29 Jun
2016

Choosing the type of flooring we want to use is much more difficult then trying to find what to use in our living room or bedroom. The options are many and it is up to us to know what would work best in our trendy kitchen, what is practical, what is easy to maintain, and what is in our price range.

Concrete Kitchen Flooring

It is hard to imagine us using concrete in our kitchens – but it is becoming more and more popular. A material that used to be considered boring can now be treated with the color and design of our choice. One of the biggest advantages to this is that it is one of the easiest to install and does not require to be glued or snapped together.

Most are designed with radiant heating that is installed underneath the floor to prevent it from becoming cold on our feet during the winter months and it is easy to maintain. When you go through the right company you can even get it to simulate the appearance of slate, marble, tile, and hardwood floors without paying an exorbitant amount of money.

Ceramic Kitchen Flooring

Ceramic floors are durable, look great, and easy to maintain. The most common are the stone ceramic that help to create a beautiful look when designing a trendy kitchen. The price for this flooring will depend on where you live and the quality of the floor you choose. This material is made from boulders that has been put through a special process and combined with other materials to give it an ethnic appearance.

Laminate Kitchen Flooring

Laminate flooring is one of the more popular choices because of how affordable it is to use and install. It is made using synthetic fibers which can be manipulated to take on the appearance of whatever floor you want. Like with concrete this will save you from spending a large amount of money on the real deal without losing the beauty of it. You can install these floors yourself – but without the proper care they can be easily damaged.

Linoleum Kitchen Flooring

This is probably the oldest flooring option that is made using linseed oil, pine, resin, and wood powder. These all natural ingredients makes it very eco friendly and helps to reduce the cost. It is designed with various finishes that give it a unique appearance and pattern to suit your kitchen.

Slate Kitchen Flooring

Slate flooring is slightly more expensive – but is ideal when you are trying to create a trendy kitchen. It is made using non-porous rock that keeps it from becoming stained. It is possible to find this in a variety of colors that include gray, black, rust, maroon, and green. One of its best qualities is that it is slip resistant.

Travertine Kitchen Flooring

This is a type of stone flooring that can be found in various colors and textures. It is a very durable and sturdy flooring that is able to withstand almost anything. However, it is quite expensive to use.

Vinyl Kitchen Flooring

This is another common flooring and is very affordable. You can purchase this in either sheets or tiles that are easy and quick to install. It is one of the most durable flooring that is easy to maintain and can last for years.

Hardwood Kitchen Flooring

Hardwood floors are a great flooring option to go with and have been known to last longer then most others. You can purchase them in strips, planks, or squares that you can install on your own. It is up to you to choose the type of wood that you want to use. You will spend more on wood that is of higher quality – but this is what will make it durable and easy to maintain for years to come.

26 Jun
2016

Yes the lighting is dim for a reason in my photos. I had to cook by way of microwave light.

My time has been sliced dramatically since my baby girl Arya has been born. I get torn in every which way. My primary job right now is not that of an elementary art educator, or that of a food blogger, or even that of person who is able to drop everything and go have a blast throwing a few beers back with his friends. No, my primary job is that of a good husband and an even better father. So, you can see how it would be hard to juggle so many things and actually stay sane. Still, one needs to find release in life or sanity will fly out the window and for me that release comes in the form of a good blog post. I can set aside a few good minutes and get lost in words and photos.

This sets the stage for yesterday evening. I was at an outstanding Tampa Bay Bloggers meetup learning how to bring in some extra assets to help out the household. I had to come home later than normal on this Monday evening and I felt bad that I missed baby Arya’s swim lessons with mommy, but I NEEDED to do this.

I had some light meal options that accompanied our blogger meetup at Dough. While they were definitely delicious, they were indeed light snacks, but I was considerate of my better half and snuck home a bouquet of Ramen Encrusted Chicken Bites that were left by their lonesome on my way out of the bakery.

ramen-encrusted-chicken-nuggetsleftovers-3

As I opened the garage door, my wife sneakily opened the inside door and gave me a quick shush with a swipe of her finger across her lips. I knew exactly what that meant. She had enough and baby Arya was getting some much-needed rest for herself momma. Come to find out my wife wasn’t very hungry as she had already heated up some leftovers I made from the night before. Come to find out she wasn’t that hungry. That’s alright, more for me (she did snag one after all though).

Right away I thought to myself, “How can I create something unique and tasty, rather than just nuking these crunchy bites of goodness in the microwave”? I figured I would create an easy breakfast concoction, my go to for an easy dinner option. I also knew I was on a mission not to wake the baby or there would be Hell to pay.

So all I did was cook up a couple scrambled eggs (I love Lady and Pup’s version of scarmbled eggs), chop up the chicken crispy pieces, toss them in the egg pan with some shredded up mozzarella, gave a few squirts of Sriracha, and let it all melt together for a minute. In the meantime, I toasted up some bread and heaped the egg/chicken mixture on top for an unorthodox breakfast sandwich packed with flavor. For an extra blast of umami, I hit it with some BLiS Blast, which is a barrel aged triple pepper hot sauce.

The point I wanted to make here is that you work with what you have. I didn’t have the means to create an elaborate meal, but so what? The meal was delicious nonetheless and it was a fun challenge to keep quiet enough not to wake the sleeping baby because anyone with a baby knows that will get you in deep shit.

24 Jun
2016

fujdge1This recipe is courtesy of the wife via my mother-in-law.  I have never made it myself (although I have sampled it a time or two). Personally, anything you have to constantly stir is not simple kitchen to me, but other than that it is an easy chocolate fix. My idea of easy is mix it up and stick it in the oven – preferably of the lemon and cream cheese flavor.

So if you are a chocoholic (like my husband) and don’t have a stash of cookies or candy bars in the house this is the perfect go to recipe.

I only eat this straight from the pan though – right after it’s done.  It is at its best when you have to eat it with a spoon. Once it hardens I’m done with it.  And the best way to eat it is to pour it, while still warm, over crackers.  Perfect combo of salty and sweet.

Easy Skillet Chocolate Fudge

fujdge22 cups sugar
1 Tablespoon butter
1 cup sweet milk*
1 teaspoon vanilla
4 Tablespoons cocoa**

Combine all ingredients into an iron skillet. cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until it reaches soft ball stage (this means that a soft ball will form when dropped in cold water – I didn’t know that did you?  So much for my candy making skills).

Remove from heat and beat until smooth.  You can also add chopped nuts at this point if you so desire.

Pour into a buttered dish to cool, or use an ice maker.  Make sure you pour some onto some crackers to eat right away – you won’t regret this step.

Cut into squares.

* Okay, the hubby tells me that the higher in fat the milk is, the better the fudge.  The best combo is with evaporated milk, or use half & half. Or use part 2% and part half & half. Am I confusing you yet?  Bottom line is that skim milk will NOT work at all.  If you are counting calories you probably aren’t going to make this anyway so go for the gusto.

**The best I’ve ever tasted of this recipe is when it is made with DARK cocoa powder – but you can use whatever variety you have on hand.

Till next time – keeping it simple.

23 Jun
2016

Every day I watch it.   Food TV Network.   Somehow, with the hundreds of channels I have to choose from, my television ends up with cooking shows playing. I can watch almost anyone cook pretty much anything, whether I like the food being cooked or not.  I can watch that smug David Rosengarten drone on and on about olive oil, like I care about what he thinks.  I am enthralled with Ming Tsai putting a western spin on eastern cuisine and can watch him cook different kinds of seafood all day, even though I am allergic to seafood.   The Two Fat Ladies crack me up, even though half the time I don’t know what they are talking about and the food they make looks absolutely disgusting.   I just love watching people cook.

So why don’t I get off my ass and cook something like the chefs on television?  I watch Sara Moulton cook live every night and say to myself,   “Hey, I can do that!”  I watch Mario Batali make pasta by making a well out of flour and adding eggs and water, and dream of doing that myself.  Every time I watch Bobby Flay and Jack McDavid  Grillin’ and Chillin’ , I look at my grill longingly, wondering why I don’t make the special marinades the masters use.

Why is it that when it gets to dinnertime, all my side dishes end with “roni”?   Rice a Roni, Pasta Roni, cheese and macaroni.   Why do all my vegetables come from the freezer and get directly put into the microwave?  Why can’t I julienne my carrots?  Why can’t I grill asparagus and wrap it in prosciutto?  Why do I always use dried flakes instead of making mashed potatoes from real spuds?   Why?  Because I’m afraid.

I am afraid to buy fresh vegetables in case I cut them wrong, or make a bad sauce to put on them.    I can’t stand to look at my husband as he is trying something new I just cooked, and him looking at me and saying “So, why did you decide to make this?”   It is just so much easier to take my frozen carrots out of the freezer and spray I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter! on them, or if I’m feeling gourmet, put them in a pan and mix them up with brown sugar and butter (a recipe I actually learned by watching TV Food Network!)

I’m afraid of nasty looks from checkout people.  I like veal, but I’m afraid that the cashier will give me some nasty look because I’m not a PC chef, so I stick with beef and chicken.  I don’t even buy pork tenderloin anymore because one time the checkout guy looked at it in it’s vacuum-sealed package and made a face like I was buying packaged pig shit.   I don’t know why, but I seem to care what people around me think about my purchases.  Maybe it is because I often have snarky thoughts when I see people buying chitterlings or lard.

I’m afraid to buy all the fancy herbs and spices because I don’t want to waste my money if I end up not liking said herb or spice.   A few weeks ago I made my husband spend good money on Bobby Flay’s chicken herb rub.   I rubbed it on some boneless, skinless chicken breasts and grilled it.  After tasting it wondered why I didn’t just use the seasoned salt I always use when grilling chicken breasts, and felt bad that I made my husband spend so much money on something I will probably never use again.

I’m also afraid of wasting money on all the gadgets the chefs use to make their fancy meals.   I don’t have expensive pots and pans, and my knives have much to be desired.   When I got married, I got a number of wooden spoons, rubber spatulas, and other various kitchen stuff, but they are getting worn and from watching all these shows I now want all the expensive stuff.    With all the cooking I don’t do, my friends and family tell me it isn’t worth spending all that money on items I will rarely use.   I try to tell them that if I had the gadgets I would cook more, but they don’t believe me.

I’m afraid of overcooking and undercooking.  I’m a very impatient cook, so if something takes over a half-hour to cook, I get antsy.   I’ll keep taking a meatloaf out of the oven and cutting into it to check to see if it is cooking through, or cutting into a piece of chicken on the grill to see if it is still pink in the middle.   I can’t let things go, so when I see people on these cooking shows make a pie with meats and vegetables in it and put it in the oven for hours at a time, I know it would drive me nuts because I couldn’t cut into the pie to check for doneness.

I’m afraid that I’ll follow a new recipe wrong and ruin the food.  I have these nightmares from when I had to take home economics in middle school, and for some reason or another I would read a recipe wrong and end up totally screwing up the food I prepared.  Like I said earlier, I get upset if people don’t like my cooking so I will usually only try a new recipe if I’m cooking only for myself.  The catch-22 situation to that is, when I’m only cooking for myself I really don’t want to cook and will only have a sandwich or a Hot Pocket, and some soup.   Of course, the soup will be from a can, because I don’t have many herbs and spices, good vegetables, or anything to start a soup.

I’m afraid I’ll get fatter than I already am.  Most of the cooks (Emeril Lagasse I’m looking at you) use the richest, fattiest ingredients in their preparations.  Many times I have wanted to make a flourless chocolate cake, but I know it is loaded with calories.   The chicken francaise looks easy enough to make, but just looking at all that butter the chicken fries in makes me bloat.   I dream of making an alfredo sauce, and having the metabolism to burn it off easily.  A girl can dream, can’t she?

So for now, I’ll just keep on watching Iron Chef and laughing to myself when the chefs have to wrestle live octopi to cook with or when celebrity judges have to try squid ink ice cream.   I’ll try to remember cooking tips from the guest chefs on Cooking Live (like how ice cream helps take hot/spicy tastes out of your mouth.  One more reason why ice cream is the Treat Of The Gods).  And I’ll just stay in my comfy chair and fantasize about cooking as well as the chefs of Food TV Network.

19 Jun
2016

Happy Easter to all of my “Peeps”. Hope you all have a blessed day. Easter is one of my favorite holidays because I get to celebrate my risen savior. Actually I get to celebrate Him all year long. So to all the “Peeps” in my life have a very Happy Easter.

What Easter dinner table would be complete without deviled eggs? I have often wondered why we serve “Devil”ed eggs on a day that celebrates Jesus. Did you ever wonder the same? But every Easter dinner I’ve ever been to always has them. Forgive me, I digressed.

eggs1Ok, so deviled eggs are standard fare for any Easter gathering (or any family gathering for that matter). And have you ever noticed that the family member that doesn’t cook is the one delegated to bring the deviled eggs?

That’s because they are easy deviled eggs. I was that family member for many years.

Now I like my deviled eggs really basic. Don’t go adding any fancy ingredients like relish or I probably won’t eat them.

So I want to share my very basic recipe with you so you can make basic deviled eggs.

Basic deviled eggs ingredients

After the eggs are done and peeled, slice them in half lengthwise and remove the yellow portion to a bowl. Place the white halves, cut side up, on a plate or deviled egg platter.

eggs2Mash the yellows with a fork then add mayonnaise and mustard.

You will notice that I am not giving you any measurements for this recipe because it truly is a matter of personal taste and consistency. and of course depends on how many eggs you are preparing.

Start with the mayonnaise.

Mix in a heaping tablespoon at a time until you reach the consistency that you prefer.

Some people like theirs really creamy but I prefer mine a little stiffer. I want to be able to taste the egg flavor over the mayo.

When you have them to the consistency that you want them add mustard to give them an extra zip of flavor. Add the mustard a teaspoon at a time until it reaches the desired flavor that you like.

eggs3Now it’s time to stuff the egg whites. If you want them to be really pretty and look like you slaved in the kitchen for hours, use a cake decorator with an open star tip.

If you are not quite up to that difficulty then go for the simple method. Put the yellow mixture in a zip lock bag and zip it closed. Cut one corner off the bag and pipe the filling into the egg whites.

Sprinkle with paprika or chili powder to garnish. Ta Da!! Done, easy, simple. You just made Basic Deviled Eggs.I knew you could make basic deviled eggs.

How simple was that? Your family will thank you for your contribution.

17 Jun
2016

chicken

Chickens have been domesticated to provide eggs and meat since before 1400 BC. The Chinese raised them for generations. The Polynesians brought these useful birds with them to Chile in the 1300s. Since then, the chicken has become a worldwide food staple. They are easy to raise and provide nutritious protein… oh, and they provide one of the most versatile meats in the world.

Just about every culture in the world has chicken recipes. China, Japan, Italy, England, France, and Mexico… the list goes on and on. This low cholesterol meat is mild flavored, relatively inexpensive, and can be fashioned in any number of imaginative ways into tasty, healthy meals.

What Kind of Chicken is found at the Market?

At the supermarket, you will find whole chickens, fryers that are cut up or halved, and portions of all one kind such as breasts, thighs, or drumsticks. If you like giblets, you can also find small tubs of livers or gizzards. You can buy chicken on the bone or boneless. All of these options make planning meals a snap for the home cook.

Whole chickens are less expensive than a package of all breasts. The less processing the meat packers do, the more savings you get. If you do not feel comfortable or do not have time to cut up a chicken yourself, you can always opt for one that has been cut up or deboned for you.

What Can You Do With Chicken?

If you have a whole chicken on hand, you can roast it and make soup the next day. Chicken pieces can be fricasseed, fried, stewed, or put in the oven. Boneless pieces can be cut up and added to soup, pasta, stir-fries, or sauts. They are very versatile. Chicken casserole recipes are numerous and as varied as there are cooks to make them.

Use chicken in Italian dishes like chicken linguine, French dishes like chicken and shallots, or Indian recipes like chicken tandoori. Asian recipes like peanut chicken, orange peel chicken and others add some zing to what may otherwise be an ordinary day. Make pollo relleno or chicken a la Tex Mex for a little spice. Each ethnic region also has many chicken soup varieties to try too.

Another great thing about chicken that makes it so versatile is that you can choose either dark or white meat. They each have a different texture, and work well in so many different meals. Dark meat can take more cooking without drying than white meat can. It also soaks up sauces well. White meat is firmer and works well in chicken salad, on the grill or in sandwiches.

In conclusion, let us give thanks to the humble chicken. It is low in fat and cholesterol. It is easily digested. It fits into just about any dish in any cuisine with delicious results. Chicken offers more versatility than almost any other food. Chicken soup has even been shown in scientific studies to help us when we are sick. We owe a lot to the chicken, which has filled a necessary place in the food chain.