Coq Au Vin (My version)

You all know that Coq au vin is just a fancy French way of saying “Chicken Stew”, right? ¬†IDK… many of my friends don’t know that so forgive me when I seem like I need to be “Captain Obvious” ūüėČ

I’ve mentioned before that my Mom’s family is French. ¬†NOT the sophisticated eloquent French that you might be picturing… more like the poor kind. ¬†I’m proud of that though because along with being poor comes the need to be inventive. ¬†We’re ALL inventive when it comes to food. ¬†My grandmother had 10 children and that’s a LOT of mouths to feed when you only have 1 chicken! ¬†Grandma used to go out to her yard and choose a chicken, chop it’s head off and take the feathers off. ¬†Yummy huh? ¬†Thank GOD I never had to SEE it, much less do it. ¬†I’d probably never eat meat if I had to witness something like that. ¬†Coq au vin is one of those recipes that you can make your own and it’s inexpensive. ¬†It just takes a little bit of time.

Here’s my way… which, BTW, has been SO simplified but SO tasty! ¬†This is what we had tonight. ¬†I have to be in the right mood to want to go through a little trouble and tonight, while it’s cold and rainy, I’m in the right mood!

Coq Au Vin (Michelle’s Way)

Ingredients:

2 1/2 to 3 lbs chicken pieces (breasts, thighs or drumsticks) OR a whole chicken, skinned and cut up (I used 3.5 lbs chicken breasts, boneless)

2 TBSP cooking oil

salt and pepper

2 large vidalia or sweet onions, cut into 8 pieces each

1 1/4 cups Burgundy

4 medium, thinly sliced carrots

1 lb sliced fresh mushrooms (optional)

1/4 cup chicken broth (or water)

1 TBSP dried parsley

1 TBSP fresh chopped parsley

1 tsp dried marjoram

2 tsp dried crushed thyme

1 bay leaf

4 cloves garlic, minced

1 lb smoked bacon, chopped and cooked crisp, bacon grease reserved

5 TBSP flour

2 TBSP butter

16 oz cooked Penne pasta for serving

Directions:

Cook bacon until crisp. ¬†It’s easier if you chop the bacon while it’s still a little frozen. ¬†Set aside.

In a large skillet or Dutch oven, brown chicken pieces on all sides in hot oil, about 15 minutes.  Drain fat.  Season chicken on both sides with salt and pepper.  Add onions, mushrooms, bacon, carrots, Burgundy, chicken broth, dried parsley, marjoram, thyme, bay leaf, and garlic.  Bring to boiling; reduce heat.  Simmer and cover.  Cook for around 50 minutes or until chicken is fork tender.

Take chicken and vegetables out of pot and set aside.  Discard bay leaf.

Heat reserved bacon grease and the 2 TBSP butter until hot.  Add flour and stir.  Cook for about 2 minutes.  Once roux (bacon grease and flour) is made, add mixture to the juices from chicken.  Cook and stir until thick and bubbly.  Once thickened, cook for 1 minute more.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.  Garnish with fresh parsley.

Pour sauce over chicken and vegetables and serve over pasta.

*This recipe makes very generous servings for 6 people. ¬†The bacon makes this even more tasty than the other recipes I’ve tried. ¬†Enjoy!

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Roasted Red Pepper Pasta & Broiled Shrimp

And in the midst of ALL this chaos… I’ve still had time to cook! ¬†Sometimes take out just is NOT satisfying and Lord knows we’ve been doing way too much take out lately! ¬†

Last night I made the most amazing dinner. ¬†I’m almost ashamed to admit that I’ve always steered away from this roasted red pepper sauce because it seems like anything you have to use a food processor with or a blender… well, it’s too complicated and creates too many dishes to wash later. ¬†Yeah, I’m lazy.. so what? ¬†lol ¬†This is WELL worth the extra step of pureeing the roasted red peppers and if you decide to make this, you’ll be SO thankful! ¬†Or maybe you’ve already tried it. ¬†Either way, it was new to me so I have to share ūüôā

Oh and as a side note, teenage munchkin had one of her bff’s over (another daughter to me) last night who is SO hard to please with food. ¬†Usually I have to end up making her a grilled cheese or throw in a frozen pizza because she won’t eat anything new. ¬†HOWEVER and Thank you JESUS, she LOVED this dish and asked me to keep it handy to make it for her again. ¬†Anything Shelby approved is a hit in OUR house ūüėČ

 

Roasted Red Pepper Pasta and Shrimp

Ingredients:

1 lb large shrimp, raw and in the shell

16 oz pasta (I used Penne)

12 oz jar of roasted red peppers with juice

1 TBSP Olive oil

5 cloves minced garlic

2 cups heavy cream

1 1/2 tsp salt

1 tsp pepper

1/2 cup Romano or Parmesan cheese

1 3 to 4 oz jar of Peproncinis  (Optional for garnish)

Fresh parsley for garnish

Directions:

1.  Shell and devein the shrimp.  Spray a broiling or grilling pan with Pam and place shrimp (separated well) on pan.  Cook in oven on BROIL just until shrimp turns pink.  Immediately take off of pan (to stop cooking process) an place on a plate to cool.

2.  Cook and drain pasta.

3.  While pasta is cooking, remove about 1 roasted red pepper from jar.  Chop and set aside.  Place remaining red peppers with their juice into blender and puree.

4.  Heat olive oil in large non stick skillet.  Saute garlic.  Cook and stir on medium heat for about 2 minutes.  Be sure not to get too brown or it will taste burnt and bitter.

5.  Add the pepper puree, cream, salt and pepper.  Cook on medium heat, stirring until hot bubbly and thick.  About 6 minutes.

6. ¬†Stir in cheese and parsley. ¬†Stir until cheese is melted. ¬†Add shrimp for a second until it’s warm again. ¬†

7.  Add sauce to the pasta and mix.  Top with Peproncinis if you want and extra cheese.

*Tip:  Always boil pasta in salted water so that the pasta has flavor.  When I drain the pasta, I immediately add back into the pan and toss with a little olive oil.  I then add a little Parmesan Cheese to the pasta BEFORE the sauce is added so that the cheese sticks to the pasta.  

 

 

Meet Me In St. Louis Part 3 (and finally the LAST of Julia’s Birthday)

I’ll bet you all were hangin’ on the edge of your seats in anticipation of our last day in St. Louis, weren’t you? ¬†So to recap – we had day #1 on the Delmar Loop¬†and then day #2 on Laclede’s Landing.

So sad to leave our Hilton Hotel room! ¬†We naturally, pushed it to the very last second and left a little AFTER check out time. ¬†None of us wanted to get up and only ONE of us (guess who?) was responsible enough to pack. ¬†Here’s a hint, it wasn’t ANY of the 15 year olds! ¬†Oh and FORGET about the 28 year old.

Julia wanted to have a REAL tea party, just like in “Alice in Wonderland”! ¬†lol ¬†We reserved a table at the London Tea Room on Washington Ave. downtown. ¬†It was strange to be on Washington Ave. because only a few years ago, when I was still working, this place was a slum! ¬†Known for the prostitution and drugs. ¬†BOY have they cleaned up! ¬†Now, there’s a booming loft district and SO pretty. ¬†Birthday Girl wants to live there one day. ¬†I sincerely hope she makes enough money to live comfortably in a loft apartment ūüôā

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(They decided on the “Cream Tea”, which I guess in London consists of a scone and a pot of tea? ¬†That’s what a Cream Tea means at St. Louis’s London Tea Room, anyway)

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(Julia said she felt so sophisticated and grown up just like the REAL English people! ¬†lol ¬†She’d never had a scone before. ¬†We ordered blueberry scones with “Devonshire Cream” which was TO DIE FOR! ¬†Devonshire cream is like butter, only better. ¬†I seriously need to figure out how to make this stuff! ¬†Anyway, the scones were light and fluffy… NOT like the scones we’re used to. ¬†I’d give this place 2 thumbs up for the tea and their scones ūüôā

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(Julia feeling all grown up and elegant drinking her Chai Latte. ¬†I didn’t have the heart to tell her that they didn’t drink Chai Latte’s in London. ¬†She liked the idea of the foamy milk.)

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(So Katie tells me AFTER ordering that the taste of tea makes her sick. ¬†Here she is looking DEEP into her tea cup. ¬†I’m not sure what she thinks is going to jump out and hurt her. ¬†For my friends in the UK… ¬†in our defense, ¬†we’re REAL bonafide rednecks AND we’re coffee drinkers. ¬†We really had no business in a London Tea Room. ¬†lol)

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(In keeping with tradition, Hannah wouldn’t be Hannah if not causing trouble somehow! ¬†lol ¬†All through our little tea party, the girls spoke in their very best British accents. ¬†Yeah, it was annoying so I kept my head down so as to not make eye contact with any of the other patrons. ¬†When I looked up, this is what I saw staring back at me (Hannah with a fake “stache”).

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(I’m LOVING this pic of the girls walking down Washington Ave.! ¬†They look like models to me ūüôā

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(and so when it came time for the girls to take MY picture, I didn’t notice Julia walking like Derek Zoolander)

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(This is Windows On Washington, where the presidents always come to hold their campaign fundraisers while in St. Louis. ¬†I used to deliver specialty foods here when I was working. ¬†How’s THAT for a fun fact?)

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(The Loft Apartments where Julia swears she’ll live one day)

From Washington Ave., we drove around, stopping to take pictures of the awesome old city architecture.

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(I literally parked in the middle of the street to get this one! ¬†lol ¬†This is a view of the city from Market Street. ¬†It’s a good thing it was Sunday and everyone who WAS out in the city happened to be at the Cardinals game! ¬†Go CARDS!)

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(I’m not sure what this building is but it’s old and it’s beautiful!)

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(Just more lovely buildings ūüôā

We ended up at Kiener Plaza¬†where all St. Louisans gather before a Cardinal’s game. ¬†Here’s where it got weird. ¬†I began taking pictures of the girls and a lady walks up to me and asks if I want to be in the picture. ¬†She offered to take my picture and being me, and being naive and being from the “country”, I said, “Sure!”. ¬†Well, I discovered this woman was homeless. ¬†Now, I love all people and the girls and I work hard to help stamp out hunger and homelessness. ¬†We hold fundraisers and work with area churches to help these people. ¬†BUT… I wouldn’t want one of them to hold my fancy new expensive camera! ¬†She could have run with it. ¬†Thank GOD she didn’t. ¬†The girls and I took this opportunity to talk with her and learn about what’s going on in St. Louis with the homeless. ¬†This opened the door for other homeless people to come up to us and tell their story. ¬†It broke my heart, really. ¬†However, it was good for the girls to learn what it was like to be homeless, straight from the horses mouth, so to speak. ¬†I’ll tell you their stories in another blog.

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(Here’s the pic that the homeless woman took. ¬†Notice the Gateway Arch behind the old Old Courthouse? ¬†I love this scenery.)

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(And here’s the homeless woman who DIDN’T run off with my camera. ¬†God Bless her! ¬†Do you know that NONE of them asked for money? ¬†They only wanted to tell their story to someone who would listen. ¬†She asked me to tell her story to whoever would listen… so I certainly will do that!)

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(Homeless men sleeping in Kiener Plaza. ¬†They weren’t bothering anyone. ¬†They just needed a place to sleep and the shelters were completely full. ¬†This breaks my heart but it was an opportunity to show the girls how very blessed we really are.)

Next stop: ¬†City Garden! ¬†Guess what? ¬†It’s another FREE experience! ¬†I’m so proud of the way they’re beautifying our city! ¬†There was a time that I was ashamed to say I was from St. Louis. ¬†NOW is not that time ūüôā

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(Hannah the Ham inside the eyeball of the creepy head sculpture)

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(Julia BEFORE she fell)

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(volunteers take care of this garden)

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 The girls and Pinoccio.

(The girls and Pinocchio)

City and gardenGirls and the bunny rabbitsJulia the Birthday Girl Me at the city Garden

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And this will conclude our tour of the beautiful metropolis of St. Louis Mo ūüôā ¬†We truly had a blast. ¬†Lot’s of bonding, fighting, posing and eating… ¬†Ah but it’s good to be home!

Meet Me In St. Louis Part 2 (still Julia’s 15th bday)

Our first night in St. Louis was SO fun, so now how do we top that? ¬†I left it up to Julia since it was HER birthday. ¬†My intention was to try and take it easy on the money situation but I NEVER ever succeed. ¬†Julia and her buddies didn’t create their itinerary based off of the FREE “things to do” in the city. ¬†Too bad for Hubby. ¬†He never likes to let me lose with the pocketbook. ¬†I’m beginning to understand why! ¬†lol

We woke up late and didn’t get out of the hotel until after noon. ¬†BTW… ¬†should you ever decide to stay at the Hilton Garden Inn near the airport in St. Louis, you should know that just because you spend a million $ on the hotel room, you will NOT be receiving a complimentary breakfast. ¬†Nope. ¬†Not even a stale donut or a box of cereal. ¬†However they DO invite you to partake in their $12 PLUS per person breakfast! ¬†By this time, my oldest daughter joined us so we were now a party of 5. ¬†I couldn’t justify spending $65 a day on breakfast food when we still had cupcakes. ¬†Granted, by this time the cupcakes were fairly hard, but they were still good enough for a bunch of teenagers. ¬†SO, because we were STARVING, we began our very rainy day at “Hodaks” (another St. Louis tradition) for all the fried chicken we could eat! ¬†Hodaks has been around forever and some people would say they have the best fried chicken and frog legs in the world! ¬†It was good but I wouldn’t say it was the best. ¬†The girls DID say it was the best and that made it all worth getting lost in the city ūüôā ¬†Have you ever been lost in a big city where it seems like every driver on the road wants to be in YOUR lane at the same time you are? ¬†Oh and let’s not forget all that AND screaming teenage girls who are literally punching each other in the back seat like a bunch of wild boys! ¬†I told them that THIS was the reason I chose NOT to have boys….

(We finally found Hodaks. ¬†Literally, people who move away from St. Louis and come back for a visit… HAVE to come back to Hodaks for the fried chicken. ¬†I know people who visit this place every time they’re in town)

(Not very fancy but tasty! ¬†I didn’t like the slaw at all and I thought it was funny that the chicken was served on top of a piece of white bread in order to soak up the grease! ¬†lol ¬†But despite the not-so-fancy plastic plates and such, the chicken was SO juicy and seasoned just right! ¬†And by juicy, I don’t mean greasy)

After stuffing ourselves with as much fried chicken as we could all eat, Julia wanted to go to Laclede’s Landing on the riverfront. ¬†No matter that a monsoon decided to visit us on this day. ¬†Anything for MY princess! ¬†lol ¬†If she wants to walk around WITHOUT umbrellas in the pouring down rain, then BY GOD, that’s what we’re going to do! ¬†Just as soon as we found a parking spot and stepped out into the rain, my oldest daughter flagged down a horse drawn carriage driver. ¬†If you’re ever in St. Louis and you want to take a carriage ride, you should know that you CAN negotiate a price with the drivers. ¬†They usually charge around $40 for as many people as we had with us. ¬†My daughter got them down to $25! ¬†Which is good because I hadn’t planned on spending ANYTHING on carriage rides! ¬†We did that LAST year! ¬†ARGH! ¬†It wasn’t HER money, it was just Mom’s, so who care’s right? ¬†lol ¬†Oh and don’t forget that your carriage driver works for tips. ¬†I didn’t realize that (even though there’s a big sign inside the carriage) so I walked off to hear our driver talking to another driver about how PISSED she was to have gone down on the price, yet she STILL wasn’t tipped! ¬†lol ¬†Ooops. ¬†Don’t worry! ¬†I made my oldest daughter tip her! ¬†It was only fair since it was oldest daughter’s idea ūüôā

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(Here’s our carriage driver trying to rustle us up some more blankets so my precious angels wouldn’t be so cold in the St. Louis rain! ¬†She really was nice to us even if she DID get a little perturbed that we didn’t know to tip her)

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(The angels all snuggly and warm with their blankies)

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(Mama Bear and her Birthday Princess)

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(The Martin Luther King Bridge over the Mississippi River… a view from our carriage ride through the Landing)

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(And because I love bridges… ¬†The Eads Bridge… ¬†BTW… check out that cobble stone road!)

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(This is my favorite of the MLK Bridge)

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(Laclede’s Landing)

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(And because I love old clocks too ūüôā

So the reason we were on The Landing in the first place was so that Birthday Girl could experience the creepy St. Louis Wax Museum. ¬†I HATE wax museum because they scare the crap out of me but that was the exact reason birthday girl wanted to go! ¬†I found a good deal on Groupon so it ended up being inexpensive. ¬†Thank JESUS something was a good deal! ¬†lol ¬†The people who ran the Wax Museum were SO nice too. ¬†They’re updating the place so some of the displays were in disrepair. ¬†Apparently, they’re in the process of getting all new wax creatures.

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(Here’s oldest daughter with her idol, Michael Jordan. ¬†She LOVES basketball and still plays every chance she gets ūüôā

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(I had to get this one of “little bit” with Mark McGwire because it WAS here birthday and all about the year 1998, when a few months after she was born, Mark McGwire broke the home run record in St. Louis – I know… it was all too controversial… but STILL cool cause it happened right here in St. Louis AND in the year 1998!)

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(Okay… so this may be in bad taste but it looks like they have Patrick Swayze embalmed here! ¬†We all LOVE Patrick Swayze but this was way too creepy and helped set the mood. ¬†We were beginning to be VERY afraid. ¬†We had to walk through 3 floors of dark and very scary hallways)

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(I’m not sure who this one’s supposed to be. ¬†Possibly Tina Turner? ¬†She was from St. Louis so maybe? ¬†Whoever it is, she sure is CREEPY… Again there’s THAT word! ¬†lol)

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(Again in bad taste… the kids said this one reminded them of me and all my stomach surgeries. ¬†They have NO sympathy for me!)

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(Thank GOD my oldest found herself a man! ¬†I was beginning to worry because she’ll be 29 this summer! ¬†I wonder if Obama knows his image is being tossed around this way? ¬†lol)

So the Wax Museum was Birthday Girl’s favorite thing to do all weekend! ¬†Who would have figured? ¬†I couldn’t get out of that place fast enough! ¬†I couldn’t wait to get back outside in the monsoon to visit Gibbol’s Magic Store¬†(Gibbol’s Novelty & Costumes)! ¬†Carriage Ride lady told us there was a Magic Man there who would do magic tricks for us FREE! ¬†Well, by God, if it’s FREE, we’re going! ¬†Magic Man goes by the name of Andy G and has a separate business where he puts on private magic shows with a partner. ¬†It’s called Shift Reality. ¬†You can reach Andy G at #415-952-6394 or 415-95ANDYG… ¬†clever, huh? ¬†lol ¬†He’s pretty good and kept ALL of us fascinated and entertained with his free magic tricks! ¬†I’m pretty sure the owner of Gibbol’s couldn’t WAIT for me to get my destructive girls the heck OUT OF THERE though. ¬†Who knew girls could be into so much trouble? ¬†I only turned my back for a minute! ¬†lol

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(Here’s Andy G doing a card trick for Birthday Girl)

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(Hannah was SO mad when Andy G wouldn’t tell her how he did a trick. ¬†It drove her CRAZY trying to figure out what he’d done LONG after we left this place! ¬†lol ¬†He explained that, as a magician, he had to purchase magic trick secrets. ¬†He just couldn’t go giving his secretes away. ¬†He’d be glad to SELL us a secret though! ¬†lol)

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(And of COURSE the biggest instigator of trouble was the 28 year old daughter! ¬†She can’t help herself from trying on every pretty little thing! ¬†lol)

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(I never laughed so hard in my life! ¬†BIG TROUBLE daughter helped herself to the theatrical makeup and talked with Andy G as if this were her normal face! ¬†She didn’t even crack a smile so I’m thinking he really thought she wore her make up like this! ¬†He was having a lot of trouble looking her in the eye but SHE had no problem looking Andy G in the eye! ¬†lmbo ¬†Later the owner told us that they SOLD that make up and it cost money for them to apply it to our faces. ¬†So, in other words, my daughter helped herself to some free make up… ¬†I was laughing too hard to be embarrassed! ¬†No wonder I have trouble keeping the younger one’s in line! ¬†We’re not good at setting proper examples! ¬†lol)

Good day but SO long and cold and rainy! ¬†I couldn’t WAIT to get back to the hotel and read in my warm bed. ¬†THAT didn’t get to happen though! ¬†The girls wanted to go swimming. ¬†Oldest daughter and I took them for a little bit and left them at the pool. ¬†At 15, they’re old enough. ¬†PLUS the pool was only 4 ft deep. ¬†How was I to know that when I left they’d set off the alarm at the pool, use the handy cap chair lift and then set off more alarms on the elevator? ¬†I was notified BY SECURITY that my girls needed to be accompanied by an adult at ALL times! ¬†ROFLMAO ¬†Which translates to NO reading in my warm snuggly bed.

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(Because I’m pretty sure Hannah was behind us getting into trouble with the hotel management, I’m going to show you all some lovely pics of her mascara lineds face in the hot tub ūüėČ

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(Looks like they’re plotting trouble to me!)

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(Okay… so I MIGHT have known about them using the handicap chair lift. ¬†Shhhh….)

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(And you thought your BOYS were messy? ¬†Honestly, I didn’t know girls could be such nasty slobs! ¬†How did toilet paper get ON the floor by my side of the bed???? ¬†But this is what I had to contend with after I left the pool BEFORE security notified me! lol)

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(Don’t feel sorry for them! ¬†They TOTALLY deserve my invasion of their privacy! ¬†FINALLY, we got them to go to sleep. ¬†And then we picked at them until we disturbed their slumber. ¬†Check out Julia’s extreme annoyance in the black and white ūüėČ

So all’s well that ends well! ¬†2 days down and 1 day to go! ¬†This old mama’s getting too old for so much activity! ¬†At this point, the nursing home is beginning to sound like a vacation ūüôā

Meet Me In St. Louis Part 1 (a tour of my city on Julia’s 15th birthday)

I’m BAaaaaaack!!! ¬†Show of hands…. ¬†did anybody miss me? ¬†Ah, no matter, I missed YOU enough for all of us! ¬†lol ¬†My life has been PACKED with so much excitement and activity and I don’t really know where a good place to begin! ¬†I feel like I’ve crammed enough living for a year in these past couple of days. ¬†Or close to it ūüôā

So, you all know that last week was my baby girls 15th birthday, right? ¬†I asked you guys for some ideas to help us celebrate in a special way. ¬†You all had some fantastic ideas and we used some of them, so for that I thank you! ¬†Carla¬†suggested a photo shoot and a makeover. ¬†These girls live their LIVES doing makeovers so we didn’t choose that but we DID have a blast doing photo shoots. ¬†We spent the weekend touring the city of St. Louis and took over 500 shots. ¬†By the end of the weekend I think the girls wanted to HURT my camera! ¬†Maybe I over did it a little? Nah. ¬†But they really did have fun and felt so special being the star of the show. ¬†So Carla, THANK YOU! ¬†The girls and I had a BLAST and more importantly, we made some memories that we won’t soon forget.

You know how I am about showing you too many pictures, right? ¬†I do that because I’m proud AND I can’t decide which ones are the more important shots. ¬†ALL of them are important to me. ¬†Don’t worry though, I won’t show you all 500 of them! ¬†lol ¬†I’m going to do little segments, one day at a time.

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(I think Hannah was the one to smash the cupcakes… look at her evil face! ¬†She wouldn’t admit it though)

We arrived at the Hilton with Julia’s birthday cupcakes NOT in one piece! ¬†lol ¬†One of the girls threw their luggage on top of the special cupcakes that I had made for the occasion! ¬†ARGH! ¬†NOT a good way to start the weekend. ¬†These cupcakes were delicious and SO pretty before they got smashed. ¬†There’s a place in a town near us called Sweet-T-Pies¬†and they make the best cupcakes filled with any kind of filling you could dream of! ¬†OMG! ¬†They’re the most delicious little cakes any of us have ever tasted! Still divine even if they WERE smashed ūüôā ¬†Oh well, it’s the thought that counts, right?

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Once we got checked into our room, we made Julia hide in the bathroom so we could decorate for her. ¬†Notice the little princess crown on her head? ¬†Part of the deal was that she had to wear her birthday tiara everywhere we went so that the whole world would know that my princess was having a birthday! ¬†Did she do it? ¬†Nope. ¬†She’s way too shy and doesn’t like unnecessary attention. ¬†I’d say this was a weekend where the attention was NECESSARY! ¬†lol

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Remember those expensive pretty little smashed cupcakes? ¬†Yeah, as IF smashing them wasn’t enough, HANNAH (Julia’s bff) decided Julia should wear one too! ¬†Silly girls ūüėČ

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(Street car or trolley like the one used in Meet me in St. Louis. ¬†Don’t mind the white cloud streaming into the pic. ¬†It’s not a ghost… just the smoke from my cigarette cause I’m classy like that! ¬†lol)

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Do any of you know the Judy Garland movie “Meet Me in St. Louis”? ¬†Of course, being a St. Louis native, I grew up watching this classic and LOVE it still. ¬†Every Christmas, it’s a family tradition at my house and we all sit down with popcorn and watch. ¬†The song “Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas” was first sang by Judy Garland in this movie. ¬†The whole movie was filmed in University City on the Delmar Loop. ¬†It used to be known for it’s streetcars or “trolleys”. ¬†Well here’s a street car just like the one featured in “Meet Me In St. Louis”. ¬†I can’t get the “Trolley Song” out of my head now! ¬†lol

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(I know this is too dark but I wanted to show you the neon sign for the Blueberry Hill restaurant)

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(Chuck Berry’s guitar and other music memorabilia)

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(Julia can’t decide which crappy food item to order)

The first stop of the night (besides shopping at one of the cool stores on the strip) was Blueberry Hill Restaurant. ¬†You all know Chuck Berry, right? ¬†He’s a St. Louis native who’s legendary for his guitar playing and song writing. ¬†One of my favorites is “Roll Over Beethoven”… ¬†Anyway, this is his restaurant. ¬†It’s a landmark, for sure but if you ever come to St. Louis and decide to visit Blueberry Hill, don’t judge our cuisine based on what you find in this restaurant! ¬†It’s pretty sucky. ¬†Only go here for the atmosphere, the music and their toy collection. ¬†As soon as we walked through the door, we were greeted by a young college kid who didn’t say hello, instead he barked, “All minors have to be outta here by 10:00 p.m.”. ¬†As IF I was going to keep my kids there doing shots of tequila! ¬†So, not only was the food bad but they weren’t even friendly. ¬†Too bad cause I’m generally a really good tipper and I LOVE to write reviews! ¬†lol The girls had fun and soaked in the music and atmosphere though. ¬†THAT was the important thing ūüôā

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(I love neon signs and city streets at night)

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(the Tivoli lobby where we spent most of our time waiting for the couple to stop their love making inside the theater… ¬†it was beautiful though¬†*NOT the love making* … ¬†I felt like we were transported back to the year 1924 when this place was new)

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(the ceiling of the Tivoli… LOVE the decor of these old city buildings)

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(my girls were a little bored and didn’t know when it would be appropriate to enter the theater room where the couple was making out… they didn’t want to interrupt)

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The big event of our first night was to catch a midnight showing of “A Place Beyond The Pines”¬†with Ryan Gosling and Bradley Cooper. ¬†I couldn’t WAIT to show the girls the Landmark Tivoli theater! ¬†This was a theater that made it”s debut in 1924 and it was known for it’s luxury. ¬†For the day, The Tivoli was considered one of the most luxurious theaters in the USA. ¬†It went through a period of decline in the early 90’s and eventually shut down. ¬†The owners of Blueberry Hill renovated it in the mid 90’s and restored it to it’s original state. ¬†However, it would appear to be going through another period of decline. ¬†First of all, I should tell you that the Tivoli¬†is THE place to go if you want to catch an “artsy” film. ¬†Granted, “A Place Beyond The Pines” is NOT an artsy film (the girls HAD to see this one because they’re all in major LOVE with Ryan Gosling, and REALLY…. who could blame them?). ¬†That being said, you’d think that a theater known for their showings of the “artsy film genre” would be a clean and well kept theater. ¬†Or at least I would think that to be true. ¬†Well… ¬†it was clean in the lobby. ¬†The room where we watched the movie had sticky floors and the seats were worn and appeared to have been new in the ’90’s, when it was last renovated. ¬†Upon walking through the door, we were a little shocked to find a college couple doing some pretty HEAVY “petting” and making out! ¬†The girls felt uncomfortable to have interrupted this lovely couple. ¬†Soooo… we had to wait in the lobby until the movie started. ¬†You all know me and MY big mouth! ¬†I suggested LOUDLY that they get a room, which only seemed to embarrass my girls further! ¬†lol ¬†I’ve said this several times before… SUCKS TO BE MY KID! ¬†lol ¬†However, the couple didn’t take me up on my suggestion. ¬†All in all, it was fun to stay out late and watch a midnight movie. ¬†What was scary? ¬†Walking the streets of Delmar after the bars closed down. ¬†We were followed by a man who appeared to be way TOO interested in my girls. ¬†I invited him to let me know what his intentions were. ¬†He didn’t appear to want to mess with “Mama Bear”. ¬†GOOD for him. ¬†He, apparently wasn’t TOO drunk to miss the evil gleam in my eye ūüėČ

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And this is how our night ended! ¬†2 of the crazy girls crashed just as soon as we got back to our room! ¬†I wanted to sit up and talk but THEY were tired and wouldn’t humor me! ¬†lol

Broccoli & Rice Bake …

So tonight I knew I had to cook these pork steaks I had already thawed out, right? ¬†I also had a fresh head of broccoli but virtually no cheese. ¬†I know, you’re shocked. ¬†THIS house is RARELY without cheese! ¬†I had a little Swiss cheese but that’s it. ¬†So what do I do with the broccoli? ¬†I found this DELICIOUS recipe! ¬†I had all the ingredients so why not give it a try? ¬†I can tell you that it’s going to be a regular here ūüôā

Broccoli and Rice Bake

Ingredients:

1 head of broccoli, chopped (you can use frozen)

1 10.75 can cream of mushroom soup

1 1/4 cups milk

1 8 oz container sour cream

1 tsp dried crushed basil

1 tsp salt

1/2 tsp black pepper

1 1/2 cups white rice (long grain)

1 cup Swiss cheese

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350F

1.  Cook rice according to package directions.

2.  While rice is cooking, cook fresh broccoli in salted water.  Cook until still bright green.  Drain.

3.  In a large bowl, combine soup, milk, sour cream, salt pepper and basil.  Stir in cooked broccoli and cooked rice.  Spoon mixture into a greased 2 quart casserole dish.

4.  Cover and bake for about 30 minutes or until heated through.  Uncover and sprinkle cheese on top of rice dish.  Bake for another 5 minutes or until cheese is melted.

There it is! ¬†Simple as that and everyone LOVED it! ¬†The pork steaks were SO good too and fell apart in my mouth ūüėČ ¬†They’re so easy that I’m almost ashamed to tell you how I do them… but I WILL. ¬†All I do is season them any way I want to and throw them in the oven, covered at 350F. ¬†I cook them until they’re for tender (about 2-3 hours), uncover, drain grease and smother with bar-b-q sauce. ¬†Throw them back into the oven for another half hour until the sauce kind of cooks in ūüôā ¬†It’s better than the grill!

Mixed Berry Shortcakes with Whipped Cream

One of the BEST things about Spring time, in my humble opinion, is the availability of fresh fruit and vegetables ūüôā ¬†More specifically, strawberries! ¬†Strawberries come in season during the month of May… ¬†but who’s counting, right? ¬†Who cares that it’s April? ¬†Besides, our local grocery store had strawberries AND blackberries on sale. ¬†Soooo…. without further adieu, I bring you my families FAVORITE shortcake. ¬†Trust me, you’ll love it as much as we do!

Mixed Berry Shortcakes

Ingredients:

1 1/2 cups all purpose flour

1/4 cup sugar

1 tsp baking powder

1/4 tsp baking soda

1/4 tsp salt

1/4 tsp cinnamon

1/3 cup cold butter

1 egg, slightly beaten

1/2 cup sour cream

2 TBSP cream (you can use milk)

5 cups mixed berries (strawberries, blackberries, blueberries or whatever kind of berries)

3 TBSP sugar

whipped cream (recipe to follow)

Directions:

Preheat oven to 400F.  Lightly grease a baking sheet (or use parchment paper).  Set aside.  In a medium bowl, combine flour, the 1/4 cup sugar, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon and salt.  Using a  pastry blender, cut in butter until mixture resembles coarse crumbs.  In a small bowl, combine egg, sour cream and milk or cream.  Add wet ingredients to flour mixture, stirring with a fork just until moistened.

Drop dough into 8 mounds onto prepared baking sheet.  Bake for 12 to 15 minutes or until golden.  Transfer to a wire rack.  Let cool.

Berries

Mix 5 cups of berries of your choice with 3 TBSP sugar. ¬†Do not mash fruit but let sit for 15 minutes so that juices can develop and “marry” together.

When ready to serve, split shortcakes in half and and scoop berries and juice on top of one of the halves and cover with the other half.  Serve with whipped cream.

Whipped Cream

In a chilled mixing bowl, add 1 cup heavy whipping cream, 2 TBSP sugar and 1 tsp vanilla.  Beat with electric mixer until soft peaks form.  If you like, you can also like 1/4 tsp cinnamon.