Simple advice for a better life.

Birthday Party AppetizersWhether you are cooking at home, dining out, or ordering take out, there are almost always some leftovers to deal with after the fact.

There is nothing wrong with having leftovers.   After all, you spent time and money on this food, so you deserve to enjoy it to the last morsel.

Some prepared dishes are not suitable for later use as a leftover…they lose their taste and texture, so it is best to just part with them right there and then.

Numerous others, on the other hand, are still great for at least one or two meals, or even to be frozen for that rainy day when you have no time or desire to cook.

Some people do not like leftovers, and never keep them.  However, if you are like me, you don’t mind them, and feel that you get your money’s worth if you use them.

Most Europeans don’t believe in leftovers….maybe because they hardly ever have any.

They serve their meals already preportioned per plate, and make just enough to feed the crowd they accounted for.  The portions are large enough to satisfy the consumer, so there is no need, or room, for seconds.  Therefore, there are no leftovers.  Any remaining food on each plate, which hardly ever happens, is discarded.  It is almost impolite to ask for a “Doggie Bag”.

Here in the USA we have no problem asking the waiter/waitress to pack up our leftovers to take home with us.

It is very important to keep track of your leftover food in your fridge, which is one of my pet peeves.  I almost feel like I am a fridge police, whether it is at home or at work.

There is nothing worse than seeing “old” food sitting in the fridge way past its safe consumable time.

My personal time line for using up leftovers in up to 3 days…4 being the absolute max.

Now I will share my best way of using up leftovers, and keeping your fridge fresh, and ready for restocking.

Since most of us work full-time, and don’t have much time for cooking during the week, we prepare extra food on weekend, to hold us over for couple of days.  Then by mid-week, it’s time for some take out.  By Thursday we have leftovers to use, or lose.

I consider Thursday  a “Leftover Smorgasbord Dinner Day”.  We pull out all the leftovers from the past few days, and add something new if needed, and call it a day.

Everyone is to create their own plate of food from the smorgasbord spread available.  We also use disposable dishes and utensils that day, to save time on clean up effort.  Whatever food is remaining after this dinner, gets discarded for good.

This is the BEST way to free your fridge of leftover food, and to prevent any food from hiding in there for too long.

Since we have no dishes to wash on this day, we devote our time to cleaning up the fridge, and getting it ready for fresh food from Friday or Saturday shopping.

It works very well every time, and it also is fun, economical, and stress free.

I suggest you try it too, and share your comments.

Have fun!

Potato Leek Soup – Recipe

Potato and Leek Soup - servingThe sudden unset of cold weather makes me crave  comfort foods, especially soups.

Last week I posted a recipe for Cream of Potato soup, and would love to hear your comments.

Today I will share a recipe for another simple, yet delicious soup; Potato Leek soup.

If you have not used leeks before, I would suggest to check out this information about buying and cleaning leeks.

This recipe yields enough soup for the whole family.

Ingredients:

  • 2 leeks
  • 2 medium carrots, shredded on a large eye  kitchen grater
  • 2 celery stalks, diced
  • 6 medium potatoes, peeled and diced
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/4 cup of canola oil
  • 1 Tbs. butter
  • 2 quarts vegetable or chicken stock
  • 1/2 cup white wine (medium-dry)
  • 1 Tbs. dried Thyme
  • 1 tsp. dried Sage
  • 2 Bay leaves
  • 10 Peppercorn
  • Salt and pepper to taste (I used Kosher salt and black pepper)
  • 1/3 cup of Heavy Cream, or 1/2 cup of Half & Half cream
  • 1 Tbs. Flat leaf Italian Parsley (or Dill Weed), chopped, for garnish
  • 4 oz Cheddar Cheese, grated

Directions:

  1. Clean  and chop leeks, per  web instructions.
  2. Set aside.
  3. Heat  canola oil in a large stock pot.
  4. Add the chopped leeks, and cook for about 5 minutes, stirring frequently.
  5. Remove and set aside.
  6. Add chopped carrots and celery, and saute 5 minutes.
  7. Add minced garlic and cook 1 minute longer, stirring frequently.
  8. Remove vegetables, and set aside.
  9. Add butter into pot, and mix in the diced potatoes.
  10. Cook for 10 minutes, stirring often.
  11. Return all vegetables back into the soup pot.
  12. Pour in the vegetable or chicken stock, add bay leaves and  peppercorns.
  13. Cook until all vegetables are fully cooked.
  14. Remove and discard the bay leaves and peppercorns.
  15. Use a potato masher, or immersion blender, to cream most of the vegetables (you may save about 1 cup of chunky veggies to complement the body of this creamy soup).
  16. Add white wine, heavy cream,Thyme, Sage, salt and pepper to taste.
  17. Cook for 5 minutes.
  18. Add cheddar cheese, and cook until cheese melts.
  19. Serve hot, garnished with chopped parsley or dill.

Enjoy!

 

 

Cream of Potato Soup 2During my childhood, soup was part of our daily menu.

Sometimes it was the only thing on the menu, especially at lunch time.

My mom would cook some kind of soup every single day, so we all grew up loving and craving soups.

Soups are actually very good for you, since they contain so much liquid, plus a variety of veggies.  Eating soup on a cold day makes you feel so warm and fuzzy, inside and out.  Don’t you agree?

Today I will share a recipe for a Cream of Potato soup, which for most part is based on a recipe from the The Pioneer Woman, but I doctored it a little, to suit our taste.

This recipe makes a large pot of soup; about 8-10 servings.

Ingredients:

  • 6 slices of bacon, cut to small pieces (I used Oscar Mayer center cut)
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 3 large carrots, cleaned and diced
  • 3 stalks celery, diced
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced (used my favorite gadget)
  • 6 medium Russet Potatoes, peeled and diced
  • 32 oz Chicken Broth (I used Swanson)
  • 4 cups of water, mixed with 3 chicken bouillons
  • 1 Bay leaf
  • 3 Tbs. all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup milk (I used 1% fat)
  • 1/2 cup cream (I used Half & Half)
  • Salt and Black Ground Pepper, to taste
  • 1 tsp. Paprika
  • 2 Tbs. fresh Parsley, chopped (my favorite is Flat Leaf Italian Parsley)
  • 1 tsp. fresh Dill weed, chopped
  • Grated cheese or dollop of sour cream for garnish (optional…I used grated Swiss)

Directions:

  1.  Heat up a large soup pot, add chopped bacon, and cook until all fat is sizzled out and bacon is crispy.
  2. Using a slotted spoon, remove the bacon bits and set aside.
  3. If you have a lot of bacon fat, remove most of it, except for 2 Tbs.
  4. Add chopped onions, carrots and celery to the fat and cook, stirring often, until veggies are translucent (5-10 minutes).
  5. Add chopped garlic, and cook for 1 minute.
  6. Add the chopped potatoes, and cook 5 minutes longer, stirring often so veggies do not stick to the bottom of the pot.
  7. Pour in the broth, and water/bouillon mixture.  Mix well to loosen up the bacon particles off the bottom of the pot.
  8. Add bay leaf, salt and pepper to taste.
  9. Cook until the potatoes are almost done (10 minutes)
  10. Pour 2 Tbs. of milk into a cup, add the flour and make a paste.  Mix in the remaining milk, and add to the soup.
  11. Cook for 5 minutes.
  12. Remove and discard the bay leaf.
  13. Using a slotted spoon, remove about 3/4 of the veggies from the soup, into a blender or food processor, and process to form a creamy paste.
  14. Pour this puree back into the soup pot, to combine with the rest of the soup.
  15. Add the paprika, and additional salt and pepper, if needed.
  16. Stir in cream, 1 Tbs. of Parsley and dill.  Save 1 Tbs. of Parsley for garnish.
  17. Serve hot soup in bowls, garnished with Parsley, bacon bits, and some grated cheese or sour cream (optional).

I liked the crispiness of the bacon bits in this soup, used for garnish.

Nice piece of fresh bread makes an excellent accompaniment to this delicious, creamy potato soup.

Yum!!

Diaper Cake - right side view 2I was very excited about an upcoming baby shower for someone at work, and decided that it would be fun to make another diaper cake.

The first ever diaper cake I made, was for my daughter’s baby shower, almost 7 years ago.  If you are interested in my cake assembly instructions, you may click on the link above.

A couple years later I made a diaper cake for a baby shower for my daughter-in-law, so this time I was excited to make my third creation.

Since it has been said that pictures “speak a thousand words”, I will share my cake pictures from several different angles.

The diapers and the accessories for this cake were part of the baby registry, so it was very easy for me to put it all together.   I also crochet a blanket for the baby, plus a tiny one for the puppy placed at the top of the cake.

Hopefully you will find these pictures enjoyable, and will be encouraged to create one of your own, for someone special.

 

Diaper Cake - right side view 3

Diaper Cake - left side view

 

 

 

 

 

 

Diaper Cake - first layerDiaper Cake - front viewDiaper Cake - top layer

Diaper Cake - back side - Blanket

The baby blanket was draped over the back of the diaper cake, as in the above picture.

If any of you made diaper cakes before, and would like to share your pictures with me via email, I would love to post them on my blog.

Thank you!

Super Heroes Birthday Cake stationI am delighted to share with you a bunch of pictures from another Birthday Party I recently attended.

This one was very creatively designed and planned for a 4 year old boy, with Super Heroes theme in mind.

Super Heroes might be more popular among boys, but all the little girls who attended this party did not seem to feel left out….they also had lots of fun with all the activities, and proudly wore their capes.

Statue of the Birthdy Boy

I was admiring the above Super Hero statue, made specifically for the Birthday Boy, based on a picture of him provided by his parents.  Quite interesting, don’t you agree?

News Release  3 - Super Heroes

News Release  1 - Super Heroes

 

 

 

News Release 2 - Super Heroes

These  ”news articles” were created by the Mom of the Birthday Boy, to add some super feel to his party.

He still is enjoying hearing them over and over again, making him feel like a real hero.

Super Heroes Capes for boys

Super Heroes Capes for girls

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Each Super Hero attending the party, received a personalized cape, customized according to gender.  These were creatively constructed by Mom again, keeping a tight budget in mind.  Nice job!

Super Heroes Obstacle Course 1

Super Heroes love being very active and helpful…so an outdoor activity was just the right thing for them.

An obstacle course was prepared for fun and challenge, for these Super Heroes.

Super Heroes Obstacle Course

Super Heroes Obstacle Course - part 2

 

 

 

 

 

 

Super Heroes Obstacle Course - part 3

Super Heroes Obstacle Course - part 3 B

Here is the obstacle course in sections, for a closer view.

Party Pooper Poster

 

Party Pooper is getting a makeover with a silly string spray

Party Pooper after the party

The Godfather of the Birthday Boy contributed to the party, by drawing a poster of The Party Pooper.  The Super Heroes did not waste any time to give the Party Pooper a make over, as you can see in the picture above.

No Party Pooper was present at this Birthday Party, that’s a sure thing.

Super Heroe in action- start of obstacle course

Female Super Heroe in action- start of obstacle course

Super Heroe in action- half-way through..

 

And the race is on……watch them go…..

One year-old Super Heroe likes his cape this way

One year-old Super Heroe graduated to the traditional cape look

Even the youngest Super Hero (1-year old), was eager to join in the fun, however he was not sure which way to wear his cape, for movement ease and comfort ……:-)

He sure used all of his super powers to guard his snack cup…..notice the super grip on the handle??….LOL

Goodies Bags

After lots of fun activities, food, cake and cupcakes, all the Super Heroes were getting tired, still decked out in their capes, they headed home for a nap.

As a token of appreciation, they received a personalized Super Bag, filled with lots of goodies, and craft projects to enjoy later.

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