All posts by cibbit

FREE Valentine’s Day Printable!

Free Printable for Starbucks ViaPin
Free Printable for Starbucks Via

My kids gave these cards to their teachers this year for Valentine’s Day.  I was looking for a cute way to give a cup of coffee to my children’s teachers in a new and unique way.  I didn’t want to give a gift card, again.  I remembered that Starbucks makes instant coffee packs and if you’ve read Bob Goff’s book, Love Does you know an interesting story about those via packs.   By the way, it is a good book and definitely worth the read and great for Valentine’s Day.

After looking on Pinterest, I couldn’t find any Starbucks Via Valentine’s Day ideas. So I made my own complete with a cute coffee cup drawing I made.
I hope you enjoy them!

Click here for your free printable!

The Easiest King Cake Ever!

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One of the things I miss about not living on the Alabama Gulf Coast any longer is Mardi Gras season.  The revelry and excitement in the air are almost electric.  It is one of the few things that can make a gloomy winter bright and fanciful.  The parades warm the nights with bright colors and lights and equally bright personalities from almost everyone you see.  Even the day parades make the sun seem a little bit brighter and warmer.  For this girl who lives for the life and vitality of summertime, it is a great break in the cold doldrums of winter.

Even the food seems brighter.  The locals break out their best Cajun recipes like Red Beans & Rice (check out my recipe here) Crawfish Etoueffe, Gumbo, or Shrimp and Grits.  The flavors are rich, bold and bright and for the most part so are the colors because they include a handful of wonderful ingredients.  Let’s not forget cayenne pepper which makes everything feel warm!

King Cake is one of those iconic desserts of Mardi Gras.  No carnival season is complete without one and don’t even think of having a party that doesn’t serve one.  Anyone who lives within driving distance of New Orleans or Mobile has at least one grocery store that sells King Cake.  Our Publix, Kroger and Walmart shopping centers all carried them this year.  And my town is at least 357 miles from Government Street.  Not only that, my daughter’s peanut and tree nut allergy means no bakery items.  So, I decided to make my own.

I must admit that I had visions of grandeur and I thought I would make one from scratch using this recipe from Sucre courtesy of Sucre New Orleans.  But my yeast didn’t rise, my butter was too cold and didn’t incorporate well so I threw that dough away much to the dismay of my children.  Once you tell the kids you are doing something fun and different if you don’t follow through it just makes life more difficult.  Knowing that I still had to produce a King Cake, I decided to use a cheat and with wonderful success!

Here is the recipe for my cheater Quick and Easy King Cake!

1 package of Pillsbury Flakey Cinnamon Twists

Green, Yellow and Purple Sanding Sugar

Preheat oven according to package directions.

Open package and set icing aside.

Unroll twists.

Take two and roll into one long piece of dough, preferably with the cinnamon on the inside.

After that twist two of the dough ropes loosely together.  Do this twice.  You will end up with two big rope pieces of dough.

Place these in a circle on a greased cookie sheet and press the ends together to connect both sections of the circle.

It will take a little longer than the 10 minutes the instructions on package direct because you have increased the density of the dough.  It took mine about 14 minutes to bake completely.

Remove from the oven and allow to cool for about 4 minutes.  Meanwhile, open the icing and stir it.  Mine was very thick so I added a drop or two of pure Vanilla Extract and a drop of milk.

Remove the cooled King Cake Circle, to a platter and a pour icing onto the cake.  Sprinkle the colored sanding sugar in blocks of purple, yellow, and green.  Don’t forget to place the baby underneath the cake!

 

 

 

 

 

Green Smoothie

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I do not consider myself a health nut, although my husband who thinks vegetables are the scourge of the earth might not agree. Lately I have been making green smoothies for either breakfast or lunch and have added some ingredients that are even strange and different to me.

About a year ago, I was diagnosed as being anemic. It really came as a surprise but totally explained my need for an afternoon nap and other nagging issues.  It also explained my cravings for steaks, spinach salad and I would say bacon but who really needs a medical reason to crave bacon?

Iron supplements helped but I really wanted to boost my progress nutritionally.  I have a friend who is using diet to help with her seasonal allergies and asthma so I thought that diet might also help me.

I have never been a big eater or a morning person so I have found that this smoothie as a breakfast or lunch alternative meal is very helpful.  I have also discovered that I am not nearly as tired in the afternoons as I once was.

Surprisingly enough I prefer the fruity smoothies without the chocolate.  (I cannot believe I just admitted that!)  When we lived in another state, I was a member of a spa and gym facility.  The juice bar offered the best chocolate peanut butter smoothie I have ever had.  I have no idea what was in it, and my own experiment to recreate it has failed miserably, so at this juncture I will stick to the fruity ones.

Here is my favorite recipe so far…

1 cup Almond milk

1 Banana peeled and cut into half

1/2 cup fresh Baby Spinach

1/4 cup fresh Raspberries

2 tablespoons of Greek Yogurt

1 teaspoon Chia Seeds

Add all ingredients in a blender, puree or blend well.  Enjoy!

Cheers!

Laissez Les Bons Temps Rouler!

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Happy Fat Tuesday, y’all!

I am so excited that it is Fat Tuesday! I love the Mardi Gras season! Ever since I moved to Mobile, Alabama as a teenager I embraced Carnival and she has loved me back, even as I have traveled and moved away. She lives in my heart and as many in Mobile and New Orleans can attest, will always stay.
Even though I cannot be in my beloved town tonight, my family and I will celebrate and commemorate while having Red Beans and Rice.

I fancy the idea that my husband’s very Cajun family would have loved this dish!

If you, too, are missing Mardi Gras, your roots or hometown, this meal will bring you comfort and a satisfied belly.

Please enjoy Cibbit’s Cajun Red Beans and Rice!

1 large yellow or sweet onion chopped

2 ribs of celery finely copped

1 pack smoked sausage sliced (I used Hillshire Farms Beef)

1 can Hunts Diced Tomatoes

1 large 14-15 oz. can Red Beans, drained and rinsed

1 large 14-15 oz. can Light Red Kidney Beans, drained and rinsed

2 cups chicken stock

8 oz of beer or white wine

4 servings of cooked rice (following package directions)

Salt to taste

¼ teaspoon of black pepper       

½ teaspoon white pepper

1 tablespoon Old Bay Seasoning

1 tablespoon File Gumbo Seasoning

Minced garlic

½ teaspoon onion powder

2 Bay Leaves

In a large pot, (I use my Le Creuset 2 quart Dutch oven) heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil then add chopped onion and celery until well sautéed.  When vegetables are softend, add minced garlic.  Allow to cook for one minute and then add beer, tomatoes with juice, and both cans of beans and chicken stock.  Add all seasoning, stir, cover and bring to a boil.  Once it reaches a boil reduce heat and let simmer for 10 minutes.  Serve over rice and with McIlhenny’s Tabasco Sauce, if desired.   

Revelers, Stephanie & Caren, at the Mystic Stripers Society BallPin
Revelers, Stephanie & Caren, at the Mystic Stripers Society Ball

 

Brussel Sprouts, Who Knew?!

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The first time I ever had Brussels sprouts was when I was 14 years old and only because I asked for them. Yes, dear reader, I asked for it! Seriously, I wanted to know what all the hubbub was about. Brussel sprouts live in a world of infamy and are one of the most maligned veggies that I know of, next to broccoli, of course. Incidentally, I really like broccoli. To me, it is best raw but covered in cheese, it is great too. There is not much that can’t be made better with cheese. If it is a universal truth that Brussel sprouts are so bad that everyone hates this plant, why was it still readily available at every grocery store? Something didn’t add up.

Along with Brussel sprouts and liver, there were many foods that never graced the dinner table at my house growing up, mainly because my parents didn’t like them and had been forced as children to eat them on a regular basis. I cannot attest to how my grandparents cooked and served brussel sprouts but it must not have been in a very imaginative or cheese covered way. When my mom made the specially requested brussel sprouts when I was 14, she bought a pack of frozen sprouts and microwaved them whole, which is basically like boiling them. Even after that very casual and lackadaisical treatment, I didn’t hate them. We also never ate them again.

Fast forward to a year ago and my dear, sweet sister-in-law, Kate (who has also been my dearest friend since we were 11) brought Creamed Brussel Sprouts with Mushrooms and Bacon to Thanksgiving Dinner and it was great. (It did stink to high heavens, however.)  Incidentally,  my kids loved it too and it has sparked a love of the veggie in them that my husband finds aberrant.   One of his theories on why they like it has to do with body snatchers but the simple truth is that when cooked well, they are really good.  I typically wash, then quarter them and roast them in the oven with evoo, salt, pepper and parmesan cheese.

When Lydia and I were shopping in Sprouts today, she begged for Brussel sprouts with dinner tonight. When I say begged, I mean jumping up and down and saying, “Please, please, please, Mommy!”  Guess what we had with dinner tonight!

What is your favorite brussel sprout recipe?

 

THE Birthday Cake

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The cake is the cornerstone of a traditional birthday party.  If we were playing $10,000 Pyramid (which is one of the best games shows in TV history) and the phrase to guess was “Things at a Birthday Party”, I would bet cake would be the first clue.  Every year as her birthday approaches, I struggle and worry about Lydia’s birthday cake.  She has a peanut and tree nut allergy and bakery cakes are not an option.  There are enough birthday parties that she attends for friends where she can’t eat the cake so I  smuggle a cupcake or Oreos in for her.  For her special celebration, she needs to have a cake she can eat.

I can cook and I can bake; my cakes are always fluffy and moist and my brownies are only crusty on the edges.  I know that in baking, science and accurate measuring make all the difference in the world.  Here is my public service announcement for the day, a wet measure and a dry measure are not the same.  Please don’t swap them out and expect the same result.  *climbs off of soap-box*   My problem isn’t worry over the way the food will taste but rather how it will look.  I am no cake decorator and the cake in my head hardly ever is presented on the plate.  If I could talk Lydia into a bundt cake we’d be in business but she always asks for a  character cake.

I am not sure what was going through my mind when I bought the tiered cake pan set other than, “I saw tiered Elsa cakes on Pinterest.  How hard can it be?”  It took three days of baking and decorating and I was most pleased with how the snowflakes turned out.  I ordered this Chocolate Mold from Amazon.com because I could not find candy snowflakes to purchase for less than $50 and I am not exaggerating.  I simply filled the molds with Candy Quick purchased from Wal-Mart.  The chocolate set up in minutes and tasted yummy!  All the kids at the party wanted snowflakes on their slice of cake.  Also, if you are also baking a peanut & tree nut allergy friendly cake, do not use Wilton’s Candy Melts.  In fact, I haven’t found anything from Wilton that doesn’t have an allergy warning for peanuts and tree nuts.

I was pretty happy with the way it turned out.  I think I might need to invest in some cake decorating classes at Michael’s or Hobby Lobby.   My biggest fear now is that I’ll need to make her wedding cake one day!

It certainly wasn’t a professional job but her smile told me that the cake was exactly what she had imagined.

 

 

Force of Nature

Four years ago today, my daughter entered our lives and has unleashed her own force of nature upon the world.  She is a whirly, twirlly, fancy burst of energy.  She has captured our hearts and captivated us with her funny and insightful worldview.  “Mommy, the rain made the sun wet.”    “Belly buttons are really called silly buttons!”  “Mommy, I grew in your belly and that means we are really kangaroos!” Recently, she spilled some Cheerio s and said, “Mayday, Mayday! Cheerio down!”  She keeps us in stitches everyday.

Her birthday is the first day of spring and she is such a breath of fresh air in our lives.  She loves fiercely, speaks and sings loudly, dances frequently and lives bravely.

So today on her birthday, I think it is clearly appropriate that as we celebrate her, there is a solar eclipse, super moon, and equinox.  

So happy birthday to my sweet force of nature.

Peach Cobbler via I-65

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Peach-zilla at Exit 212

If you have ever traveled in Alabama you more than likely have spent some time on Interstate 65. This well traversed corridor connects the tippy top of the state all the way to nearly its southernmost point (which is Sand Island Light off the coast of Dauphin Island).  Dauphin Island was once my hometown so I have spent quite a bit of time traveling across the state.  I-65 basically bisects the state at the largest cities, Huntsville, Birmingham, Montgomery, and Mobile.

Just south of Birmingham, in Clanton is a landmark that delights all the children who see it, and can cause quite a stir with adults as well.  It is the big Peach Water Tower.  Although it is a novelty for most on the road, it is actually the X on a treasure map and the prize is peaches, of course.

We stopped at a little fruit stand just underneath the peach and bought a few peaches and some green tomatoes and I was in Little Ol’ Southern Lady Heaven.  You know you are in for a treat when the peach in its natural state smells good and fills your car with the promise of good things to come.  So it was just plain sinful to make them into Paula Deen’s Peach Cobbler.  I usually doctor recipes or change things a bit according to my own tastes or that of my family but this one needed no changes or substitutions.

It was warm, bubbly and not too sweet.  The peaches balanced out the sweetness of the cobbler itself and even with vanilla ice cream wasn’t as sweet as some cobblers I have had in the past.

So if you are looking for a great peach cobbler recipe, Paula Deen’s is worth a try.  It certainly worked for me!

 

 

Best Summer Toy

When summer comes, keeping the kids entertained without allowing marathon TV watching or breaking the budget can seem daunting to near impossible. We have taken many trips to the dollar store as a result and while we do get many fun items, most of the toys do not last the riggers of active children for very long. My kids can break even the most indestructible toys. It seems like they are playing a game called “Titanic” and they are the iceberg.
Thankfully, I have found a fantastic toy that the kids love and is relatively inexpensive. When the neighborhood kids come to visit they love it too, and it provides large blocks of time for me to read without interruption clean.

This wonderful toy is the Gazillion Bubble Hurricane Machine.  It seriously produces a ton of bubbles! For $9.99 plus tax, each summer I can get anywhere from 30 minutes to 1 hour of the kids playing outside everyday without constant parading back and forth inside the house.  They really enjoy running through all the bubbles and play together nicely in the process.   An added bonus is that the kids don’t play with the machine itself, just the bubbles it produces so the likelihood of it breaking is decreased.  You see I said decreased, because my kids will find a way.  It think it is one of their superpowers.

A strong word of caution, use Gazillion Brand Bubbles and don’t refill with cheap bubble solution. Like many other things it pays to buy the real thing.  I will never be convinced that the generic version of toaster pastries tastes as good as the Pop Tart brand and similarly, not all bubble solutions are the same.  We used up the 4oz bottle that is provided in about 30 minutes and I added some cheap bubble solution from the dollar bin and was surprised at the difference in the production of bubbles.

Also, it does require 6 AA batteries that do not come included.  Either have some on hand or be sure to pick up a pack at the same time so that you don’t have disappointed kiddos.

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I do need to replace it every summer because we leave it out on the back patio all year. The bubble well is open and I don’t want it carted through the house.  After awhile of sitting out in the elements the innards get a bit goopy.   Plus, it collects bugs like a pitcher plant and who wants that mess in their house?  That is just crazy talk.
Bubbles! 012 editedPinAs you can see, this bubble machine works for me and my kiddos! Check out those gazillion bubbles!

 

 

What Summer Tastes Like to this Southern Girl!

It is officially here…summer! Olaf from Frozen is probably twirling in a field of dandelions singing of the virtues of great combinations. In his case, hot and cold. For southerners, it is food pairings usually only found in the summer. One of my favorites is fried green tomatoes.  Even my vegetable avoiding husband feels the rumbling in his Georgia born belly when I serve up a plate of Beer Battered Fried Green Tomatoes!

I buy tons of red tomatoes all year long but there is something wonderful about the firmness and tartness of local tomato encased in the crispy blanket of fried batter.   As a native Alabamian (although I did have a brief 8 year stint in North Carolina), I grew up less than 10 miles from Irondale, the home of the Whistle Stop Café from Fannie Flagg’s book, Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Café.  Fannie Flagg also has a cookbook available with the official Whistle Stop Café recipe which I recommend as well.  Perhaps it was my geography that gave me a special place in my heart (and tummy) for fried green tomatoes.

Batter recipes can be as varied as BBQ sauce recipes in the south and sometimes can similarly be based on geography.  North Carolina is known for it’s vinegar and pepper sauces while Alabama tends to favor ketchup based sauces.  Tennessee likes mustard based and ketchup based depending on what side of the state you find yourself.  I have found the same applies to fry batters.  While I was a student at Auburn University (War Eagle!), a wonderful little eatery called Veggies-To-Go offered fried green tomatoes (seasonally) in a cornmeal batter.  My mom, from Birmingham, used the most simple and delicious recipe I have come across of flour, salt, pepper and beer.  Her fried green tomatoes always came out crisp and light.  In Texas, they sometimes add sugar to the batter and in Louisiana the tomato dish isn’t complete without remoulade sauce.

I found this recipe on food.com and doctored it a bit to come up with my own Frankenstein’s Monster of a delicious batter.   I added two different kinds of bread crumbs, some spices and omitted the lemon.  To me, the green tomatoes have enough tartness not to need any added to the batter.

Here is my recipe!  I hope you enjoy it as much as my family did!

Caren’s Beer Battered Fried Green Tomatoes

3 Large Green Tomatoes, thinly sliced; less than 1/4 inch is ideal

1 Cup All Purpose Flour  ( I used King Arthur.)

1/2 cup of seasoned bread crumbs

1/2 cup of panko bread crumbs

1 tsp of salt (plus extra for season the tomatoes before dipping)

1 tsp of pepper (plus extra for season the tomatoes before dipping)

1 tsp of baking powder

1/2 tsp of baking soda

1 tsp garlic powder

1 tsp smoked paprika

1/4 tsp of chipotle chili powder

Almost one entire 12 oz bottle of beer ( I used Shock Top Honey Bourbon Cask Wheat)

vegetable oil (enough to coat your cast iron skillet; it will need to be added to at the start of each new batch)

Slice the tomatoes and lay them out on a piece of wax paper.  Salt and pepper each slice on both sides.  Add all the dry ingredients in to a medium sized mixing bowl and reserve 1/2 cup of the flour and bread crumb mixture.  Lightly coat each slice of tomato with some of the reserved dry flour mixture.  Add beer to the bowl of flour/bread crumbs until it is the consistency of pancake batter.  Dip each floured tomato slice into the wet batter mixture until it is nicely and uniformly covered.  Fry in a skillet set on medium high heat until each side is golden brown.  Let drain on a paper towel covered plate or cookie sheet.   Enjoy!

Leftovers can be refrigerated in an air tight container between sheets of parchment paper. Reheat in the oven at 350 degrees on a cookie sheet so they crisp back up.  Just as good the second day!

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This recipe certainly worked for me!