Monday, July 18, 2016

SRC Reveal Day: Strawberry Pecan Chicken Salad

 It's summertime and whenever I get my monthly assignment for The Secret Recipe Club I am a part of, I am always looking for that recipe or two that would be perfect for a summer meal or treat. SRC has been such a fun group. I thoroughly enjoy finding new blogs and new recipes from women who live all over the world. 

This month I was assigned the blog Join Us, Pull up a Chair. I actually had Heather's blog recently when we did a themed BBQ reveal day. I made her Potato Salad, which was really good. Heather started her blog as a way to organize all the many recipes she had from magazines, can relate to that. She loves being in the kitchen and loves having her kiddos in there with her.  

This month I decided to go with another summery dish and made her Strawberry Pecan Chicken Salad. I was home by myself that afternoon, had leftover chicken and leftover salad from the night before and had recently bought the ingredients for the rest of the salad so I was good to go. I figured it would be a nice lunch for myself. I love nuts, seeds and meat in my salad but had never really been one to eat fruit in it. I tend to be one of those people who thinks certain things are just too weird to mix together. I'm pretty sure I've had apples and pears in a salad from a restaurant but never berries, other than dried cranberries...but they were dried, so that was different. Haha! Anyways...I thought I'd give it a try. My hubby DOES NOT like fruit on salad so I decided this would be a dish I made just for myself. 

It was fresh, light and definitely satisfying! Thank you Heather for another great recipe!

Strawberry Pecan Chicken Salad


1 tsp. extra virgin olive oil
1 Tbs. white balsamic Vinegar (I found some at Safeway)
1 tsp. honey
1/2 tsp. chopped fresh thyme (I only had dried)
fresh ground pepper and salt
2 c. halved strawberries divided
2 4oz. chicken breast cutlets
1/4 tsp. smoked paprika
4 c. fresh baby mixed greens
1/4 c. thinly sliced red onion
3 Tbs. chopped toasted pecans
1 oz. crumbled feta cheese


Combine oil, vinegar, honey, thyme and an 1/8 tsp. salt and combine. Add 1 c. of berries, toss and marinate for 10  minutes at room temperature.

Season chicken breast with salt, pepper and paprika. Grill until the chicken is cooked through. Remove from grill and allow to rest for 5 minutes. Cut against the grain (I can never seem to do this right...haha). 

Divide the greens between plates. Top evenly with dressing, remaining berries, chicken and cheese and pecans. 

Enjoy! I took more pics, but for whatever reason (user error I'm sure) they didn't turn out.

With Joy UNquenchable,

Friday, July 8, 2016

These are a few of My Favorite Things and Dreams

I love cooking, but as life just seems to get busier, (even though my girls are now older and more self sufficient) I have come to appreciate certain tools in my kitchen even more. Tools that make prep work, especially, quicker than usual. Tools that just seem to make things a bit easier. AND, because I like to cook, I also love to dream about what I'd want in my ideal dream kitchen. With ideas at our fingertips I'm always drooling over Pinterest or FB posts that say things like "which kitchen would you choose", "which stove would you want"...aaaahhhh! It's torture I tell you. I honestly only have a few items in my kitchen that I really don't use and probably should evaluate getting rid of, except that I always think "BUT, I might use it someday". 

I thought it would be fun to do a post on my favorite kitchen gadgets and also some kitchen "dream items" that I think would be super cool to have. I'll share my favorite brands, but hey, find and use what you like. For a lot of my tools, I use Pampered Chef. I've had so many parties over the years and use those to get the larger items and then just buy the smaller things here and there. They last me forever. Not to mention I love my Pampered Chef Consultant and I think we are secretly twins or something...even our house numbers are the same and for awhile we had the same area rug. 

A Few of My Favorite Things:

Pampered Chef:

Silicone Basting Brush: I was tired of losing bristles in my food. I use this a lot. 

Measure-All Measuring Cup: One of my absolute faves for measuring things like peanut butter, comes out so easy. 
Pastry Mat: LOVE this! It should be called pastry mat for with measurements for pies, comes in handy!
Food Chopper: My favorite for chopping nuts! It is used weekly!
Garlic Peeler and Slicer and Garlic press: Use these pretty much everyday.
Pineapple Wedger, Mango wedger (which I couldn't find online), Apple Wedger...I love the wedger family!
Chefs Tongs: I love these and use them daily...the large and small ones. 

I may have to do a part two. I can keep going. 

The key is, find tools that make things easier for you. I'm convinced you'll love your kitchen more if you do so.  

Some of my favorite larger "tools" are my Vitamix that we've had for going on probably 10 years, my Bosch stand mixer and my Cuisinart Food processor. The Vitamix is used daily and the others regularly enough that they stay on my counter. It was years into our marriage before I got these kitchen tools but I thoroughly enjoy them. So if you're starting out or just can't afford it, that's okay...check places like Craigslist or yard and estate sales for those items. 

Now, for the dreams. Like I said, I spend a lot of time in the kitchen, have always loved cooking and have had a myriad of kitchen appliances over the years. We rented a few apartments where we didn't really have a choice as to what we had. We purchased an older single wide trailer with an older stove and for awhile we had a fridge on the back deck because it didn't fit in the house and we didn't have extra money to buy one, and when we were given one it was a lovely uh, retro-ish pea green. When we finally purchased our first stick built home, we also purchased our first refrigerator (I think the stove and dishwasher might have been there...I don't remember. That was 20 years ago). We still have that refrigerator 20 years later. It's still alive, though I dream of a new one someday.


We built the first phase of our home 8 years ago and have been working  on the second phase for the last 2 1/2 or so. It's slow going when you are doing it all yourself. You can find posts on this journey here. This really has me dreaming of my future kitchen. The one we have now is meant to be a laundry/mud room eventually. I love it, and I like the appliances we picked but I also can't wait for the next part to be done. I'm always drooling over the beautiful top of the line appliances out there. Not to mention all the lighting options for over the island.

If you are like me, who loves to cook, you probably love watching cooking shows and you probably secretly, or not so secretly, pretend that you have your own show, or that you could easily compete on Master Chef, or dream of cooking with the cast of The Chew. Or you get to visit Ree Drummond's Ranch. Or that your blog is seen around the world. Please tell me you do, because I do. 

So, a few days ago I was made aware of BlueStar ranges and their website. I'm pretty sure I've seen them around Pinterest and FB, I just don't always pay attention to the brands I'm seeing. Now, I'm one that loves to research and thus found their FB page, their Youtube channel , also on InstagramAND discovered that one of my favorite hosts on The Chew, Michael Symon has several videos on their channel. Not to mention their ranges are dream and drool worthy. Who wouldn't feel like a professional chef with one of them in your kitchen (they have a refrigerator too that's pretty cool). If you go to their site you can play with and design your own colors. How fun is that? Granted, I think a lot of the colors are awesome, and it would be fun to have a blue, red, or yellow one, but the practical part of me would probably choose something neutral in case I changed my kitchen colors or tastes down the road. 

I created two vision boards (one above and one below) to show you what my dream appliances in my kitchen would possibly consist of IF I could have my dream appliances. And of course since we've done absolutely no landscaping on our property, I included the fact that, while even living in the rainy Pacific Northwest, I would LOVE an outdoor kitchen and entertaining area complete with a fireplace and a pizza oven. We love homemade pizza. 

My dream stove would have burners, griddle AND a grill (charbroiler), oh and I'd have wall ovens too. My dream refrigerator would be french door, and I recently discovered one with french door freezer too....YES. PLEASE! Isn't it fun to dream and imagine. Even if they never became reality, it's still fun. 

I'd love to know what your dream kitchen would include and what your go-to, must have kitchen tools are. 

These are two of my favorites from Blue Star so I thought I'd share a larger view of them. LOVE, LOVE, LOVE the look. Actually the layout of our next phases kitchen is similar to this.

With Joy UNquenchable,

Sunday, July 3, 2016

Taking a Day Trip and a Recipe Link

I love finding new recipes, or easy changes to an old favorite. A week or so ago, I saw a post on one of my favorite blogs, Reluctant Entertainer. I always love Sandy's posts and photos and now that she lives in my favorite vacation spot in Central Oregon, I'm longing to go on another vacation there. She has me missin' it.  

Anyways, she posted a recipe for granola chocolate chip cookies, which sounded wonderful. I put it in my internal filing cabinet to make, thinking these would be great with my homemade granola which is packed with nuts, seeds and all ingredients I know.  Find her recipe here. Last Wednesday, my daughter Kristianna and I were going to head to Hood River, Oregon to visit a Lavender farm and do some nature exploring. I decided making some cookies would be a perfect treat to take along with us, and I had exactly 1 c. of homemade granola left (so ya know where that's going right?). Oh my, these cookies turned out so good. I also made a plain batch because she's not a huge fan of nuts or anything else in cookies. I think the granola version has become a new favorite of mine. I'll probably make them next time with no chocolate chips in half the batch because that's what my hubby would prefer. 

Sometimes it just doesn't work out to go on several vacations a year, or even small trips. Whether due to finances, lack of vacation time, or whatever the reason, don't let it keep you from finding time for fun. Day trips take some planning, but they can be great for breaking up the monotony of the week and they can be an amazing way to get out and see things that maybe you normally wouldn't take the time for. I hear so many families on facebook who just cannot afford vacations, but instead find fun things to do with their kids during the summer months that are local, free or cheap and easily accessible. I often feel like we can come up with so many excuses and reasons for not doing things, that we end up doing nothing. I won't say we're great at this, but I'm really trying to be more intentional of taking time to have fun and go do little things. So what if it uses a tank of gas, or uses up my day off so maybe I don't get things done around the the end those things do not matter one iota (whatever an iota even is).

Soooo, with that said, my daughter wanted to go find and take pictures at a lavender farm. The plan was to go with a few friends (though at the last minute one got sick so they couldn't go). I sent her a few options and we decided that a trip to Hood River was the way to go. Hood River is an hour and a half away, along the beautiful Columbia River Gorge. I LOVE where we live in the gorgeous Pacific Northwest. Our family lives about 25 minutes from the Oregon border so we spend A LOT of time in Oregon...probably more than Washington really. From vacations, shopping, soccer tournaments, restaurants, it's just where we go. 

Knowing it was just a day trip, I decided to look on the good old internet to see if there were any places we should stop at either on the way there or on the way back. What did we do before the! Planning ahead allows you to make the best use of the time you have, without feeling like you wasted any of it himming and hawing over where to go next. Along the Columbia River Gorge are multiple waterfalls, most of which you have to hike back into but there are a few right off the road. I found one that looked good, Horsetail Falls that we would stop at on the way (we actually hit it on the way back as well). Then as we drove we saw a sign for a viewpoint and decided to stop. That was the WINDIEST viewpoint. We literally were having our clothes blow all over (we were in skirts). So funny. We laughed so was good for the soul. From there we continued on to Hood River. Our next stops before the Lavender farm were the Gorge White House and Panorama Point Park. Beautiful views. Hood River Lavender Farm didn't disappoint either. Gorgeous views of Mt. Hood and Mt. Adams along with beautiful purple and white lavender and an array of other flowers greeted us. We spent some time taking pictures, picking a lavender bouquet to take home and looking at flowers. We did have to chase one bee out of Kristianna's skirt. I happened to be taking a picture of her and was getting ready to tell her to fix one side of the skirt when I noticed the bee...."uh...there's a bee in your skirt"! It took a little convincing to get her to go back near the lavender for a few more pics. 

From there we headed back into the town of Hood River. We were getting hungry and had already found a place on Yelp that we wanted to try. The historic district of Hood River is quaint and diverse with something for everyone. We headed a little ways out of the district to a place called Farm Stand in the Gorge. They are an organic market and deli with 9 flavors of Kamboucha on tap. Yah, that's what sold my girl on going there. She loves her Kamboucha! We shared a wrap and each got our own beverage. That's another great way to keep costs down, share your meals. I think we are so used to eating large portions that we don't realize that we would be perfectly satisfied if we shared. Not to mention that the halved portion is probably a more appropriate serving size. Once we were satisfied, we headed into town to walk through the shops. 
Back on the road we decided to take the Columbia Gorge Scenic Highway that would take us to Crown Point, a very popular viewpoint. Along the way we stopped spontaneously whenever we saw a waterfall that was visible from the road. A few we walked a little ways back to get closer to them. There is just something so soothing about water. We walked in some water, took pictures (I need to work on my skills) and just enjoyed each others company. Then we were done. Ready to head home. was a weekday and we hit traffic. We stopped off by the airport and shared a burrito from Chipotle before heading the 30 minutes we still had left before getting home. All in all it was about a 10 hour day and we were both tired by the time we got home. But it was so worth it. Spending time together just doing something fun. I can't wait for another trip. 

So, my tips: 

1) Don't be afraid to just do something, anything for a day or even for a few hours. It doesn't have to be much, just do SOMETHING.

2) Plan ahead to make the most of your time. Be spontaneous but also have somewhat of a plan. There are so many great sites out there to help you know where to go, and of course you can always ask friends. Sometimes you  can even find coupons or groupons for places. 

3) Pack snacks or even whole meals and then if you eat out, share something if money is tight. We had set some money aside for this so we were fine with eating out a few times, we just shared what we got. 

4) DON'T be in a hurry. Take your time to unwind, enjoy nature, or whatever it is you're doing. The rat race will be waiting when you get back. Enjoy those you are with.

5) Have a sense of humor. Everything might not go perfectly, just go with it. When my daughter's friends couldn't go, we could have decided to just stay home, but no way. We decided to just hit the road ourselves. I mean, we like each other. 

6) Take day trips. Don't make excuses. Don't think someday I will. Do now. Do soon. Do fun with those you love or even by yourself sometimes. JUST. DO. LIFE!

I'm not always a spontaneous person, but I'm learning to be better at it. Life is just meant to be lived to the fullest and I don't want to let excuses keep me from doing so. So, here's to hopefully spontaneous adventures and a life lived to the fullest.

 If we are on any type of outing that has a higher viewpoint, we've been taking pictures like these. So fun and I think someday will be a great photo book.
 The Columbia River Gorge is absolutely beautiful!

Hope you enjoyed a bit of our little day trip! I love exploring nature and the country around me. 

With Joy UNquenchable,

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Recipe: Amped up French Dip with Garlic Aoili

 I love a good French Dip sandwich. I also love a good Philly Cheesesteak sandwich. So, I decided to combine the two ideas into one! The result? An amazingly flavorful sandwich and thankfully I had good self control. I seriously could've eaten another one. 

A quick meal using leftover roast with a quick saute-ing of vegetables and this meal could be on the table in as little as 30 minutes. It's great for company and honestly could be made into sliders or using the larger hoagie rolls, cut into wide slices for smaller appetizer like servings. I will definitely be making these again....and again....and again. 

You can easily just pick up some Roast Beef from your local deli, but I had made two small roasts the other night, thinking they would shrink up quite a bit and when they didn't I had a lot left over, which prompted the idea of these sandwiches. So, use deli meat, leftover roast, leftover chicken, whatever you want! Topped with a homemade garlic aioli and these things popped with flavor!

Garlic Aoili

2 garlic cloves minced
1/4 tsp. coarse salt
1/2 c. mayonnaise
2 Tbs. olive oil
1 Tbs. fresh lemon juice

In a small bowl add garlic and salt. Mash until it forms a paste. Whisk in mayonnaise, olive oil and lemon juice till well combined. Store in a sealed container in fridge til chilled. 

Vegetable Mixture (sandwich topping):

sliced red and yellow peppers (or any pepper of your choice)
sliced mushrooms
sliced onion
1-2 Tbs. Olive oil 
Garlic powder, salt, pepper

Saute' in a hot pan with olive oil until vegetables are tender but not over done. 

Au Jus Sauce:

2 c. water
2 beef bouillon cubes
Worcestershire sauce to taste
1/4 tsp. garlic powder

Combine all in pan and heat. I just add Worcestershire sauce until it tastes good. 

Additional ingredients:

Hoagie Rolls
Roast Beef (warmed up)
Sliced cheese

To assemble sandwiches:

1. Under broiler, toast rolls open faced until lightly browned

2. Top with a good amount of the garlic aoili, roast beef, veggies and cheese. Place that side of roll back under broiler to melt the cheese. Top with second half, cut and serve, either as is, or with a side of au jus sauce!

With Joy UNquenchable,

Saturday, June 25, 2016

Recipe: Banana Cream Cheesecake

How did I ever forget to post this recipe? This used to be one of our favorite desserts after a friend had made it for a get together. I made it often, then for whatever reason it got tucked away and it's been years since we've had it. I love recipes that also have memories attached to them. Don't you?

Last weekend for Fathers Day I pulled it out and made it again. It was hit with only one piece left. The original recipe calls for packaged pudding but I thought I'd try making my own. Over the last several years we have been on a journey of healthier eating, using less processed foods, or at least those foods being organic or as good as possible. This recipe calls for a few things that I'd typically avoid but wasn't sure about what to substitute and didn't really want to experiment. However, I was willing to try the pudding. I had a boxed mix on hand, and I know you can find organic instant pudding, but not in my small town in the two stores we have. The other item is cool whip and I just wasn't sure about this...maybe whipped cream beaten to stiff peaks would have worked, but again, I didn't want to mess with experimenting. 

This is a great dessert that is so good, especially during the summer months. I love dishes that are simple, yet pack great flavor and can be casual or elegant. I'm sure you could experiment with flavors as well. So add it to your list and try it out! Come back and let me know what you think. 


1 3/4 c. graham cracker crumbs (about 28 squares)
1/4 c. sugar
1/2 c. butter, melted
1 pkg (8oz) cream cheese, softened
1/2 c. sugar
1 carton (8 oz) frozen whipped topping, thawed, divided
3-4 medium bananas, sliced
1 3/4 c. cold milk
1 pkg. (3.4oz) instant pudding, (banana or vanilla...I use vanilla)


1. In a small bowl, combine cracker crumbs and sugar. Stir in butter. Set aside 1/2 c. for topping. Press remaining crumb mixture onto the bottom and up the sides of a greased 9" springform pan or 9" square baking pan. Bake at 350 for 5-7 minutes. Cool on a wire rack.

2. In a mixing bowl, beat cream cheese and sugar until smooth. Fold in 2 c. of whipped topping. Arrange half of the banana slices on crust; top with half the cream cheese mixture. Repeat layers.

3. In a bowl, beat milk and pudding mix until smooth. Fold in remaining whipped topping. Pour over final cream cheese layer and sprinkle with reserved crumb mixture. Refrigerate for  1-2 hours or until set. 

It's guaranteed to be a hit! 

If you make your own pudding, it may not set quite as well as the store bought kind. I may need to tweak this a bit or let it set longer. Or, possibly it was the combination with the cool whip, which I may just leave out next time. It still tasted very, very good!

With Joy UNquenchable,


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