesecake.  It just felt fancy, you know?  I think we found this at T..J. Maxx, but I'm sure it's on Amazon or at Fresh Market too.

You'll see in Giada's recipe, that she does this amazing Nutella topping.  I love it.  But this time, I wanted to try something different.  I had a sudden inspiration to blend cherries with balsamic vinegar.  Sounds weird, right?  It was tasty!  Here's how I did it...

Balsamic Cherry Reduction

1 cup Frozen Cherries
1/4 cup Water
1/4 cup Sugar
1 teaspoon Balsamic Vinegar
1 Tablespoon Cornstarch
1.  Mix all ingredients in a small saucepan over medium-high heat.
2.  Stir frequently as the mixture comes to a boil.
3.  Turn down the heat and simmer for about 15-20 minutes.
4.  (Optional) Use your whisk to slightly chop the cherries.
5.  Pour into a gravy boat or small bowl and allow to cool before drizzling over the cheesecake.

...and here is my masterpiece!...Mascarpone Cheesecake with Balsamic Cherry Reduction

Something else I would highly recommend is a little cheesecake-making party!  Strap your babies on, give your older kids some Legos and get busy.  I hope I've inspired you to try this wonderful recipe.  So grab a friend and your springform pan and get ready to impress your people!

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Bruschetta Bar

Hello foodie friends!  Today I want to give you an idea for what to serve when you're having several creative people over.  It's so easy to do a beautiful Bruschetta Bar and you can make it as light or as hearty as you want.  You can offer a variety of cheese, meats, fruits, vegetables and fresh herbs.  Your guests can decide which flavor blends they would like to pile on top of their baguette slice.

The inspiration for this came from the Bruschetta Special that is always on the menu at a local restaurant here in Tupelo--Forklift.  I caught up with the owner, David Leathers, to ask him about it.  He said a lot of people think that bruschetta can only be the tomato and fresh basil topping for baguette, that we're all familiar with.  He said customers have actually argued with him over it. Ha!  But by definition, it is an Italian antipasto, or starter dish, consisting of grilled bread rubbed with garlic and olive oil and topped with any manner or combination of vegetables, cheeses, cured meats or beans.  Leathers loves for his cooks to get creative with the Bruschetta Special at Forklift.  I decided I wanted my guests to do the same.

Here is the complete list of items that I included in my Bruschetta Bar:
1.  Toasted Baguette Slices
2.  Diced Tomatoes
3.  Fresh Dill
4.  Diced Blood Oranges
5.  Goat Cheese
6.  Olive Tapenade
7.  Feta Cheese
8.  Artichoke Pesto
9. Peruvian Peppers (from another local restaurant -- Neon Pig)
10.  Sharp White Cheddar Cheese
11.  Meyer Lemon Olive Oil
12.  Balsamic Reduction

When you're slicing the baguette, do it at an angle, with a serrated knife so there is more surface area for piling the yumminess on top!

I found this at the grocery store near the vinegars and oils.  It's basically balsamic vinegar and sugar boiled down to a slightly thick consistency.  It was delish with almost every flavor combination!

Here are some of the Bruschetta creations we made!  Clockwise from top left:  Goat Cheese, Dill and Peruvian Peppers...Pepperoni, Artichoke Pesto and Balsamic Reduction...Goat Cheese and Balsamic Reduction...Feta Cheese, Blood Orange, Dill and Meyer Lemon Olive Oil.

The occasion was the first official meeting of the Tupelo Bloggers Club.  We're starting out small, but we have lots of exciting ideas and are calling all local bloggers/instagrammers who want to be part of a super fun and creative group.  We plan to attend/cover local events and happenings and just basically be a collective voice of the Tupelo scene!

I hope I've inspired you to create your own Bruschetta Bar.  It is a fun and easy meal idea...for a party or just for your family.  Got kids around?  You can easily incorporate kid-friendly toppings for the little people.  As always friends, get in the kitchen and get creative.  Above all, have fun and love people!

Friday, February 10, 2017

Sausage Rotel Casserole

Dressing up...this should be a fun and exciting childhood experience.  Not so much for my kiddos.  They've been studying Fairy Tales in school lately and this week held a couple of dressup opportunities.  Since I made my daughter wear a fancy princess dress to her Fairy Tale Ball, she said I ruined her whole day.  My son came home with a list of specific Fairy Tale characters he could choose from to dress up as...but he insisted that he had to be a super hero. Sigh.  

I was thankful for a simple recipe to throw into the oven while my kids were throwing fits about dressing up. Ha!  This Sausage Casserole is probably not the healthiest recipe, but it is hearty and filling...and most of my family members loved it!  It's great for a busy weeknight when you may or may not have some cranky family members to please.

Sausage Rotel Casserole

1 lb. ground Sausage
4 sticks Celery (chopped)
1/2 Onion (chopped)
1 can Cream of Chicken Soup
2 cups Cooked White Rice
1 can Rotel Tomatoes (drained)
2 cups shredded Cheddar Cheese
1.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2.  Cook the Sausage, Celery and Onion over medium heat until the meat is browned.
3.  In a large bowl, mix the meat mixture with the next three ingredients and 1 cup of Cheese.
4.  Pour mixture into a greased baking dish and sprinkle the remaining cup of Cheese over the top.
5.  Bake for about 30 minutes, or until the top is bubbly and browned a bit.

I finally talked him into dressing as a bear from Goldilocks and the Three Bears!  I don't think he made it off the bus with the ears.  Oh well.  Fairy Tale week is just not for us. Ha!

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Italian Stuffed Spaghetti Squash

It's always fun to get creative with a vegetable.  It's also a good way to make a healthier meal more exciting.  Today, I'm dressing up a spaghetti squash, Italian style.

Italian Stuffed Spaghetti Squash

1 Spaghetti Squash
2 Tbsp Olive Oil
1/2 lb Mild Italian Sausage
1 large clove Garlic (minced)
1 Red Bell Pepper (chopped)
1 cup frozen Kale (thawed and patted dry)
1 (15 oz) can Tomato Sauce
2 tsp Dried Oregano
1 cup Parmesan Cheese
1 cup Mozzarella Cheese
1.  Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
2.  Cut the Spaghetti Squash in half and clean out the seeds.  Drizzle with Olive Oil and place face down on a cookie sheet.  Roast in the oven for about 30 minutes.
3.  Cook the Italian Sausage, Garlic and Bell Pepper in a large pan over medium heat until the meat is completely browned.  Drain the excess oil with a strainer and return to the pan.
4.  Scrape the Spaghetti Squash noodles out of each half of the squash and add to the pan with the meat mixture.  Also add the Kale, Tomato Sauce and Oregano.  Cook for about 5 more minutes, stirring to combine all ingredients.
5.  Pour the meat mixture into the two halves of the Spaghetti Squash.  Cover with the cheeses.
6.  Return to the oven on the cookie sheet and bake for about 15 minutes.  Change the oven setting to Broil at the end and keeping a close watch, let the cheese become browned and bubbly.
7.  Serve immediately.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Copycat Kung Bo Chicken

I get really inspired when I find a tiny, whole-in-the-wall, hidden gem of a restaurant that serves up unique and amazing dishes.  One such place is Verti Marte in New Orleans.  If you haven't discovered it, look it up pronto!  And if you go, get the All That Jazz Po'Boy!

Today I'm talking about Chinese food in Tupelo, MS.   There is a place on Cliff Gookin Blvd. called Hong Kong.  Nothing about it stands out from the road and we almost didn't notice it.  I'm so glad we did and decided to try it.

It is my plan to systematically try every dish on the menu.  However, there is one dish that I've already eaten multiple times and is so far, my favorite.  It is called Kung Bo Chicken.  It is a beautiful blend of chicken, vegetables, peanuts and spicy sauce.  I was inspired to attempt my own version of it at home.  The attempt was a success and I want to share it with you!

Copycat Kung Bo Chicken

1/4 cup Soy Sauce
1/4 cup Brown Sugar
2 Tbsp Cornstarch
1 Tbsp Sriracha
1/4 Rice Vinegar
2 Tbsp Vegetable Oil
1 Zucchini
2 Carrots
2 Celery Sticks
1 Red Bell Pepper
1/2 Yellow Onion
2 Cloves Garlic (minced)
1/2 cup Peanuts
2 Chicken Breasts (diced)
1.  Whisk the first 5 ingredients in a medium bowl and chop all veggies.
2.  Heat the oil in a large pan or wok over medium-high heat.
3.  Add the vegetables and garlic and cook, stirring frequently, until starting to brown (7-10 minutes). Remove from pan and set aside.
4.  Add a bit more oil to the pan if needed, and add the chicken.  Pour about 2 Tbsp of the sauce over the chicken and cook, stirring frequently, until the chicken is done.
5.  Pour the vegetable mix, along with the peanuts,  back into the pan with the chicken.
6.  Add the rest of the sauce to the pan and cook for 5-7 minutes more, or just until the sauce thickens.
5.  Serve immediately over regular or fried rice.
(My Fried Rice recipe is here:  Basic Fried Rice)

So who's not on the "Gilmore Girl/Parenthood/This is Us" bandwagon lately?  It seems these emotion-grabbing, high drama/some comedy shows are taking over the airwaves.  And I have to say, I'm on board!  After solemn dedication to watching 154 episodes of the Sherman-Palladino masterpiece that is Gilmore, I (and my husband) are now hooked on Parenthood.  After a while, you start to think they are real people in your life.  This is probably not a good thing. Ha!  But alas, let's all watch the fictional drama unfold together.

We all know that Lorelai and Rory can't get enough Chinese takeout.  So if you want to have a Gilmore inspired night with your friends, make my Kung Bo Chicken and talk super fast.  Also, make sure to use plenty of obscure pop culture references that not many people have heard of.  Haha!  And when you do this, invite me!

Monday, January 2, 2017

Moroccan Meat Pie

There is a certain flavor blend that really inspires me.  An amalgamation of savory, sweet and exotic just really puts a dish over the top.  I kind of made this recipe up, based loosely on something my mother-in-law made.  The first time I prepared it, I did dumplings.  They would be perfect party food....(Link to recipe here).  Tonight, I made it in pie-form as dinner for my family.  It was quick and easy and a taste-bud pleaser for adults and kids.

2 thawed pie crusts-thawed
a little over a lb. Ground Beef
1/2 Red Onion (chopped)
1 Clove Garlic (minced)
1 teaspoon Cumin
1 teaspoon Ground Ginger
1 teaspoon Ground Cinnamon
1 6 oz. can Tomato Paste
 6 oz. water
salt and pepper
1/2 cup Golden Raisins
1 Egg
1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
2.  While you are thawing the pie crusts, cook the beef (that is salt and peppered), onion and garlic until beef is browned.  Drain the grease off the meat and return to the pan.
3. Add the tomato paste, water, ginger, cumin and cinnamon.  Cook and stir until mixed well.
4.  Pour the meat mixture into a pie crust and cover with the second pie crust, smashing the edges together.
5.  Beat the egg in a bowl with a little water and brush the top crust with the egg wash.
6.  Bake until the crust is flaky and golden brown, 15-20 minutes.

I've been a little MIA from my blog lately.  There's a good reason for that and here she is:

We are over the moon about our sweet Phoebe!  She is a precious blessing.  I'm also ready to get back into cooking and blogging.  I'm always looking for inspiration and new recipes to try, in the hopes of inspiring you.  So tell your friends about 1cookingchick, because I'm back!