Friday, July 25, 2014

Summer's Best Chicken Marinade

Summer and grilling are almost one in the same!  It's hard to imagine going through this hot season of outdoor activity and long days without eating a grilled hamburger, chicken or pork chops.  Here's my first marinade recipe on the blog, and I know y'all will love this one!

That tantalizing picture of hot and juicy grilled chicken should tell you just how delicious this marinade recipe is.  Gah.... I think I'm going to make some of this chicken over the weekend, in fact!  I have already been asked by a couple of friends for this recipe after we cooked up this grilled chicken for them, so I knew I had to share it with you all!

My husband actually discover the recipe on the web and ever since we've dubbed it most definitely one of the best things to marinade chicken in.  If you're wondering, my quick go-to marinade that I really like is zesty Italian dressing, but if you have the ingredients this one is worth the extra mile.  This marinade is so full of savory and fresh flavors!! From the lemon juice to the Worchestershire sauce and the herbs, it all really infuses flavor all the way through the meat.  It's a strong enough marinade to soak only 30 minutes or you can leave it overnight (especially for large pieces of meat) and it will tenderize and flavor immensely!!  The key is keeping some of it (that hasn't been used to marinate the raw meat) to baste the chicken a couple of times while on the grill.  It keeps the meat moist and uber flavorful!  This recipe makes a large enough batch to marinade several chicken breast.  I think we used it once for about 8 large ones, and we still had some left over.

I hope this amazing grilled chicken marinade is something you will try this summer since we're still in the peak of grilling season!  It doesn't matter if it's chicken, pork chops or anything else you're grilling, I promise you'll be sharing this delicious recipe soon, too!


Summer's Best Chicken Marinade
Originally from: Food.com

1 c. Oil (We use extra virgin olive oil.)
1/2 c. Vinegar (We used apple cider vinegar)
2 Tbsp. Miracle Whip Light (or mayo)
3 Tbsp. Worchestershire sauce
2 Tbsp. Lemon juice
1 Tbsp. Salt (to taste)
1 Tbsp. pepper
2 Tbsp. Dried Thyme
1 Tbsp. Garlic Powder
Approx 1/3 c. Fresh flat leaf parsley, chopped (I added this for freshness and color.)

Mix all together in a medium bowl.  Reserve about 1/4 c. in a bowl and cover in the fridge.  

Put your meat in gallon bags and divide the marinade up between however many bags you have.  Close up air tight and smoosh it a little bit.  Place the marinating meat in the fridge for 30 minutes or up to 24 hours.

When about to put the meat on the grill, strain off the excess marinade like you would any other time you marinade chicken.  Once the chicken is cooking you can use the unused marinade you have setting aside in the fridge to baste the chicken regularly.  This part is essential.

Once cooked through, transfer meat to a plate or bowl and cover with aluminum foil to let the juices setting in.  Just before serving sprinkle extra parsley on top.
 Delicious!  

Props to Mr. Cozy for this beautiful grilled chicken!

I had to add this adorable Fourth of July snapshot at my parent's big family picnic!  Sweet memories made!



Thursday, July 24, 2014

The Best Bacon Ever! (Oven Fried Bacon)

I'm not sure if there is a better aroma to wake up to than the smell of cooking bacon.

Well, maybe coffee and bacon! 

What a classic breakfast food that takes me back to my childhood and the big country breakfasts we had.  It reminds me of Christmas morning or when it's almost too chilly in the room to get out of bed, the frost decorates the windows, and you come into a candle lit kitchen to spy what Mama has cooking.  It somehow tastes cozy.  

Savory and crisp, it's the perfect side for pancakes, French toast, biscuits and gravy, frittata, toast and eggs, fruit, or pretty much anything at all.  Can you tell I like it just a little bit?!!  :)

I don't eat it too often anymore, so when I do I want it perrrrfect! ...

Crispy with just a touch of chew.  
Dry, not soggy.  
Thin and crunchy, not sloppy- greasy.
Sometimes peppered.... YUM!!!

It can be difficult to cook bacon just right!  Frying it shrinks it to a third the size (and who can justify eating 8 slices??).  Also it tends to cook unevenly in a skillet.  It's naturally fatty making it greasy and wet, if not careful.  Not to mention it pops like firecrackers in a skillet!

Well thanks to my wonderful mom, the past several years we've found a genius great solution!

Oven frying the bacon!  

No spattering of grease.  No shrinking.  Even cooking.  No extra grease since it cooks on a rack for the fat to drip off.  In addition, no babysitting the bacon!  Let it cook itself in the oven while you cook everything else!

It's a life changing-- or at least breakfast changing--discovery and the only way we make it at home anymore.

Grab your first cup of coffee and get ready to make the best bacon ever!

Oven Fried Bacon

Bacon (Our favorite is Oscar Mayer Selects Smoked Uncured bacon.)
Fresh course ground black pepper
1 large sheet pan 
Wire rack to fit inside sheet pan


Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

Put the rack on the sheet pan.  Lay bacon strips on the rack right beside each other.
Crack fresh black pepper right into the bacon strips evenly.
Bake for 20 minutes or until deep colored and crisp. (Give or take a couple minutes depending on your oven.) 
Carefully take the pan out of the oven, because it will be full of hot grease on the bottom where the bacon has dropped.  Using a fork or spatula, remove the bacon from rack onto layered paper towels and gently wrap to blot off excess grease.

Enjoy with your favorite breakfast, burger or BLT.  Let me know what you think!



Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Comforting Baked Ravioli

I'll start off by saying it was difficult to narrow down the title for this post.
Shall it start with...

Amazing!
Elegant 
Easy
Fast
Delicious
Savory
Hearty
Family favorite

The list goes on but ultimately it's all of those things which make it comforting to me!

Let me intoduce you to your new favorite go-to meal!  This is truly Italian-esque comfort food in everyway possible way.  It's the perfect easy meal for a busy mom who needs a few trademark simple meals on hand everybody eats, yet it's tasty enough for company.  This baked ravioli tastes absolutely divine, looks made from scratch (but so isn't), only calls for a handful of ingredients, and is soooo easy to make!  It's a cross between simple ravioli with sauce and lasagna, which is delish but so time consuming.  

You could dress this recipe up as much as you like.  Maybe adding fresh chopped spinach, olives or fresh basil.  You could even add some ricotta cheese for an even creamier dish.  This is the outline to a very basic, easy, amazing recipe!  You really can't go wrong with here.  

I made it last when my family came in to stay with us, and it was a big hit.  Our children gobble it up every time!  We enjoy eating it with a fresh salad and hot garlic bread.  Your family will love me, errr, you for this delicious baked ravioli!


Baked Ravioli

1 pkg. frozen beef ravioli (or cheese) We like Kroger's brand.
1 jar of your favorite marinara sauce
2 cups shredded mozzarella 
Grated Parmesan cheese, optional
Italian seasoning
Salt 


Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Grease a 9x13 inch baking pan.  

Pour a little sauce in the bottom and spread out to evenly coat the pan.  Line up the frozen ravioli to make an even layer.  Next layer 1 c. mozzarella cheese.  Next about 1/2 of the remaining sauce.  Repeat layers ending with the mozz cheese.  Sprinkle Parmesan cheese over the top and Italian seasoning and salt to your liking.

Bake covered with foil for about 40 minutes and uncovered for another 15-20.  Done!


Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Changes in My House, and the Reason Behind It All


Recently, I had a blog follower of mine ask me to post more pictures of my home again, because she liked my posts on decorating the house.  It's been a very long time since I've shared photos of inside the house!  I thought she was so kind to say that, but I couldn't help but feel I had nothing at all to show!  For a long time I made no changes whatsoever. 

After adopting our (then) 2 yr. old daughter and 3 yr. old son and becoming a stay at home mom last year, my entire life has basically been devoted to the adjustment of my new precious sweet peas.   Just keeping up with day-to-day housework was more than enough of a challenge!  My priorities have had to change while my schedule at home has been not about myself but about my children, learning their ways, and bonding as a family unit.  That's what God had called me to devote my entire first year towards. A sacrifice that ultimately has been so very worth it when I look at those faces and see it's somehow my whose attention they want!  And our house is where they'd rather be!  That's what I wanted and how we planned for it to be, but that means my home decor has been put "on the shelf" for the past year, as I've just tried to keep up with life!

Well, the last couple of months I've felt a positive shift in myself and in our family dynamic.  I'm becoming more comfortable in my blessed role as mommy, my children are bonding to us on a deeper emotional level, and I'm embracing our new routine better than ever!  Also with small thing, like with summer being here, the kids play in our fenced back yard and that gives me time to be in the living room and watch them while folding laundry, cleaning, blogging(!) or getting other things accomplished that just frankly didn't get done last winter.

Hallelujah!!

This means, I've slowly been able to start bringing in other things I used to enjoy back into our life.  We've opened up our home to more friends inviting again (without anxiety) over for dinner or dessert, and I've been able to pay more attention to the cleanliness and decor of my home.  This is a great feeling!  Balance is the key here!  Family obviously comes first, but finding ways to also spruce things up brings out the homemaker side of me, gives me an outlet of sorts, and allows my kids to watch me do things that set a good example for them!  I think it's good for children to also see that mommy and daddy have talents or passions to pursue... Only not at their expense.

This picture just makes me smile!  Mr. Cozy buys fresh flowers to keep in the house at least once a month, but I think these bright and cheery sunflowers may be my favorite yet!  

So, I'll show you around our living room and point out some if the recent changes we've made!  I was feeling tired of the dreariness in this room after bring cooped-up at home all winter, and was itching to spruce it up--on a budget, of course!
 
I knew I wanted some new pillows for the couches.The other ones we've had for years!  I asked him about me buying some for our (old) couches to give them a second wind, and he agreed it would be much easier to spend $100 on pillows then a couple thousand on new couches at this time.

Yay!
 .... Off to my favorite Home Goods I went.  My (amazing) husband even kept the kiddos so I could think clearly to make a good decor decision. Haha, I still have trouble multi-tasking --especially in public--with the kids, so his offer felt generous and was much appreciated!


I came across these great down-filled pillows.  (I already had the green scripted ones.)  When I saw the yellow ones with the gorgeous white embroidery, I knew I had to have them.  I'm loving yellow accents, and these are just gorgeous!  At $20 a pillow, I thought that was well worth it for 2 of them!  Then I found these beautiful deep blue pillows with the white hexagonal pattern.  After walking around the store with the pillows in my cart I thought about how they would look in the space, and I finally decided they would be the right choice.  They add a new sophisticated look that would give an eclectic design to my cozy-casual couches.  The blue pillows came in pairs, and I bought two pairs (4 pillows) for about $25 a pair.  In total I bought 6 pillows for $90 plus tax.  Score!  I couldn't wait to go home and try them out...


I was excited by how much they transformed our old couches and added a whole different feel to my living room.  I've never added blue to my decor, but this deep navy is gorgeous!  I stood back and admired the red, white, and blue and realized how patriotic my living room looks for summer!  


The next big project were these shutters.  Mr. Cozy and I devoted a day last month to work on them.  We brought them up where they were just sitting in storage in the basement.  We began scraping, priming, and painting these shutters that were completely worn out and originally belonged on the front door of our cape cod style home.  We didn't want to use them outside, so I thought in the house as a design element would make them even more unique!  The work payed off because, we love how they turned out!  We hung our large family print over the shutters, and now the room is not only brightened but that wall has more interest and dimension!  It was a fun spring project to finish.  Also I think the yellow and white pillow is adorable next to the yellow dress I have on in the picture, too.  It was meant to be:) 


My precious mom came for a visit last week and she gave me this adorable pillow as a gift, to brighten my home with some loving cheer!  

I am in love with this darling pillow!  

What's not to love about a brightly colored, burlap pillow with a chevron striped heart flower and the words, "you are loved!" written on it.  This pillow means more to me than you can imagine, friends!  Mom is so thoughtful!  It came from Peniques, in Murray.


I  don't have a close-up picture, but I painted the round side table by the couch the same pale color as the shutters.  It was a very deep wood tone that was original, but dreary and too dark for the room.  Now it's more of an elegant show piece that would cost much more than we paid!  I think that table was bought for about $25 at an antique store, plus the cost of primer and paint.  It would sell for way more in a store!


I wanted to show you my 4th of July wreath I just put together.  I especially like the fun chevron red ribbon I found at Hobby Lobby!  Now the colors in this also look cute with the red walls and new blue pillows.  I certainly have a summer color scheme going on!


The living room is our hub.  A place my husband play music, and our son can "play" along, too!  Look at how he is growing!  My precious boy.


It's also a place I find time to myself some days while the kids nap.  Yesterday it was a coffee and Irish chocolate sort of afternoon as the summer storm was rolling in.  From time to time, I think every mom needs a little time like this.  Give me a just an hour of quiet with my coffee, and I almost feel like I'm on vacation!


Lastly, the living room is a place to jump and play if you're this little girl!  It's a place for her sing aloud, to rock baby dolls, do gymnastics or sit and cuddle with me! 

Everything I'm doing now is for this sweet little face.  God has given me a husband and a whole family to pour my life into!  His goodness is abundant!  


A clean and freshly decorated house is ultimately for my family to enjoy!  I want to provide them with a cozy, safe haven where God is exalted foremost.  I also want our children to grow up appreciating the beauty of a home well taken care of, so one day my daughter will know how to do the same for her family, too!

Before I go...
Here's the new, beautiful lamppost my husband installed all himself!  He can truly do whatever he sets his mind to!  I love how it lights our path and adds a glow to our entry in the evenings.

The door is also new.  This spring we had a break-in where the burglar destroyed the frame and hurt the door badly.  (It was awful, but God had us to not be home!) I love our new door with the lantern, and new landscaping my hubby also did.  

Thank you Honey for working hard at work and home!  

Friends, thank you for coming to my home. I appreciate every time y'all read my blog when there are so many grander more beautiful ones out there.  I pray my home will exude love we have and a comfy-cozy look more than anything!   Have a wonderful day!!!

Leslie






Monday, June 23, 2014

Summertime Strawberry Icebox Cake


Summer is officially here!!!  

Our family is so happy about that.





This is the season iconic for it's hot, humid days filled with sunshine and muggy nights lit by stars and twinkling fireflies!

Relaxed schedules with easy-going mornings begin the day and late nights outside with later bed times for kids and parents alike!

Swimming, beach towels, popsicles, the scent of coconut, lemonade, watermelon, baseball, the county fair, and the drive-in movies make their way into our lives like a brand new dress we can't wait to try on!!

The itch for vacation, staycations, long weekends, and road trips, finally come to fruition as we've waited through to the end of the school year.
 
The food gets a little bit lighter, fresher, and healthier as farmer's markets come alive and family gardens over flow with tomatoes and other delectable vegetables and fruit.

Although we love tradition and look forward to the season's favorites, summer seems to whisper, change.  

We are ready to try a new or the latest ... Haircut, paint color, polish color, bathing suites, book series, and recipes!

Speaking of food, this no-bake dessert is a true taste of fresh summer fare!  Strawberries, whipped cream, and graham crackers are layered up and topped with a drizzle of chocolate before getting comfy together in the fridge.  This is a very easy dessert to make, because you basically just layer everything up and it requires no oven.  The texture is obviously different than a regular cake, but more like a pie or trifle.  Best of all, it's really delicious!!  Refreshing strawberries, creamy whipped cream, sweet graham crackers that become soft and of course chocolate that's always a good match with... Anything! 

My family raved over this one and seconds may have been had. :)


Strawberry Icebox Cake with Chocolate Drizzle
Original recipe from: The Actors Diet

1 box graham crackers
2 lbs. strawberries
2 containers Cool Whip or *homemade whipped cream* 
1 c. Bittersweet chocolate chips or 1 bar of chocolate, melted (I used Ghirardelli)

Homemade Whipped Cream (if using):
With a mixer, beat a quart of cold heavy whipping cream with about 1 T. Sugar and 1 t. pure vanilla extract until you achieve a firm whipped cream.  Please don't make butter, just watch it. :) Set this aside until ready to assemble.

Get out a 9x13 inch dish.
Slice the strawberries.  
Spread a layer of whipped cream on the bottom of the dish, next a layer of graham crackers; then more whipped cream, strawberries, and so on with the layers so you end with strawberries on the top.  Drizzle on the melted chocolate all over. 
Refrigerate for 4-12 hours. 
Eat up soon, but that's the really easy part!

**The original recipe calls for Cool Whip, but I whipped homemade cream.  This way it tastes best to be eaten over the next 12 hours or so after assembling, but it's oh-so good.  Also, I didn't have to use quite an entire box of crackers.  Lastly, use whatever kind of chocolate is your favorite, to drizzle over top.  (You can't go wrong with chocolate.)




Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Very Berry Cobbler


Just imagine for a minute...
Summer berries tossed in good ole white sugar and a dash of cinnamon.

Piled into a dish topped with buttery crust and washed with frothy egg. 

Showered in a veil of sugar.

Baked until the crust is golden and crisp, and the fruit is bubbly and oozing from it's pockets.

That dear Friends, is very berry cobbler, and it's a cinch to make.  

Even easier to EAT!!

That said...


Very Berry Cobber
Serves 6

1 pkg. of Frozen mixed berries + extra 1 c. Frozen strawberries, since I love strawberries (Yes, frozen. I said easy!)

1/2 c. granulated sugar

3 Tbsp. cornstarch

Dash of ground cinnamon

1 of your favorite pie crust (I had homemade pie dough in the freezer from months ago.  I use Pillsbury refrigerated usually.)

1 egg

2-3 tsp. granulated sugar

In a large bowl mix frozen berries, sugar, cinnamon and cornstarch together.  Pour into a buttered 8 or 9 inch pie pan.

Roll out your dough generously in flour, if using homemade.  Carefully place overtop.... Imperfect crust is beautifully rustic!

In a small bowl whisk together one egg and a splash of water.  Brush all over the crust.  (You will have leftover egg.) Sprinkle sugar all over to finish.
Bake at 375 degrees F for about 45-50 minutes or until crust is very golden.  Allow to cool for about 20 minutes before digging in this rustic cobbler.  Enjoy a bowl with a scoop of vanilla ice cream!