Hot Eats and Cool Reads: May 2012

May 31, 2012

Balsamic Chicken and Gravy with Baby Bellas Recipe

I've had a huge craving for mashed potatoes and gravy lately. Not the typical kind, something extremely different. I wasn't sure how this was going to turn out, but I ended up loving it! Balsamic is one of my favorites, but I've only used it with pasta or bruschetta, so experimenting with it is new to me. I also love fresh basil and I really needed to use some up. The leaves on my plant are huge as you can see in the pic below!

 My daughter loved this meal just as much as I did. She even asked for the leftovers the next day for lunch. I hope you enjoy!

Balsamic Chicken and Gravy with Baby Bellas (print recipe)

What you need:
1 1/2 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoons olive oil
2 large chicken breasts, cut into four portions
4 cloves garlic, minced
4 ounces baby bellas, sliced
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1/2 cup white cooking wine
1 1/2 cups chicken broth
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1 tablespoon fresh basil, chopped
1 tablespoon fresh oregano, chopped
salt and pepper

Season chicken breasts with salt and pepper. In a large skillet over medium high heat, melt butter, and start to brown chicken breasts. After a few minutes when breasts are browned on each side, add garlic and baby bellas and continue to saute over medium heat. After 5 minutes, add balsamic and continue to saute for another 3 minutes. Add chicken broth and wine and bring to a boil. (Reserve some of the broth/wine mixture to mix cornstarch). When it starts boiling, mix cornstarch with reserved liquid until smooth and add to broth mixture along with the basil and oregano. (you keep the chicken breasts in the pan the entire cooking time.) When broth thickens to gravy, remove from heat and serve over mashed potatoes, rice or pasta!

This recipe was shared at:
Recipe Round Up at Gooseberry Patch
Full Plate Thursday at Miz Helen's Country Cottage
Thursdays Treasures at Recipes For My Boys
Whatcha Whipped Up Wednesday at DJ's Sugar Shack
Creative Thursday at  Michelle's Tasty Creations
Cast Party Wednesday at Lady Behind the Curtain
Recipe Linky at Newlyweds
Totally Tasty Tuesdays at Mandy's Recipe Box
Tuesday Talent Show at Chef in Training
Mix it up Monday at Flour me with Love
Foodie Friday at Simple Living
Fabulous Friday at My Crowded Kitchen
Weekend Potluck at Sunflower Supper Club

May 29, 2012

Vanilla Pudding Fruit Salad Recipe

Fruit salad is something I could eat all the time, and it is such a healthy alternative to typical baked desserts. My step mom, Monica, made something similar to this for a holiday brunch not too long ago and I just loved it! It is so simple and quick to put together making it a great salad to bring to a picnic or barbeque. You can also change up what fruit you'd like to put in it depending on what you have, or what's in season. Enjoy, this is a great recipe!

Vanilla Pudding Fruit Salad (print recipe)

What you need:
2- 11 ounce cans of mandarian oranges with juice
1- 20 ounce can of pineapple chunks with juice
1- 3.4 ounce box of instant vanilla pudding
1 pound fresh strawberries, sliced
2 bunches of grapes, halved


May 28, 2012

Book Review: Fever 1793 by Laurie Halse Anderson

Description from Goodreads:
It's late summer 1793, and the streets of Philadelphia are abuzz with mosquitoes and rumors of fever. Down near the docks, many have taken ill, and the fatalities are mounting. Now they include Polly, the serving girl at the Cook Coffeehouse. But fourteen-year-old Mattie Cook doesn't get a moment to mourn the passing of her childhood playmate. New customers have overrun her family's coffee shop, located far from the mosquito-infested river, and Mattie's concerns of fever are all but overshadowed by dreams of growing her family's small business into a thriving enterprise. But when the fever begins to strike closer to home, Mattie's struggle to build a new life must give way to a new fight-the fight to stay alive.

My thoughts:
This is a great historical young adult novel. I never really knew much about the fever of 1793, and this story told of what people may have gone through, with some true facts about the fever at the end of the book. The cover is beautiful and eerie and draws you in right off the bat. Mattie is a courageous main character who goes through great strides to survive the fever and reach out to others who need help. She endures alot of heartache from people close to her dying, but never gives up. Overall, it is a great book that can be enjoyed by both teens and adults. 

I rate this book 4 out of 5 stars 

May 27, 2012

Gold'n Plump Recipe and Product Review: Reuben Chicken Brats in a Bun

Chicken is something we cook with alot at my house, and Gold'n Plump is the brand we use most often because I like to support local companies and the quality is always great. They also offer such great coupons through their website, email, and newspaper. I was so excited when I received an email from Gold'n Plump asking if I would like to try their new line of Chicken Brats, Sausages, and Breakfast Sausages. I jumped at the chance to try and review them!

First I decided to try the brats. I saw this recipe posted on their Facebook page, and I knew I had to try it! The chicken brats had such a great flavor, were juicy, and they grilled perfectly. I would substitute them for pork brats anytime. They are so much healthier and they go really well with the sauerkraut, thousand island and swiss in this recipe. Another great thing about these brats, is they are gluten and nitrate free. I would definitely recommend them to anyone, especially if you are looking for a healthier alternative. You can find them in the cooler or freezer section of your local grocery store, in a 19 ounce package with 5 brats.

If you are a traditional Reuben lover, you will really like this tasty alternative. I am mostly German, so sauerkraut is a favorite in my family. It's nice to have it with another type of meat, instead of pork. Enjoy!!

Reuben Chicken Brats in a Bun (print recipe)

What you need:
5 Gold'n Plump Chicken Brats
3 ounces sliced or shredded swiss cheese
5 brat buns or hoagie rolls, split
2 cups sauerkraut
1/3 cup thousand island dressing or spicy brown mustard

Grill chicken brats according to package directions. Sprinkle or lay swiss inside of each roll, toast on grill until cheese is melted and bun is lightly browned. Fill roll with the bratwurst, sauerkraut and thousand island.

Recipe Source: Gold'n Plump
For other chicken brat recipes, visit Gold'n Plump's website here!

May 24, 2012

Crispy Baked Chicken Coated with Potato Flakes Recipe

I've always been a huge fan of fried chicken, but I don't really like frying foods at home. This recipe is a great substitute and turns out nice and crispy. The prep is fast, which is great too. You can make any side dish to go with it. We love mashed potatoes, brown sugar glazed carrots, or rice. It's a total comfort food. The leftovers are great too for chicken sandwiches or salads. Enjoy!!

Crispy Baked Chicken Coated with Potato Flakes (print recipe)

What you need:
chicken legs or thighs, skin on
instant mashed potato flakes
season salt
nature's seasoning
black pepper


May 22, 2012

Book Review and Giveaway: When Truth Is Gangsta: by Tecori Sheldon

Description from Goodreads:
After the gruesome murder of his parents, a young boy plots to rule the streets of Detroit, but first he must contend with a corrupt mayor and a serial killer murdering drug dealers. At age eight, an assault team storms Walker “Ruffneck” Story’s rural Pennsylvania family compound, killing both of his parents. With the butler’s help, Ruffneck escapes. He is then smuggled out of state and relocated to Detroit. Under the watchful eye of a mysterious lady, Granny Sinclair, Ruffneck reemerges eleven years later, hungry for power and revenge. He assembles a cutthroat street team, and together, they challenge the elitists in the dope game for control. Betrayal puts him behind bars to do a two-year stretch— during the time when a serial killer starts preying on young drug dealers. While locked away, Granny Sinclair and Ruffneck’s cousin are murdered. He returns to the street with a brand-new plan: to find and annihilate those responsible. His investigation not only uncovers the killers of his granny and cousin, but also sheds light on his parents’ murderers. All fingers point to one man—the mayor of Detroit. Corruption, with enough explosive history behind it, place Ruffneck, the mayor, and the serial killer all on a collision course with the truth.

My Thoughts:
This book was phenomenal. It is everything you would expect of a street lit novel, and it was addictive from page one. Ruffneck is ruthless. At age 8, his parents were murdered right in front of him, and from that point forward, he was dead set on revenge. Detroit is the perfect setting for Ruffneck's gritty and dark story, and the storyline was exciting throughout the whole book. I loved the serial killer tie-in and especially liked the scene inside the Michigan Central Train Station, which I got to see for myself last summer. It is quite the amazing structure!
It's not that often where you find a book that you love from start to finish. This book was exactly that for me. I really enjoyed it and the story was solid through the end. This book is the second I've read from this author and both have been great. Strebor Books is also a great publisher, so I know when they've published it, it's going to be quality.

I received a copy of this book from the author to read and review. It has not influenced my opinion in any way. 

I rate this book 5 out of 5 stars

Now onto the giveaway!

This giveaway is for one advanced readers copy of "When Truth is Gangsta" by Tecori Sheldon. The winner will be notified and must respond within 48 hours to claim their prize, or a new winner will be chosen. All entries will be verified. US residents only. This giveaway is not affiliated with Twitter, Facebook or Pinterest. 

Ham and Broccoli Macaroni and Cheese Recipe

Homemade Mac and Cheese is such a great comfort food. I normally make it plain, but this time I decided to add ham and broccoli. I love how it turned out! It had so much flavor and the cheese mixture for the sauce is just the right combo. This can be a meal in itself, or a great addition for a family gathering. Either way, it will be enjoyed by everyone!

Ham and Broccoli Macaroni and Cheese (print recipe)

What you need:
2 cups elbow macaroni
1 1/2 cups fresh or frozen chopped broccoli
5 tablespoons butter
1/4 cup onion, diced
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1/4 cup flour
3 cups milk
2 cups shredded cheddar
1/2 cup shredded mozzarella
1/2 cup provolone or swiss
1 1/2 cups ham steak, cubed
salt and pepper

Cook macaroni according to package directions adding chopped broccoli within the last 5 minutes of cooking. Rinse, drain and set aside. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a large saucepan, saute onion, paprika, salt and pepper in butter over medium heat until onion is tender, about 7 minutes. Add flour, and cook for another 5 minutes, stirring often to remove lumps. Add milk and and simmer for 7 minutes until sauce starts to thicken. Add cheese and cook until the cheese melts. Pour macaroni and broccoli in a 9x13 glass baking dish and add ham on top of that. Pour cheese sauce over, covering macaroni and ham. Top with extra cheese, if desired. Bake for 30 minutes or until top starts browning. 

May 20, 2012

Ham and Eggs Baked in Crispy Hashbrown Cups Recipe

These are such little bites of goodness! Great for freezing or reheating for a quick breakfast.

These are such little bites of goodness! Great for freezing or reheating for a quick breakfast. Ham and Eggs Baked in Crispy Hashbrown Cups Recipe from Hot Eats and Cool Reads!

I am all for eating breakfast at dinnertime. I don't usually have time to make it in the mornings on weekdays, and like to sleep in on the weekend, so we do something quick most mornings, and periodically make it for dinner instead!

May 19, 2012

Book Review: Once in a Blue Moon by Eileen Goudge

Description from Goodreads:
Lindsay and Kerrie Ann are sisters who have known hardship from an early age. Without guidance from their neglectful mother, their only aid came from an unlikely source, a retired exotic dancer by the name of Miss Honi Love. When the girls’ mother was sent to prison, Miss Honi tried unsuccessfully to save them from being separated and sent into foster care.
Thirty years later, Lindsay is still trying to reconnect with her sister. The owner of a bookstore in the sleepy California seaside town of Blue Moon Bay, she was lucky enough to have been adopted by a loving couple. Unbeknownst to her, Kerrie Ann has suffered a very different life. Bounced from one foster home to the next, she ran away as a teenager before becoming a drug-addicted single mother. Now, newly sober, Kerrie Ann is fighting to regain custody of the little girl who was taken from her.
Neither sister’s expectations are met when they’re finally reunited. But as the two sisters engage in the fiercest battles of their lives, they are at last drawn together despite their differences, restoring belief in the unshakable bond of family.

My thoughts:
I really liked this book and thought Eileen Gouge did a good job writing it. I really liked the storyline and all of the main characters were likeable. Kerrie Ann is an amazing character and I loved her and Ollie together. He's the kind of man alot of us would love to have. Lindsay got on my nerves at first when her judgmental attitude, but as the book went along she turned into a great person. Miss Honi is loveable and spunky. Everyone needs an old ex-exotic dancer in their household. The bookstore/coffee shop setting was perfect and I could just imagine the streets and shops in this little town. Both of the sisters have legal issues in this book and it made you want to keep reading to see what happens next. It was somewhat predictable, but not enough to wreck the story. This book got average ratings, but I felt it was a little above average.

I rate this book 4 out of 5 stars

May 18, 2012

Rhubarb Shortbread Bars Recipe

These amazing spring or summer rhubarb bars are a great potluck or party dessert! The buttery shortbread and tart rhubarb are a perfect pair and you'll find yourself wanting more than just one! 

Rhubarb Shortbread Bars

These amazing spring or summer rhubarb bars are a great potluck or party dessert! The buttery shortbread and tart rhubarb are a perfect pair and you'll find yourself wanting more than just one! Top them with whipped cream, sprinkled powdered sugar or ice cream for a wonderful, sweet treat!

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May 16, 2012

Save Your Scraps! How to Make Homemade Vegetable Stock

This idea is completely genius! I believe I saw it browsing around on Facebook or Pinterest a couple months back and knew I had to start saving all of my veggie scraps, or veggies that were starting to pass their peak. I started saving them in a gallon Ziploc freezer bag. 

A few weeks passed, and before I knew it, the bag was full and it was time to make me some homemade stock! All of the veggies I froze did well being frozen, except the carrots. They turned brown, so maybe blanching them previously to freezing helps, or just adding them fresh at the time of cooking. After the stock was finished, I froze it in glass jars. Thawing is easy that way and they fit right in the door of the freezer. 

This method of making your own stock, out of stuff you'd normally throw in the garbage, is a great money saver! It's also a great way to cut canned stock, or bouillon out of your diet. 

Veggie ideas:
celery (throw it in the bag when it starts getting droopy!)
fresh parsley
fresh basil
green onions
salt and pepper to taste if you like more seasoning

Thaw veggies. In a large stock pot, cover veggies with water. Bring to a boil over high heat, reduce to a simmer, and continue simmering for 1-2 hours or until veggies have cooked down. Strain with a wire mesh strainer and discard veggie pulp mixture. Freeze broth in ziploc bags, or jars!

This recipe was shared at:

May 14, 2012

Rhubarb and Strawberry Crisp Recipe

One dessert I always looked forward to when I was a child was my Mom's apple crisp. I just love the buttery, sugary topping. I decided to use the same recipe but instead of apples, I used rhubarb and strawberries instead. This fruit combo always works great together and of course this dessert was phenomenal! I never get tired of rhubarb! It's always been so plentiful here in Minnesota and there's more than enough to go around. It freezes well too, so if you have more than you need, bag it up to use later! Enjoy!!

Rhubarb and Strawberry Crisp (print recipe)

What you need:

3 c. strawberries, sliced
3 c. rhubarb, sliced
3/4 c. sugar

3/4 c. flour
1/2 c. sugar
6 tablespoons butter, softened

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease 8x10 baking dish. Put rhubarb and strawberries in the bottom of the dish and cover evenly with sugar.

In a bowl, combine flour, sugar and butter with your fingers until mixed. Top fruit with the crisp mixture, covering the majority of the fruit. Bake for 30-45 minutes, or until crisp is lightly browned. Top with ice cream, whipped cream, or eat it plain!

This recipe was shared at:
Recipe Round Up at Gooseberry Patch
Church Supper at Everyday Mom's meals
Scrumptious Sunday Link Party at Addicted to Recipes
Strut Your Stuff Saturday at Six Sisters Stuff
Foodie Friday at Rattlebridge Farm
Fabulous Friday at My Crowded Kitchen
Weekend Potluck at The Better Baker
Thursdays Treasures at Recipes for my Boys
Full Plate Thursday at Miz Helen's Country Cottage
Recipe Linky at Newlyweds
Look What I Made at A Thrifty Mom
Totally Tasty Tuesdays at Mandy's Recipe Box
Tuesday Talent Show at Chef in Training

May 8, 2012

Buttered Avocado Toast Recipe

This toast is a hearty, easy and delicious breakfast or snack idea! Try sourdough bread!

This toast is a hearty, easy and delicious breakfast or snack idea! Try sourdough bread! Buttered Avocado Toast Recipe from Hot Eats and Cool Reads

This is one of those food combinations that makes you wonder, why didn't I think of this?? Thanks to my brother, Shaun and his fiance (soon to be wife!), Tonya for telling me about this amazing breakfast idea! 

May 7, 2012

Book Review: Larger Than Lyfe by Cynthia Diane Thornton

Description from Goodreads:
Beautiful, Wharton-educated, recording industry mogul Keshari Mitchell is leading a double life. As owner of Larger Than Lyfe Entertainment, a multimillion-dollar record label specializing in platinum-selling hip-hop, R&B and jazz, she is undeniably the most powerful woman in the American music industry. As second-in-command in The Consortium, one of the most powerful, Black organized crime rings on the West Coast, she is, undoubtedly, one of the most powerful and most feared women in the United States’ criminal underworld.But… she wants OUT… out of an organization that does not accept resignations. As Larger Than Lyfe unfolds, readers receive a VIP pass into Keshari Mitchell’s very glamorous but extremely dangerous life. Readers get a taste of the decadence, drama, and hedonism so prevalent in the music industry. Readers also view the dark side of organized crime where millions of dollars are made and controlled from the trafficking and sale of cocaine, where law enforcement can be bought and corrupted, and where lives can be snuffed out strategically and without remorse at any given time to protect and expand criminal empires. Keshari Mitchell is on the verge of total meltdown as she works desperately on a daily basis to keep the stressful duality of her life as record industry mogul and increasingly reluctant crime boss separate. This most complex predicament is complicated all the more when she breaks her own rule regarding romantic entanglements and falls in love with the handsome, new, West Coast general counsel at ASCAP (American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers). Will love of a lifetime be able to survive and surpass the deception of Keshari Mitchell’s double life? And will Keshari Mitchell be able to survive and walk away from the very dark side of her life that is “blood in—blood out”?

My thoughts:
I really like Keshari as a main character. She is a strong and successful woman that holds her own very well. While she is in the spotlight alot because of her record label, there is also a very dark part in her life that may cost her everything. She is one of the leaders in an organized crime ring. Keshari makes a very deep decision. She wants to quit the crime lifestyle and live the straight life with her soul mate. That does not come easy, of course.

This was a really good read overall. The storyline was solid, yet somewhat predictable at times. It had a good flow. The name brand dropping was a little much in my opinion, but I'm not much of a materialistic person anyway, so maybe it's just me. I would definitely read another book by this author, and will be picking up a copy of the sequel, Rise of the Phoenix, Larger than Lyfe II.

I rate this book 4 out of 5 stars

I received a copy of this book to read and review from the author, Cynthia Diane Thornton. This does not affect my opinion or rating in any way. 

May 6, 2012

Savory Rhubarb Cherry Sauce Recipe for Pork Chops or Ham

You can sure tell it's spring in Minnesota this week. This is my second blog post with rhubarb and there will be more coming within the next couple weeks! First I stared off with something sweet, Rhubarb Dump Cake. This recipe for Rhubarb Cherry Sauce is actually savory and is a great topping for a ham steak or pork chops. Maybe even chicken breasts? It is actually very easy to make and has great flavor. I would recommend trying this if you are a rhubarb lover. It's a great change from the typical desserts that I associate with rhubarb. Enjoy!

Rhubarb Cherry Sauce (print recipe)

What you need:
1/2 cup dried cherries
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1/4 cup hot water
1/2 cup onion, finely diced
2 cups rhubarb, cut into 1/2 inch pieces
3 tablespoons sugar
pinch of nutmeg
1 teaspoon olive oil
salt and pepper

In a small bowl, combine cherries, balsamic and hot water. Let stand 10 minutes to soften. 

In a small saucepan, heat olive oil over over medium heat and add onion. Saute onion for about 10 minutes or until tender. Add cherry mixture, rhubarb, sugar, nutmeg, salt and pepper. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer until rhubarb has softened, about 5-10 minutes. Serve with grilled ham steaks or pork chops. 

May 4, 2012

Pesto Pasta Stuffed Tomatoes Recipe

My local grocery store, Coborn's, had some great vine on tomatoes this week. Even better, they were only 99 cents a pound as a manager's special. I had the perfect recipe in mind.

A few weeks ago, I was browsing through the used cookbook section of my Mom's store and stumbled across one called "Light Cooking: Pasta". My daughter and I are huge pasta lovers, so I took a quick peek and this recipe caught my eye. I brought it home so I could try it out asap.

I really love how these Pesto Pasta Stuffed Tomatoes turned out. I am a huge basil fan. This recipe gave me a great excuse to buy a basil plant for my patio, and use some right away to make this. It all came together quickly and would be a great side for so many meats. What could go wrong with tomatoes, garlic and pasta?? Nothing, in this case! Enjoy!!

 Pesto Pasta Stuffed Tomatoes (print recipe)

What you need:
3 ounces uncooked star or other small pasta (I found the star pasta in the Mexican foods section)
4 large tomatoes
1 cup loosely packed fresh basil
1 clove garlic, minced
3 tablespoons mayo
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1 cup zucchini, shredded 
2 tablespoons shredded parmesan

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Cook pasta according to package directions, drain and set aside.

Cut tops from tomatoes. Scoop out and discard all but 1/2 cup tomato pulp. Chop and add to pasta. Place tomatoes, cut side down, on paper towels and let drain for 5 minutes.

Place basil and garlic in a food processor and process until finely chopped. Add mayo and pepper, process until smooth. Combine pasta mixture, zucchini, parmesan, and basil mixture until mixed. Place tomatoes in a baking dish and fill each tomato with the pasta mixture, mounding slightly.

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