Tuscan Lentil Soup

There is something very comforting about soup; it seems to nourish your soul as it feeds your body. You’ve never heard of a book series called, “Chicken Casserole for the Soul.” Don’t get me wrong, I love casseroles, but there’s just something about soup. Tuscan Lentil Soup.

Most soups fall into one of two categories: the kind that takes all day to cook (usually in the crock pot), and the kind that you can whip up in short order but still tastes delicious. I had picked up a bag of lentils while shopping because they’re high in protein, high in fiber, have vitamins and mineral, and are low in calories – perfect for our healthy diet. I’ve used them in salads before (Salad Swag: 3 Cures for the Common Salad) but we were looking for something warm and hearty for supper.

Pintesting Tuscan Lentil Soup

When searching for lentil soup recipes, I found this Pin by Natalie of Life Made Simple. Our family is trying to stick to a Mediterranian diet because it’s very healthy and still tasty, so this recipe really stood out. One look at the picture and my HH gave an enthusiastic thumbs up. It helped that we also had most of the ingredients on hand, so a quick trip to the store was all that was needed to start dinner.

Pintesting Tuscan Lentil Soup - ORIGINAL PIN

The Pintesting:

The ingredients include lots of veggies and aromatics, lentils, and Italian sausage. We had mild sausage, so I used that instead. I had some Progresso Tuscany chicken broth on hand and thought this would be the perfect use for it. (Take a look at those cute tomatoes that came from our garden!)

Pintesting Tuscan Lentil Soup - Ingredients

Brown the sausage and onion.

Pintesting Tuscan Lentil Soup - Sausage

Add the garlic and seasonings.

Pintesting Tuscan Lentil Soup - Sausage & Seasonings

Stir in the broth, lentils, and potatoes, and simmer for 10 minutes. Add the tomatoes and zucchini; simmer for 15 more minutes.

Pintesting Tuscan Lentil Soup - Broth & Veggies

Wilt in the spinach for a couple of minutes.

Pintesting Tuscan Lentil Soup - Spinach

Remove the bay leaf and the soup is done.

Pintesting Tuscan Lentil Soup - Done

Natalie recommends serving with parmesan shavings, so I grated some onto the soup.

Pintesting Tuscan Lentil Soup - Served

I served this with a hot-from-the-oven, crusty baguette. My HH loved the flavors and went back for seconds. This will be a regular in this family. And now for the Pintesting Results:

Overall Results:  4.7 Pins

5 Pins Overall - MED.

Accuracy: The soup turned out exactly like the recipe, including the estimated prep and cook times. It was hearty and had a lot of flavor for less than an hour of cook time. 5 Pins

Rated 5 Pins - SMALL

Difficulty:  There is a fair amount of prep work in cutting up the vegetables. Natalie uses a mandoline for her zucchini, but I’ve nearly lost fingertips using mine, and since I already had my French Chef knife out for the other ingredients I just used my trusty tool of choice. Once the prep work was done, this recipe was very simple to make. There wasn’t any pre-soaking of the lentils (I’m not sure why I thought there would be) or other extra steps. 4 Pins

Rated 4 Pins - SMALL

Time:  From start to finish this took less than an hour. The prep work took about 10 minutes and the cook time was just under 40 minutes (of which roughly half an hour was for simmering). 4 Pins

Rated 4 Pins - SMALL

Cost:  Most of the ingredients are common to my kitchen and this makes a BIG pot of soup. I had already bought the lentils and just needed to pick the tomatoes from our garden and buy a couple of ingredients – and the bread to go with it. When I put the leftovers in the refrigerator, the lentils soaked up so much of the chicken broth that I had to add another 3 or 4 cups to make it into soup again. We had supper and two lunches from this pot before we froze the rest so it wouldn’t go to waste. 5 Pins

Rated 5 Pins - SMALL

Practicality: This recipe is definitely going to be a regular for us. It is delicious, makes a lot, is low cost, and is healthy. 5 Pins

Rated 5 Pins - SMALL

Pintesting The Perfect Chocolate Chip Cookie

When I was a college freshman living 700 miles away from home and “independent” for the first time in my life, I felt that I was seriously underfunded – as most freshmen do. I had a nice dorm room with a great roommate, a cafeteria card that would provide all the cafeteria food that I cared to eat, and all my needs were more than met. But that’s not the same as having spending money to go hang out with my friends (never mind that I was supposed to be studying).

Pintesting Perfect Chocolate Chip Cookie

One day I was feeling rather homesick, so I made Toll House cookies in our dorm kitchen. I had girls rushing in offering to buy the cookies (and cookie dough). That was my Aha! moment. I found out that two hours of serious cookie making in the cafeteria during their down time on Saturday afternoons could turn my $20/week allowance into $80 or more, and got me the nickname, Betty Crocker.

Since then I’ve made hundreds of dozens of cookies, but I’m always looking for a way to improve upon the standard. I’ve tried chilling the dough, using different kinds of flours, using different kinds of chocolate, and so many other tips. So when I saw this recipe for The Perfect Chocolate Chip Cookie, I was rather sceptical. . . until I saw the source – America’s test Kitchen.

I’ve watched their PBS show, Cook’s Country, for years and I have a subscription to their magazine, Cook’s Illustrated. For those who don’t know, they test recipes, ingredients, gadgets, and products. Per their website, “we test each recipe 30, 40, sometimes as many as 70 times, until we arrive at the combination of ingredients, technique, temperature, cooking time, and equipment that yields the best, most-foolproof recipe.”

Well, I’m accepting the challenge to see if theirs really is The Perfect Chocolate Chip Cookie. Let the Pintesting begin!

Pintesting Perfect Chocolate Chip Cookie - ORIGINAL PIN

They make several changes to the original Toll House cookie recipe, so please go to their recipe to read the logic and science behind the changes.

One of the biggest differences is that instead of creaming softened butter with sugars, this recipe starts by browning most of the butter to develop the butterscotch notes and deepen the flavor.

You can see how the butter melts and then browns below. Then the browned butter is added to and melts the remaining butter.

Pintesting Perfect Chocolate Chip Cookie - Melt Butter Collage

Whisk the sugars, salt, and vanilla with the melted butter and then add the egg. Even here they modified the recipe from 2 eggs to 1 whole egg and 1 egg yolk. They have their reasons – just go with it.

Now walk away for 3 minutes.

Pintesting Perfect Chocolate Chip Cookie - Add Sugars & Salt

Whisk and wait for 3 minutes two more times. This allows the sugars to completely dissolve rather than having a grainy creamed mixture.

Pintesting Perfect Chocolate Chip Cookie - Whisk & Wait

You can see that the mixture is satiny smooth. No graininess in these cookies.

Pintesting Perfect Chocolate Chip Cookie - Add Flour Mixture

Next, stir in the flour and baking soda mixture.

Pintesting Perfect Chocolate Chip Cookie - Dough

Here’s the dough made without a mixer. Doesn’t it look like peanut butter?

Pintesting Perfect Chocolate Chip Cookie - Add Nuts & Chips

Add the chocolate and *optional* nuts. My HH LOVES chocolate chip cookies with nuts and he chose pecan pieces this time.

Pintesting Perfect Chocolate Chip Cookie - Cookie Dough

Oh. My. Gosh. Just look at that dough. This is the stuff that dreams are made of.

I scooped it for uniformity, as I usually do with cookie dough, and baked them in a 375-degree oven.

Pintesting Perfect Chocolate Chip Cookie - Baking

Even without chilling the cookies didn’t melt into flat cookie pancakes. I was so happy to see that they had nice volume and height.

Pintesting Perfect Chocolate Chip Cookie - Done

And after the torture of waiting for them to cool (because cookies don’t taste as good when they’ve melted the flesh from the roof of your mouth), they did recede a little. But only just a little.

Pintesting Perfect Chocolate Chip Cookie - Closeup

You need to try these cookies. The flavor and texture are beyond what I could have imagined from a humble chocolate chip cookie.

Pintesting Perfect Chocolate Chip Cookie

And now for the Pintesting results – and a large glass of milk.

OVERALL RESULTS:  4.85 Pins

Pintesting - 5 Pins Overall Rating

Accuracy:  The recipe promised cookies that are “moist and chewy on the inside and crisp at the edges, with deep notes of toffee and butterscotch to balance its sweetness,” and this cookie definitely delivered. The taste and texture were incredible. My HH gave it 500 pins so I’m giving it 5 Pins.

Pintesting Rating - 5 Pins

Difficulty: This recipe involved browning the butter, but because the butter was melted no mixer was needed. If it’s easier to just mix in the bowl, then I think it’s just all-around easier. But because there is the extra step of browning the butter, I’m giving this 4 Pins.

Pintesting Rating - 4 Pins

Time:  Most cookie recipes require a minimum of an hour to make and bake (not including dishes). This includes 30 minutes (give or take) to soften the butter, a minimum of 5 minutes of creaming time, and chilling time (30 minutes to overnight) in order to keep the cookies from going flat in the oven. But this recipe uses melted butter and although there were roughly 10 minutes of mix/wait time, they went straight from the mixing bowl to the oven and the cookies maintained a nice thickness. 5 Pins

Pintesting Rating - 5 Pins

Cost: There were no weird, unique, or specialty ingredients to pull off these cookies. Most of the ingredients are common to most kitchens, so I’m giving this 5 Pins.

Pintesting Rating - 5 Pins

Practicality:  These are ridiculously delicious cookies when they come out of the oven. They were still moist, chewy, crispy, and delicious four days later. (They’re big cookies and it’s just the two of us.) This is now my go-to chocolate chip cookie recipe. 5 Pins

Pintesting Rating - 5 Pins

Pintesting Bechamel Sauce with Anne Willan from Secrets from the La Varenne Kitchen

Most things in life require a firm grasp of the basics before being able to successfully move on to more difficult or advanced levels, and cooking is no different. One of the things that I love about French cooking is that they start with basic techniques and build upon them. Take sauces, for example. There are just five mother sauces from which ALL other sauces are made. How nice to know that you really only have to master five – a nice small number. Compare that with the more than three pages of sauce recipes listed in the index of Mastering the Art of French Cooking by Julia Child, Louisette Bertholle, and Simone Beck.

Pintesting Cook the Book Bechamel - Anne Willan Secrets from the La Varnne Kitchen

If you are familiar with influential cooks extraordinaire, then you might also know of Anne Willan. For those who don’t know her, she founded École de Cuisine La Varenne, a cooking school in Paris, after receiving her master’s degree from Cambridge University. She is included in the James Beard Cookbook Hall of Fame for her 30 publications including a 17-volume, photo-illustrated Look and Cook series that was showcased in a 26-episode PBS program. Impressed yet?

In addition to all of her accolades, Anne Willan is an exceptionally wonderful person. She was absolutely delightful during the Cook the Book event, and I very much enjoyed her tutelage. She loves to share her passion for cooking; the above picture is from another live event in a California wine shop called Vin Goat. Don’t you love that name? (Thank you, Erich!)

Cook the Book with Denise and Jenni

Imagine my surprise and delight to hear that Anne would be participating live in the Cook the Book event! (You can imagine squealing and happy dancing around the kitchen, and you wouldn’t be far off.) What’s Cook the Book? I’m so glad you asked. It’s a live-streamed cook-along with hosts Denise Vivaldo in Los Angeles and my friend Jenni Field outside of Raleigh, NC. Each month they feature a different cookbook and author. For more information, check out their Facebook page.

For this event, Anne showed us how to make a Bechamel Sauce from her cookbook Secrets from the La Varenne Kitchen: 50 Essential Recipes Every Cook Needs to Know. I’m including the link to the playback, but you will need a Blab account to watch it. No worries – it’s free and easy, and you’ll need one to participate in future events.

Here are the highlights including my own bechamel sauce which then became sausage gravy.

Pintesting Cook the Book Bechamel - The Event

This is a picture of the live event on my laptop. In the upper left is Chef Dennis Littley acting as the moderator. In the upper right are the Cook the Book hosts; Nancie McDermott with Jenni Field in Raleigh, NC. In the lower left corner is Denise Vivaldo with Anne Willan in Los Angeles. Those participating were welcomed to pop into the “Call In” lower right corner to say hello. Isn’t technology great?

Pintesting Cook the Book Bechamel - The Recipe 2

Here is the recipe that we used from the book. Notice that it gives three different butter/flour ratios depending on the desired thickness of the sauce. I used the medium since I was going to make it into a sausage gravy. Several other participants made cheese sauces for macaroni & cheese. If you don’t have this book in your library I highly recommend getting it – now. Go ahead, I’ll wait.

Okay, if you’re back then we’re ready to start the Pintesting.

Pintesting Cook the Book Bechamel - Ingredients

Due to a lactose intolerance in the family, I decided to try the sauce as dairy free by using Cashew milk.

Pintesting Cook the Book Bechamel - Simmer

Heat the milk and, if desired, add onion, a bay leaf, and whole peppercorns to infuse more flavor.

If desired…. of course we want more flavor!

Pintesting Cook the Book Bechamel - Roux

Start the roux by melting butter then adding the flour.

Pintesting Cook the Book Bechamel - Roux 2

Whisk it into a paste and let it cook for a minute or two, but don’t let it brown. This brings out the flavor of the wheat and cooks off any raw pasty taste. More flavor? Yes, please!

Pintesting Cook the Book Bechamel - Coat the spoon

Strain the hot milk and add to the roux, whisking constantly over heat until the sauce thickens enough to coat a spoon and season with the salt, pepper, and nutmeg. Look at that beautiful coating.

Pintesting Cook the Book Bechamel - Sausage and Onions

While this was happening, my HH browned the sausage and onions.

Pintesting Cook the Book Bechamel - Add SausageThen we added it to the bechamel sauce,

Pintesting Cook the Book Bechamel - Sausage Gravy

. . .and there you have it! My HH has been making southern sausage gravy since he was a teenager. He said that this was the BEST sausage gravy that he’s ever had. That’s saying a lot. It was incredibly flavorful with the perfect creaminess but without the gluey/pasty taste or texture.

Pintesting Cook the Book Bechamel - Served

We were very happy to have breakfast for supper that night. The biscuit recipe will follow in a future Pintesting post.

The bechamel is a sauce that can be used in so many different applications beyond the sausage gravy or cheese sauce. I made a beautiful and delicious Soufflé au Fromage, or cheese souffle for our Easter Dinner. Just imagine what you can do with a mother sauce.

Pintesting Soufflé au Fromage

Now for the Pintesting results.

OVERALL RESULTS: 5 out of 5 Pins

Pintesting - 5 Pins Overall Rating

Accuracy: The bechamel sauce turned out perfectly. Even using the cashew milk, the sauce was flavorful and behaved exactly as it would have if I had used its dairy counterpart. 5 Pins

Pintesting Rating - 5 Pins

Difficulty:  The bechamel sauce is a basic or mother sauce. It doesn’t require a lot of fuss, but keep a watchful eye toward the end of the roux so that it doesn’t brown – otherwise you’ll get brown sauce. 5 Pins

Pintesting Rating - 5 Pins

Time: I’ve made many roux for various dishes, but this is the first time that I heated the milk. I felt like this cut the thickening time down once the milk was added to the roux. Since the milk was heating while the roux was cooking, the whole process for the bechamel was roughly 15 minutes. 5 Pins

Pintesting Rating - 5 Pins

Cost:  Butter, flour, and milk are the three absolutely necessary ingredients. The rest definitely elevate the sauce, but you can use whatever you have on hand to give it a richer flavor. Since everything is a kitchen staple, I’m giving this 5 Pins.

Pintesting Rating - 5 Pins

Practicality:    This is one of those basic recipes that EVERYONE who cooks needs to know how to make. From a hearty sausage gravy to an airy souffle to creamy macaroni and cheese (that will make you never want to pick up another box with mystery orange powder), gratins, and scalloped potatoes – all are based on the bechaemel mother sauce. 5 Pins (but only because I can’t go any higher).

Pintesting Rating - 5 Pins

One Pan Mexican Quinoa

There seems to be a new obsession with short food videos on social media, especially Facebook. Videos made by Tasty, Buzzfeed, and Tip Hero are bringing food porn to a whole new level.

We like and share them thinking, “What a great idea. I need to try this,” but rarely follow through and make it.

Then I saw this pin for  One Pan Mexican Quinoa also make it onto my Pinterest feed, and I knew it was time to put it to the test. Here’s the video.

This recipe video is by Tip Hero, but they gave the inspiration credit to Chungah of Damn Delicious. I’ve tested her Egg Salad BLTA Sandwich and Slow Cooker Beef and Broccoli and both got great results. This made me more confident in the probability of success.

The ingredients are straight forward and easy to find.

Pintesting One Pan Mexican Quinoa

Sauté the aromatics, then add the beans, corn, and tomatoes.

Pintesting One Pan Mexican Quinoa

Then add the quinoa, seasonings, and broth.

Pintesting One Pan Mexican Quinoa

Cover and cook for 20 minutes and it’s done.

Pintesting One Pan Mexican Quinoa

This was going to be served with diced avocado as the recipe suggested, but the one we got was over-ripe so we had to throw it out. Here’s how it looked without any toppings.

Pintesting One Pan Mexican Quinoa

This has a bonus of being super healthy without trying hard. Don’t be scared to try it even though it’s vegan, gluten-free, and dairy-free. It’s also versatile. You can change or add more veggies, switch the broths, play with toppings; make it your own.

Now for the Pintesting results.

OVERALL RESULTS: 4.85 Pins

Pintesting - 5 Pins Overall Rating

Accuracy:  This recipe was as delicious, easy, and fast as the video showed. 5 Pins.

Pintesting Rating - 5 Pins

Difficulty:  This is an easy recipe with little cutting/chopping. Using canned beans and veggies really simplified things. However, using jalapenos or other hot peppers requires caution as the juices can cause burning to your skin or eyes. Many sources say to always wear rubber gloves when seeding and chopping hot peppers. Because of this, I’m giving it 4 Pins.

Pintesting Rating - 4 Pins

Time:  This took less than 30 minutes from start to finish. It required minimal prep work, and most of the time was just for simmering. 5 Pins

Pintesting Rating - 5 Pins

Cost:  Most of the ingredients are less than a dollar. At $9.50 for 30-oz, the quinoa was the most expensive ingredient, but I only needed 3 out of 29 quarter-cup servings, and that’s less than a dollar for the quinoa. Total cost was less than $2/serving. 5 Pins

Pintesting Rating - 5 Pins

Practicality:  When I served this, HH ate two bites and gave it a thumbs up. He ate two more bites and gave it two thumbs up. This is fast, easy, healthy and delicious. It’s a perfect dinner for busy weeknights. 5 PinsPintesting Rating - 5 Pins

Pintesting Pineapple Upside Down Bundt Cake

This is the post that wasn’t going to be and then wrote itself. I made the cake and took some pictures, but didn’t really intend on doing a proper Pintesting – until I shared the pics. The response was mind blowing, so here’s the post complete with my first recipe.

It started with this picture of a pineapple upside down cake in a bundt pan on Pinterest. Because it’s my HH’s favorite cake, I wanted to surprise him with this.

Pintesting Pineapple Upside Down Bundt Cake

Sadly, the link went to a picture. Can we take a moment to talk about responsible pinning here? Check the pins before repinning them, folks.

I did a search for an original source, but only came back to the same picture that was on Pinterest.

UPDATE: I found the original source for the picture! Her name is Tina Carver, this is her original idea, and she is very happy that her cake is getting so much fame. 😀

Pintesting Pineapple Upside Down Bundt Cake

Luckily, the picture was enough this time. Pineapple upside down cake traditionally starts with melted butter and brown sugar, then an arranged layer of the pineapple and maraschino cherries, over which the cake mix is poured. When the cake is baked and inverted onto the serving plate, then you see the design of the fruit. This is no different other than it’s in a bundt pan, and the pineapple rings are halved and arranged vertically.

I wanted to ensure that the cake would come out of the bundt pan cleanly, so I really greased the pan with my favorite pan release. (The recipe will follow.) I used a stick of melted butter and sprinkled a half-cup of brown sugar on top of it, then alternated the halved  pineapple rings and cherries. I think it turned out just like the original picture.

Pintesting Pineapple Upside Down Bundt Cake

Substituting pineapple juice and milk for the liquid and adding a box of instant vanilla pudding makes this cake is incredibly moist and flavorful.  The cake batter gets poured on top, and then the cake gets baked, cooled, and flipped.

And let me tell you, you’re going to flip for this cake.

Pintesting Pineapple Upside Down Bundt Cake

Normally I give my Pintesting results at the end of each post, and this would get 5 Pins. Instead, I’m sharing my recipe. Enjoy!

Pineapple Upside Down Bundt Cake

Prep Time: 10 minutes

Cook Time: 40 minutes

Total Time: 50 minutes

Yield: 1 Cake = 17-18 slices

Serving Size: 1 slice

Pineapple Upside Down Bundt Cake

Ingredients

  • 1/2 Cup butter (1 stick), melted
  • 1/2 Cup packed brown sugar
  • 1 Can pineapple rings in 100% juice (reserve the juice)
  • 1 Jar maraschino cherries
  • 1 Box yellow or pineapple cake mix
  • 1 4-serving box instant vanilla pudding
  • 3 eggs
  • Vegetable oil
  • Milk

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. Prepare the bundt pan by generously applying pan release (recipe below) or non-stick spray.
  3. Melt the butter and evenly pour into the bottom of the pan. Sprinkle with the brown sugar.
  4. Cut the pineapple rings in half and alternate with the maraschino cherries around the bundt pan as shown in the picture. Set aside.
  5. In a stand mixer or large bowl, stir the cake mix and pudding mix together. Drain the pineapple juice into a measuring cup and add enough milk to make 1 Cup of liquid. Add this with the eggs and the amount of oil called for in the recipe to the cake mixture; following the instructions on the box.
  6. Carefully pour the batter over the fruit. Place the bundt pan on a baking sheet and bake as instructed for a bundt cake on the cake mix box. The cake is done when an inserted knife comes out clean.
  7. Cool for 10 minutes in the pan. Slide a knife around the edges including the inner ring.
  8. Invert the cake onto a serving plate. Slice between the pineapple rings and serve warm or room temperature.

Notes

Several people have commented that they had the butter and brown sugar overflow their bundt pans causing a big mess in the oven. Just say no to messes. Make sure to put the bundt pan on a baking sheet.

Also, use the baking time for a bundt cake that's listed on the cake mix directions. This will vary by brand. My times are approximate - go by the box.

http://pintesting.com/pintesting-pineapple-upside-down-bundt-cake/

Best Ever Pan Release: from I Am Baker

Mix equal parts of vegetable shortening, vegetable oil, and all-purpose flour until smooth. Using a pastry brush or paper towel, apply to the pans paying special attention to corners, nooks, and crannies.

 

 

Christmas Lights Manicure

I can’t believe it’s nearly Christmas! Since the day after Thanksgiving, my Handsome Husband and I have been busy decorating our home; even the laundry room has a wreath. Trees, garland, wreaths, stockings, snowmen, Santas, and the Nativity set are all in their proper places making nearly every room in the house festive. I’ve even decorated my office at work and changed my phone ring tone.

I’ve done some fun Pinterest inspired manicures that are seasonally appropriate every week, too. First I did my take on a beautiful Christmas Tree with a black background, which was a combination of two styles.

Pintesting Christmas Tree Manicure

Then I did a tipped manicure with some Santa Bling that was inspired by these two manis.

Pintesting Santa Nails Manicure

I needed another idea for a Christmasy mani, so when I saw this pin, I knew it was exactly what I was looking for. I was very excited to already have the same or very similar China Glaze polish and the cute bling, so it seemed like this was meant to happen.

Pintesting Christmas Lights Nails

 

If you follow my blog, then you know that I always, ALWAYS give credit to the original source. Unfortunately, the site listed on the photo, ArtigoBeauty.com, is down, and searches did not produce any other way to trace this source. Thankfully, the picture was simple enough to follow.

Pintesting Christmas Lights Nails

First I did a base coat and two coats of China Glaze Glistening Snow. This polish has some texture, so I did a top coat of China Glaze Fast Forward Top Coat and gave it a day to cure well.

Pintesting Christmas Lights Nails

 

The next day I added the “string” for the lights with a black Sharpie marker. It gave the right look and was easier to control than a thin black nail polish. I had my HH do my right hand.

Pintesting Christmas Lights Nails

These are the rhinestones that I used. There were 3,000 in the case when I had purchased them from Amazon for less than $3.00.

Pintesting Christmas Lights Nails

To apply, I put a coat of the top coat and used tweezers to place them where I wanted them to go on the “string” of lights.

Pintesting Christmas Lights Nails

 

This is how the first one turned out. Once the rhinestones were all on, I covered each nail with another coat of the top coat. One benefit is that because it’s fast drying, there is less chance of smudges or other accidents that would mar the manicure.

Pintesting Christmas Lights Nails

This is the finished results. I was so excited to wear my mani while doing some last minute Christmas shopping. Sadly, I lost one rhinestone on my thumb while trying to get my payment card from my wallet. Then I found this base and top coat specifically made for rhinestones at Sally Beauty Supply. It’s too late to use it as a base coat for this manicure, but I put two coats after replacing the lost rhinestone and haven’t lost any more since.

Pintesting Christmas Lights Nails

I got lots of compliments on all of the manicures, but this one seemed to get the most so far. Now for the Pintesting results.

OVERALL RESULTS: 4.55 Pins

Pintesting - 5 Pins Overall Rating

Accuracy:  The manicure turned out exactly like the picture. EXACTLY! 5 Pins

Pintesting Rating - 5 Pins

Difficulty:  Easy Peasy. Using a black Sharpie marker instead of the black nail polish really made this effortless. If you don’t like the way that the squiggly line turned out, just erase it with rubbing alcohol and do it again. 5 Pins

Pintesting Rating - 5 Pins

Time:  As fancy manis go, this one was fairly quick. One base coat, color, the squiggly line, the rhinestone application, and top coat. I let the base color cure overnight, but you could just use the fast-drying top coat and save the time. 4 Pins

Pintesting Rating - 4 Pins

Cost:  I happened to have everything on hand, but even if I had to purchase everything except the base coat, it would still cost less than a regular manicure at a salon. The $3.99 for the special top coat was worth every penny, and it will last for many manis to come. 5 Pins

Pintesting Rating - 5 Pins

Practicality:  This is great for the holidays, but I was always worried that a rhinestone would fall off every time I reached in my wallet to remove a payment card since they’re wedged in there pretty tightly, or when I typed, cooked, ate, or did just about anything. It’s fun to wear and show off for an event, but this isn’t an easy manicure that would last for a week; mine lasted 3 days so it gets 3 Pins.

Rated 3 Pins

TIP: How to Make Your Grill Nonstick

Sometimes it seems like living in Florida is living in “Opposite World” because when the rest of the country (aka Up North) is outside enjoying the summer, Floridians are staying cool inside in the AC. On the other hand, when my friends are posting their pictures of the snow, ice, freezing rain, slush, and the problems that come with the wintry weather, I’m beyond happy be live in Central Florida!

It’s been in the upper 90’s with triple digit feel’s like temps for most of the summer, but now that it’s in the 80’s with lower humidity my HH is ready to take on the role of grill master again. Since we moved a few times in the last couple of years and haven’t used our grill during that time, he gave it a good going over, and did some hamburgers and cheeseburgers on the grill to celebrate, but we had some sticking issues.

I can’t even describe how sad it is to watch chunks of my dinner stick to the grill, and then fall into the fire like a sacrificial ritual. The pain is real. So when I saw  this pin for How To Make Your Grill Non-Stick by Skip to My Lou, I was super excited to test it out.

Pintesting How to make your grill non-stick

 

There’s only 1 ingredient for this method – half an onion.

Pintesting How to make your grill non-stick

 

Of course, I needed to grill something besides the onion, so we decided to go with BBQ Chicken breasts. I use a mixture of rubs on the chicken to really give it some flavor. The BBQ sauce goes on once the chicken is cooked.

Pintesting How to make your grill non-stick

 

Get the grill heated to temp,

Pintesting How to make your grill non-stick

 

rub the cut onion on the heated grill grate,

Pintesting How to make your grill non-stick

and that’s it. The grill grate was clean, but you can see how the heat caused the onion to start to cook in just those few seconds. I trimmed off the ends, and we grilled the onion halves with the chicken.

Pintesting How to make your grill non-stick

Now throw something delish on the grill to see if it will stick.

Pintesting How to make your grill non-stick

Since the rub mixture had a little bit of sugar in the mix, I was concerned that it would caramelize and glue the chicken to the grill grate. NOPE! Look at those beautiful grill marks. The chicken didn’t stick at all!

Pintesting How to make your grill non-stick

Another flip and then my HH added the BBQ sauce. (Can you smell how amazing this is going to be?)

Pintesting How to make your grill non-stick

The BBQ sauce left the grill grate in need of some clean up, but let’s be realistic here. It’s sauce. Even so, the chicken didn’t stick to the grill. You can see the nice char marks (read flavor), and no additional sauce was added post-grill.

Pintesting How to make your grill non-stick

 

So here’s the non-stick BBQ Chicken dinner.YUM! I even like the way the grilled onion looks like a rose.

Pintesting How to make your grill non-stick

The HH/Grill Master weighed in with a big thumbs up on this. It definitely worked with chicken; I can’t wait to try grilling shrimp kabobs using this technique since they’re more delicate and often stick, to my dismay. Watch for the update on those. For now, here are the Pintesting results:

Overall Results: 4.85 Pins

Pintesting - 5 Pins Overall Rating

Accuracy:  The chicken did not stick. At all. Not even a little bit. 5 Pins

Pintesting Rating - 5 Pins

Difficulty:  This is a great tip that’s very simple. However, due to the need for caution when working with extreme heat, I’m giving this 4 Pins.

Pintesting Rating - 4 Pins

 

Time:  The whole process took just a couple of minutes. 5 Pins

Pintesting Rating - 5 Pins

Cost:  The price of half of an onion is maybe 50 cents (AND you can eat it!). 5 Pins

Pintesting Rating - 5 Pins

Practicality:  This is a tip that I’ll my HH will be using all of grilling season. 5 Pins

Pintesting Rating - 5 Pins

Infused/Detox Water Bar

It’s the end of August and school has begun again. (WHERE has the summer gone?) I’ve seen a lot memes on the interwebs about looking forward to hoodies, football, leaves, pumpkin spice everything, and cooler weather.

Well as you can see, cooler weather is nowhere in sight in my world. Yes, that’s Fahrenheit – at 5:10 pm after I’d been driving a few miles.

Pintesting Infused Water Bar

Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not really complaining because in a matter of weeks the temps will drop. In a few months I’ll be enjoying perfect weather while the cold starts to descend on the north, so I can put up with needing a fan and air conditioner. What I’ve been having trouble with is staying hydrated; meeting the minimum 64 oz. per day. I can usually get over half way there without problem, it’s just that after that plain water gets boring. (Sorry, but I’m just being honest.)

I have lots of friends who use water flavorings in order to give their water a boost of flavor, but they often have artificial sweeteners, fake flavorings, and chemicals that you need a PhD to pronounce.

I’ve seen lots of pins for infused water; like this, this, and this. Not only does infused water keep the boredom away, but it’s also very healthy and can help your body to naturally detoxify. This is more of a general review of several pins and a great concept.

Pintesting - Infused Water Bar

So we decided to get a variety of ingredients together, and have some friends over to see what we could come up with for a nearly calorie-free, fun, and healthy entertainment idea.

Pintesting - Infused Water Bar

The first one was cucumber, lime, mint. This was very cool, crisp, and bright.

Pintesting - Infused Water Bar

I’ve already done a Pintesting on Lemon Strawberry Detox Water, but since it was so delicious we made a pitcher for our friends. This one is a nice combination of sweet and tart.

Pintesting - Infused Water Bar

The apple and cinnamon surprised me the most, and was my personal favorite. It was sweet, cinnamony, and so refreshing.

Pintesting - Infused Water Bar

We were going to see how long they lasted before they went bad, but thee pitchers only lasted a couple of days. Not only were they a GREAT way to get excited about drinking water, but the flavorings made the garbage disposal smell wonderful once the water was gone.

Go drink to your health. Salude!

Overall Results: 5  Pins

Pintesting - 5 Pins Overall Rating

Accuracy: This was a fun and nearly calorie-free way to entertain some friends and get creative ideas for better hydration. You can use the combinations online or find what you like best. 5 Pins

Pintesting Rating - 5 Pins

Difficulty: The hardest part about this is deciding which combination you want to make that day. I liked making a pitcher-full for the convenience of having fancy frou-frou water all day. 5 Pins

Pintesting Rating - 5 Pins

Time: To make the fancy bar with all of the options took about 15 minutes including the time to soak the fruit in vinegar water to clean them. It too longer to get everything placed just right. 5 Pins

Pintesting Rating - 5 Pins

Cost: Since I was setting up for company and decided to play around with different waters, as well. Also, I wanted to have a LOT of options with the flavors, so I spent much more than if I was just making a specific “recipe” of water. On the other hand, we had a LOT of fun and I know that I spend a lot more than $20.00 when we entertain, so I guess I got off cheap. 4 Pins

Pintesting Rating - 5 Pins

Practicality: This is a great way to stay hydrated, add health and detox benefits, and take the boring out of plain water. The options are unlimited, so you never get bored. 5 Pins

Pintesting Rating - 5 Pins

Flower Shaped Mini Lemon Curd Tarts

Some days it seems like the angels sing, the stars align, and everything falls into place in order to make things happen. When that happens, life is easy as pie – or in this case, tarts.

My HH and I were thinking about how nice it would be to have just a little something sweet, but didn’t want to go through a lot of fuss (or dishes). Then I remembered seeing this pin that had crossed my path recently. These Flower Shaped Mini Lemon Curd Tarts on the Inspired Dreamer site seemed like the perfect little treats. That I had one pie crust, one jar of lemon curd, and the exactly the right cookie cutter was just shy of divine intervention to make this. So let’s get on with this test!

Pintesting Flower Shaped Mini Lemon Curd Tarts - ORIGINAL PIN

There are only 3 main ingredients; one pie crust, a jar of lemon curd, and powdered sugar. Also helpful is flour for dusting while handling the pie crust. The hardware required is a flower-shaped cookie cutter and mini muffin pan.

Pintesting Flower Shaped Mini Lemon Curd Tarts

Roll out the pie crust and start cutting flowers with the cookie cutter. Does anyone else think the flower cutter looks groovy? Flower Power!

Pintesting Flower Shaped Mini Lemon Curd Tarts

Cut out 12 flowers; rerolling the scraps and cutting to make the 12.

Pintesting Flower Shaped Mini Lemon Curd Tarts

Carefully put them into a mini muffin pan.

Pintesting Flower Shaped Mini Lemon Curd Tarts

Fold 3 alternate petals toward the center, gently place the dough into the cup, then work the petals on the sides by overlapping the three inner petals.

Pintesting Flower Shaped Mini Lemon Curd Tarts

Bake for about 5 minutes.

Pintesting Flower Shaped Mini Lemon Curd Tarts

The flower tart shells pop right out of the pan – no greasing was required. Use some caution when removing them after baking as they are a little more delicate and can crumble if handled too roughly.

Pintesting Flower Shaped Mini Lemon Curd Tarts

Cool, dust with powdered sugar, and spoon with lemon curd.

Pintesting Flower Shaped Mini Lemon Curd Tarts

This almost can’t be called a recipe, but it was inspired, cute, and easy. It did perfectly satisfy our sweet tooth craving, and there were plenty left over to share. We had them with a cup of tea. It was a perfect pairing. Now for the results.

Overall Results: 5 Pins

Pintesting - 5 Pins Overall Rating

Accuracy:  These tarts turned out PERFECTLY. The pin photo was almost step-by-step enough to make these, but the recipes’ detailed instructions help ensure great results. The little tarts were a lovely combination of sweet, tangy, crisp, delicate, and pretty. 5 Pins

Pintesting Rating - 5 Pins

Difficulty:  This very simple recipe would be fun to do with kids. The pie dough is very forgiving. I had several flowers tear a bit while I was working with them, but this was fixed while patting them into the tin. 5 Pins

Pintesting Rating - 5 Pins

Time:  These took about 20 minutes from start to finish, and that included the photos and dishes. 5 Pins

Pintesting Rating - 5 Pins

Cost:  I happened to have everything on hand this time, so there was no extra shopping costs.  I had purchased the lemon curd at World Market for $3.99 to serve with scones. The pie crusts come two to a package (mine was the leftover in the back of the fridge), and cost about $3.00. That’s 29 cents per tart. 5 Pins

Pintesting Rating - 5 Pins

Practicality:  These were quick, easy, and the tart shells are extremely versatile. You could fill them with any curd, custard, or pudding to make a bouquet of desserts. If you leave off the powdered sugar, you could use the shells with savory fillings, too. They’re perfect for a tea party, garden party, or mother’s day. 5 Pins

Pintesting Rating - 5 Pins

Easy Cheeseburger Sliders

The other day was National Hamburger Day. Who comes up with these “holidays”? Well, thank you to whomever, because even though I’m not a huge carnivore, I LOVE a good burger.

Burgers are like pizza in that there are so many different ways to approach them: big and juicy, stuffed with fillings, thin with a quick sear, to tiny little sliders. I used to love getting the sliders in the cute little boxes. Does anyone else remember these?

White Castle Burgers

When I saw this pin for Easy Cheeseburger Sliders by Kristina Vanni, I was all in! These use King’s Hawaiian rolls and a really different method for cooking. I went straight to the store to pick up the ingredients, and got cooking.

Pintesting Easy Cheeseburger Sliders - ORIGINAL PIN

The recipe calls for 2 lbs of  hamburger. Because it’s just my Handsome Hubby and me, we didn’t need to make 2 pounds worth of sliders, so we halved the recipe with some help from Taste of Home website, and from the kitchn website for what size pan to use. Did you know that half of a 9×13 pan is an 8×8? I love learning new things!

Pintesting Easy Cheeseburger Sliders

Mix the ground meat, bread crumbs, onion, and salt in a bowl.

Pintesting Easy Cheeseburger Sliders

Put the mixture in a pan, press it nice and flat, then poke it with holes with a fork.

Pintesting Easy Cheeseburger Sliders

Bake it (SO much easier than grilling or pan frying a bunch of burgers). Look at that shrinkage!
Pintesting Easy Cheeseburger Sliders

Cover it with cheese and pop it back into the oven for a couple more minutes.

Pintesting Easy Cheeseburger Sliders

The big square cheeseburger patty came out of the pan easily, and I cut it into 9 squares to fit the buns.

Pintesting Easy Cheeseburger Sliders

Here you have the final results. Yes, I made 9 sliders. Yes, there are only 8 in the picture. My HH snatched one before I could stop him. He says that they smelled too good to wait.
Pintesting Easy Cheeseburger Sliders

Overall Results: 4.85 Pins

Pintesting - 5 Pins Overall Rating

Accuracy:  These cheeseburger sliders were very easy to make, as the title says. They produced a lot of delicious, juicy burger without having to flip a bunch of minis a bunch of times. I would pick these over their fast-food version any day. 5 Pins

Pintesting Rating - 5 Pins

Difficulty:  The recipe title didn’t lie. By baking the meat mixture in a pan, you let the oven do the work. 5 Pins

Pintesting Rating - 5 Pins

Time:  This one was a tough call. If you were making a regular burger vs. a slider, it takes about 5-10 minutes depending on how you like your burger cooked. These took 30 minutes of cooking time. That’s not a long time to cook supper, but it is longer than traditional burger cooking methods. 4 Pins

Pintesting Rating - 4 Pins

Cost:  These are an inexpensive way to feed a crowd, or to make ahead as for freezing. (Cheeseburger sliders ready to heat and eat? Yes please!) My local Fresh Market has ground chuck on sale every Tuesday for $2.99/lb. If you look at the ingredients picture, you’ll notice that the package of meat was $3.06. Add the cost of the rest of the ingredients, and that’s about 50 cents per slider. I was full at 2 sliders; HH was full at 3. The extra 4 sliders made both of our lunches – much better than fast-food. 5 Pins

Pintesting Rating - 5 Pins

Practicality:  If you need to feed a crowd, then these are absolutely the way to go. They were simple, juicy, flavorful, and I didn’t feel guilty about throwing away a bunch of cute cardboard boxes. Since the oven does the cooking, you don’t have to stand and flip anything. These are absolutely going into my recipe box! 5 Pins

Pintesting Rating - 5 Pins