Activities, attractions, Food

GreekFest 2018

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So a few weeks ago, we got to take part in one of my favorite yearly activities- GREEKFEST! If you’ve never been, add this to your yearly calendar! It is a good time for all ages!

I am always down for some delicious Greek food and dancing! This year, we tried a few new food items. Pastichio is a pasta dish that was somewhat similar to lasagna, and quite tasty. We also enjoyed some stuffed grape leaves (Dolmades) and Saganaki! The saganaki ended up being my new favorite. It is basically cheese that has been fried in Brandy so that it has a golden crispy exterior, while the inside remains gooey and delicious. They then slide this on a piece of crusty bread, and hit it with a little squeeze of lemon juice. YUM!

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If it looks like I was sitting in a random patch of grass close to the dumpsters, it’s only because I was. It was so crowded, there was NO PLACE to sit. We enjoyed our delicious food picnic style.

After eating, we watched all the dancing shows. I seriously don’t know how all those kids do that all day long. What a work out!

As soon as the shows were done, Neyland had to get in on the action and hit the dance floor.

Last year, I purchased Neyland one of the “jingle skirt” wraps that all the dancers wear. She was stoked to wear it to the festival this year, and has even worn it to dance class quite a few times. She felt quite “authentic” on the dance floor.

After trying out our Greek dancing skills, we hit up my personal favorite area- “The Wall-o- Baklava.” Ok, it’s really more than just baklava. It’s an entire wall of delicious Greek baked goodies. We got a lovely assorted box for the road.

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If you’ve never been to Greekfest, I highly recommend that you visit next year!

Check out their website HERE

You can thank me later! ūüėÄ

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Food, Uncategorized

Busy Busy

It feels like the past week or so has been one giant whirlwind! We have had so many things going on, I feel that I can’t keep it all straight! We have had some company, an adorable little orphan to care for, some great food experiences, and made a lot of memories! Here are a few of the highlights…

A few short months ago, a friend introduced me to Indian cuisine. I had this crazy notion that I hated curry, and therefore I would hate all Indian food. HAVE I EVER BEEN MISSING OUT!!! It turns out that I actually love Indian food, and even curry dishes! The first thing that I tried was a pretty “safe” chicken dish called Tikka Masala. It was fabulous! Pair that with some garlic naan….I’m not sure that it gets much better than that!

Last weekend, I was able to go back to Sitar for their lunch buffet. I would HIGHLY recommend it. I was able to try a wide variety of dishes, all of which were fantastic. As an added bonus, the cost of the lunch buffet is cheaper than ordering a single dish off the menu. Even Neyland was thrilled with her lunch! Check out the pics below.

Check out their website HERE

*Only downside- they don’t have a menu that offers kid meals or kid portions.*

 

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That same afternoon, I received an urgent text during church from a co-worker who’s friend had found an orphaned chipmunk. It needed immediate care, so after lunch we were off to go pick up an new orphaned baby to care for.

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Neyland LOVES that we occasionally are tasked with the care of injured or orphaned animals. She has such a big heart for these guys just like her Mama. I am so pleased to be able to show her how hard work and compassion can help even the smallest of God’s creatures.

She quickly got down to the important business of “naming” our little friend. For whatever reason, she was determined to name her “Coconut Honey.” I’ve just been referring to her as “coco” for short. I am happy to report that with some nursing care and bottle feeding, Coco is doing GREAT! She should be ready to release in a week or so! Check out this recent image of her munching on a grape…

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Some other highlights this week included one of Neyland’s all time favorite activities:

MAKING SLIME.

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This “Rainbow unicorn slime” came from a kit that she got for her birthday. I personally think that the DIY slime has a better texture than this stuff did, but it was still fun for both of us!

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We ended the week with another rainbow colored treat! French Macaroons!

Would you believe that I had never tried a French macaroon before? I see really delicious looking recipe videos for these things all the time, and I’ve really been wanting to try some! We stopped by the French Market & Creperie, and got a little baggie of imported authentic macaroons. They were deeeeeelicious! I would also like to give them a big shout-out for their amazing strawberry & creme Crepes. (We didn’t get crepes during this visit, but I included an image from the last time we got them.)

Check out their menu & locations HERE

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The lemon & the raspberry were our favorites!

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featured, Food

German Night

GermanJagerschnitzel (1)

I don’t know if any of you guys have done much digging into your family name & origins, but it is something that is a HUGE interest to me. I’ve traced my family tree back REALLY far. I’m fortunate that my family kept a LOT of papers and diaries. I’ve been able to research using sites like Ancestry to corroborate a lot of my family history that has been passed down, and fill in any gaps. One thing that I always knew growing up, was that our family was originally from Germany. My family immigrated to New York very early on, and many of my relatives remain there today! This simple connection has always left me eager to learn more about my German roots.

Earlier this year, I was fortunate enough to visit a German restaurant here in Knoxville. Linderhof Restaurant was my first real exposure to German food. I was advised by a friend about what to get beforehand. I did end up trying the j√§gerschnitzel with fried potatoes, and had a variety of different “salad” type options which mainly consisted of cabbage & vinegar. All of this is perfect for me because I LOVE vinegar! Before going, I didn’t even know what j√§gerschnitzel was. If you’re unsure, let me give you the low down. Schnitzel is the main dish. It is a type of meat (usually pork), that is pounded thin, breaded, and fried. The type of “sauce” that is served with it, describes the type of schnitzel. In this case, “j√§ger” sauce, is a brown mushroom gravy. J√§ger actually means “hunter” in German. It is supposed to be a sauce made with ingredients that a hunter might have at his disposal. Also, don’t let me fool you into thinking that I knew any of this. My friend educated me during dinner.

Dinner at Linderhof was amazing and I highly recommend it! It also has a pretty cool atmosphere! I’ve heard from more than one person that occasionally the owner will even come out an play accordion music while people eat. You can check out their website¬†here.¬†It has been under construction for a while, so following them on facebook may be a better option.

So that was my first and only dabble into German cuisine….until I hit the jackpot at Aldi last week. If you were unaware, Aldi is actually a German chain, so you can find a lot of cool German food there from time to time. Last week, their freezer section had a ton of options that I had seen on the menu at Linderhof. I decided to get a box of schnitzel and a spinach & feta strudel, and plan a German dinner for myself and the little one. Later in the week, it hit me that I had failed to consider the sauce for the schnitzel. Thankfully, the box includes a simple recipe for j√§ger sauce if you’re in a pinch. I wanted something a bit more authentic, so I held off until I could get back to the store. During a quick trip yesterday, I acquired a lovely carton of mushrooms and I quickly decided that J√§gerschnitzel was in my immediate future! For the schnitzel, I just followed the directions on the box, and fried it to a lovely golden brown. The j√§ger sauce I made from scratch and it turned out AMAZING! (I’ll share the recipe below) The strudel, was just an easy “pop in the oven” type side, but it was quite good too! I don’t think it would be difficult to make your own schnitzel, and I’ll probably try that next time. This was an easy “first time” experience.

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Yum! Schnitzel!

Start your sauce first: It takes the longest, and allowing it to simmer a bit while you fry your schnitzel will only make it better! Start off with butter and onions. Cook until they start to brown. Then add garlic.

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Speaking of awesome Aldi finds: This bagged garlic is amazing! I HATE peeling garlic!

Add in those mushrooms and cook until the liquid from the mushrooms is gone! It smells SO GOOD!

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This is what you’re looking for. Next add in your flour. We are basically making a gravy. When you add this, it will get kind of sticky- that’s normal. Let it cook for a couple minutes before adding in your beef broth, vinegar, and spices. Be sure to scrape up all those yummy brown bits on the bottom of the pan! When you add in the liquids, you’ll begin to whisk until the mixture thickens, then allow it to simmer (covered) on low.

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The finished product should look something like this.

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Even the tiny human was impressed! She requested the leftovers for her lunch at school tomorrow!

Jägerschnitzel

Ingredients

  • Cooked schnitzel (See post)
  • 2 Tbsp butter
  • 1 yellow onion, finely chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 16 oz. fresh mushrooms, cleaned and sliced (I used baby bellas)
  • 4 Tbsp unsalted butter
  • 4 Tbsp all purpose flour
  • 2 cups beef broth
  • 2 tsp balsamic vinegar
  • 1/2 tsp sea salt
  • 1/2 tsp sugar
  • 1/4 tsp dried thyme
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper
  • +/- 1-2 Tbsp of heavy cream

 

Instructions

  1. Melt the butter (or bacon grease this will yield the most flavor) in a pan over medium-high heat and fry the onions until beginning to brown.  Add the garlic and cook another minute.

  2. Add the mushrooms and cook 5-7 minutes or until golden and the liquid from the mushrooms has evaporated.

  3. Add the butter and melt.  Add the flour, stir to combine and cook for about 2 minutes, stirring continually.

  4. Add the beef broth, vinegar, thyme, sugar, salt and pepper.  Whisk continually until the gravy is thickened.  Cover and simmer on low, stirring occasionally, for 5-10 minutes.  Add salt and pepper to taste.  If you prefer the gravy thinner add a little more water (or heavy cream if using)

    Serve the schnitzel hot and covered in the jäger sauce! Enjoy!

     

featured, Food, Parenting

Spaghetti Ice Cream

Spaghetti Ice Cream

Months ago, a picture scrolled across my newsfeed of what appeared to be spaghetti….upon examining the post closer, I was surprised to learn that it was actually ice cream! I thought it was such a cute idea, and I made a mental note that I wanted to try it sometime. Fast forward to this past weekend, when another image of alluring spaghetti ice cream scrolls across my phone screen. I decided to do some research about this dish, and try to make my own!

Cool things I learned: This ice cream dish is actually German! I wouldn’t have guessed that, but it worked out well for me since I decided to try it out on a friend who spent several years in Germany! If it isn’t obvious, this is a GREAT dessert option for kids! They are pretty stoked about ice cream that looks like spaghetti! Let’s get down to the details about how to pull this off in your own home so that you too can impress German friends and children alike!

Items You’ll Need:

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This crazy looking tool is a “potato ricer.” I got this bad boy from my Grandmother many years ago. I pushed it to the back of a drawer with no intentions of ever using it. I could not foresee a recipe that I would ever make that would require such a tool. I’m thankful for once, for my inability to part with things. I will say that it is preferred for this recipe, to have a ricer that has holes only on the bottom, but I was able to place a layer of packing tape around the sides to prevent leakage. It worked well, and got the job done. If you don’t have an ancient potato ricer that your Grandmother left to you, these guys are also available on Amazon. There are a lot of options out there, but¬†HERE is a fairly cheap one.

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The “meatballs” in this recipe are optional. There are also a variety of options that you can use to make them. I baked a batch of brownies the night before. Once they were cooled completely, I shaped them into small balls with my hands. I’ve also seen people use Ferrero Rocher candies, and even small scoops of chocolate ice cream.

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You’ll also need some frozen whipped topping. Use a small to medium sized scoop in the middle of your plate FIRST. This creates height & some extra flavor. I have been advised that an unsweetened cream version is the most authentic.

A bar of white chocolate can be grated using a standard cheese grater to give the appearance of “Parmesan cheese.”

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This was our finished product. It doesn’t take much, but adds a great visual detail to the dish.

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You’ll also want to have a strawberry sauce to use as the “marinara” for the spaghetti. I made a homemade sauce that was super easy and really good. I’ll include the recipe below. If you don’t want to make your own, you can purchase a pre-made version, or even warm up strawberry jam if you’re in a pinch!

Strawberry Sauce

  • 1 lb fresh strawberries (De-stemmed and chopped)
  • 1/3 cup Sugar
  • Fresh lemon juice (juice from 1/2 a lemon)

Combine all ingredients in a medium sauce pan over medium heat. Allow it to come to a boil. Reduce heat and allow to simmer for ~20-30 minutes. Let it cool in the refrigerator for a few hours or overnight. It will continue to thicken as it cools.

*I also used my immersion blender briefly to make it less chunky.*

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Finally, you’ll need some delicious vanilla ice cream or gelato. The most important things here are to get an ice cream free from chunky additives. Chocolate chips aren’t going to squeeze through that ricer. Additives also take away from the visual that we are going for here. The other important thing is to allow your ice cream to sit at room temperature to soften a bit. If it is fully frozen, it does not squeeze through the ricer well. The soft ice cream actually holds it’s shape better

 

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Now that we have everything we need, let’s discuss putting it together!

Directions

  • The number one tip I have is to freeze the plate that you will be making your spaghetti on. I placed my plate in a few hours before so it would be nice and cold.
  • After your plate is cold, scoop a small to medium size scoop of frozen whipped topping onto the frozen plate.
  • Next (using a separate plate) place the ricer on this plate so you can scoop the softened ice cream into it. You will certainly get some leaking and melting (hence the extra plate to catch the mess.) You’ll want to put a pretty large amount of ice cream in there.
  • Now that the ricer is full, pick it up and squeeze it out over top of your frozen whipped topping on the frozen plate.
  • Use a knife or spoon to scrape the bottom of the ricer and release the end of the “noodles.”
  • Next, cover the “noodles” in your strawberry sauce
  • If you are using “meatballs,” place them now
  • Finally, sprinkle the white chocolate “Parmesan cheese” over the top to complete your dish!
  • Get some pics and enjoy immediately!

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I still plan to visit the restaurant that was featured in the original post!

You can check out their menu HERE.

I hope you and your kiddos enjoy this as much as we did!

Activities, featured, Parenting

Candy Cooking

Candy Cooking

Backup plans. They are important things to have. You probably never thought you would need them as a parent, but they are ever so helpful. We all know that parenting doesn’t always go as planned. You can plan events and activities with the utmost precision, but things happen & inevitably something will go awry. I like to keep a “mental list” of contingency plans for such situations. If I’ve specifically promised my daughter an exciting activity and the weather doesn’t cooperate, I can quickly pull out an appropriate substitute plan. One gadget that I keep around for tons of fun at the drop of a hat is the Poppin’ cookin’ Japanese candy cooking sets. These little kits don’t take up much space, they have a crazy long shelf life, and only require water to get started!

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Neyland mixing the “dough” for the dumplings and spring rolls

Each set comes with a little plastic tray with a variety of different sections for mixing and shaping the different parts of the dish you’re making. It also comes with a bunch of packets of different colored powder. The directions are pretty simple- Add water to the different packets. The amount and location you should mix them are all found on the directions. Depending on your kit, you may then take the resulting “dough” or liquid and place it in a separate area to shape it. The “ramen” kit we were making here, also had accompanying “spring rolls” and “dumplings.” The packaging even doubles as an area to roll out dough and place the “food” for cool photo ops.

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Our “dumplings and spring rolls” are complete!

One of our previous kits involved making candy “sushi.” We had fruit roll up “seaweed” and even had to make salmon roe! As different as all the dough and liquids looked (at least in that previous kit) I was amazed that all the elements tasted the exact same! This time, the “broth” in the ramen did have a different flavor.

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Dropping in our “ramen noodles”

I’m always transfixed at the chemical reactions that obviously take place when you make these kits. I will be the first to say that I don’t understand how they work, but they’re pretty cool to watch!

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Victory!
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Trying out the noodles

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The first time I saw these kits, I believe it was on youtube. I happened across them in a local Asian market here in Knoxville, and decided to give one a try. I’ve even ordered them off Amazon. They are generally pretty reasonable at around $3-4 per kit. Here is the link to the¬†Sushi Kit¬†on Amazon. So far, we have made the sushi kit, an ice cream kit, a doughnut kit, and this ramen kit. The Sushi and Ramen kits were our favorites by far. They were more intricate and took longer to make. I will say that some of the parts are small and therefore not for tiny kids. As always, watch your kiddos closely while they do this. I read the instructions and let Neyland mix the water and powder. We form the shapes together, but I’m sure that an older kid would have no problems with doing that part alone.

*Disclaimer* I am SURE the nutritional value in these kits is zero. Keep in mind that they are candy, and should be used as an occasional treat.

Have you made a Poppin’ Cookin’ set before? Which is your favorite?

 

Activities, featured, Food

Sunday Sundaes

How is the weekend already over??? We had such an awesome weekend, it just doesn’t seem fair that tomorrow is already Monday. Well, here’s to starting this week off right!

This weekend, my friends and family were kind enough to throw me a surprise birthday party for the big 3-0. Thankfully, someone decided it was a good idea to tell me about it since they planned it at MY HOUSE. Pretty sure full blown panic would have set in if 20-30 people had just randomly shown up at my place on Saturday. It was a great time full of food and lots of laughs! Thanks to everyone who came and celebrated! (Unfortunately we were all having such a blast, we totally failed to take any pictures!)

This morning we enjoyed an absolutely fantastic church service! I love when service just “happens” to be on things that I’ve been studying privately! Our service today was on worship. We discussed the different examples of worship in the bible and the specific kinds of worship God specifically asks for! There are many terms for types of worship in Hebrew. It was really interesting and eye opening!

After service, we enjoyed a nice relaxing day out by the pool, followed by homework for Neyland, and most importantly…..the post homework treat! ICE CREAM!

We discussed taking a trip downtown to try the new Cruze Farm location…but as with most new places, IT WAS PACKED. We elected to give it a few more weeks to let the “newness” die down. We decided instead to visit one of my favorite ice cream spots of all time. It is also conveniently, right across the street.

Phoenix Pharmacy & Fountain is everything you could possibly want with a super authentic “old time” feel. This place has a HUGE menu of sundaes, malts, floats, and seasonal specials. They make everything from scratch. All the toppings, whipped cream, you name it. All their ice cream is served in old fashioned glass dishes, and the staff even dresses in classic attire! The pharmacy is still in operation too! Bottom line: This place is the FULL experience. Amazing treats and a full authentic soda shop experience. Check out what we got this time!

 

Check out their website & menu HERE.

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Neyland’s Sidecar – Classic Sundae, only smaller for kids
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I had the “All American.” It was mixed berry cobbler with homemade vanilla ice cream!
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My brother had “The Great Smoky Mountains.” A fudge soaked vanilla cake¬† & a fudge brownie topped with vanilla ice cream, homemade brittle, and homemade caramel sauce!
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My Mom had the “Twixy.” Scoops of vanilla on top of homemade shortbread crumbles with milk chocolate & caramel drizzle.
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Neyland was happy to help finish off any leftovers.

We enjoyed a nice stroll through Market Square and Gay Street before calling it a night!

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If you’re into an authentic experience, don’t pass this place up! After all, Sundays are for Jesus and Sundaes!

 

 

Food

Birthday Breakfast

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If it hasn’t become extremely obvious by now, I thoroughly enjoy celebrating birthdays & holidays. I’m always looking for some reason to decorate or make someone feel special. I’m quite certain that I came by this trait honestly. My Grandmother is without a doubt the kindest most loving person you will ever know. She goes above and beyond even in small ways to make people feel special and loved. Ever since I was a little girl, (and even before my time I’m sure) she has had a tradition that has been passed down through the family. Enter: THE BIRTHDAY PLATE.

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That’s right. A big red birthday plate, gold silverware, & a special napkin. It makes an appearance for everyone’s birthday and makes you feel super special. I’m really thankful that my Aunt got me a set a few years back, and now I can carry on the same tradition!

You may be wondering why “The plate” was out today…. In less than 1 week I will be celebrating the death of my twenties. o_0¬† Everyone says your thirties are better, and I’m ready to find out! Since Thursdays are spent with my Grandma, I got the birthday plate today along with a DELICIOUS breakfast! My Grandma’s #1 favorite past time is to spoil those she loves with food. I’m sure glad to be one of those lucky people! The recipe she made today is one of my favorites. My Aunt discovered it a few years back at a restaurant in California.

Lemon pancakes are seriously the perfect pancake. I used to be anti-lemon when it came to baked goods & sweets, but my tastes have changed considerably. These things are absolutely amazing. The tart lemon cuts through the sweetness of the pancake and just makes this breakfast so refreshing. I have never encountered a pancake that goes so well with so many topping options. These guys don’t even need syrup. They are fantastic by themselves with a little sprinkle of powdered sugar! You can cover them with a variety of fruit. My Grandma had fresh peaches, strawberries, and raspberries as options today. All were absolutely fantastic. I’m sure they would be great with blueberries and blackberries. We discussed making fresh lemon whipped cream for them….the possibilities are endless.

If you’re tired of the same old pancakes, give these guys a try. You WON’T be disappointed!

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Lemon Pancakes

Ingredients

  • 1 cup all-purpose white wheat flour
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1.5 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp sea salt
  • 3/4 cup sour cream
  • 1/3 cup milk
  • zest of 2 lemons
  • 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
  • 3 Tbsp butter, melted
  • 1 egg
  • 1.5 tsp vanilla extract

Directions

Mix together flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. In another bowl, mix together the remaining ingredients. Pour the wet mixture into the dry mixture and stir quickly. The batter will be thick and bubbly. Use 1/4 cup batter for each pancake, and pour onto hot skillet. Cook until each side is golden brown. Serve with honey, syrup, powdered sugar, etc.