Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Cajun Pizza with Shrimp and Andouille

A couple of the kicks I've been on lately, cajun food and pizza, collided last week. I saw this recipe on Food Network's Ultimate Recipe Showdown. There was a home cook competing who was from Germantown and she actually won the competition with this pizza, except she used crawfish on that day.

I looked up her recipe, which had shrimp as a replacement. That was perfect because I could save some from the kabobs I made before.

It's a MUST-TRY. Sean was blown away..."This is my FAVORITE. EVER."

You know guys. They don't get impressed easily. So I knew it was a hit.

He said it had the perfect amount of spice (Of course, I didn't measure, but I'll give the measurements from her recipe.) There's not alot of pictures, because it's so EASY!

Cajun Pizza with Shrimp and Andouille


Pizza crust, store-bought


1 (14 oz.) can tomato sauce

1 tsp. dried basil

1/4 tsp. dried oregano

1/8 tsp. black pepper

1/8 tsp. red pepper flakes or to taste

1 tbsp. butter


1 1/2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese

1 cup shredded pepperjack cheese

1/2 lb. andouille sausage, cooked, chopped

1/2 cup cooked shrimp, chopped

Chopped parsley, for garnish (I just used dried because its what I had)

Make sauce by combining ingredients.

Chop sausage and cook in skillet until done then drain fat.

Place the dough on a cookie sheet. Spread softened butter onto crust.

Add about 1/4 cup of pizza sauce in the middle of the dough and spread to the outer edges, leaving about a 1-inch margin. You can use more or less sauce if you like.

Sprinkle the sauce with mozzarella and pepper jack cheeses. Top with cooked crumbled sausage.

Bake for 10 minutes in a 450 degree oven. Remove pizza and top with cooked shrimp. Place back in oven and cook for an additional 2 minutes or until top is golden brown and bubbling.

Sprinkle with chopped parsley.

Recipe courtesy Gail Churinetz
*A few changes have been applied.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Thai Shrimp Kabobs

Mine and Sean's anniversary is today, so we're spending the whole weekend here with no plans. After our day at the park and running errands yesterday, we grilled shrimp kabobs. I had a Thai Chili Sauce I used to make Thai chicken and noodles a little while ago, and I knew it would be yummy on some grilled shrimp. It's in the asian food section of Kroger or Walmart.

These kabobs would be great to make for summer barbeque and are a healthy choice for supper. I just tossed raw shrimp in the sauce and added salt and pepper, then grilled for 2 minutes per side. I grilled chopped red pepper (also tossed in the sauce), purple onion and pineapple chunks from the can and skewered them with the shrimp.

Friday, March 26, 2010

*Day at the Dog Park*

Our puggle Oliver brings so much joy and fun to our lives everyday, and I can't imagine my life without him. He's our best bud. One of our favorite things to do together is spend a day at Paws Park at Murray Park in Little Rock.

We are going to miss this special place terribly when we move. It's the only place dogs can run and play freely with lots of other dogs and its such a happy environment.

You wouldn't believe how peaceful it is. You can feel the calm as soon as you enter the gate. We've been going there for over 2 years and never witnessed so much as a scuffle. The weather was beautiful so we stopped by Sonic for a route 44 sweet tea then headed to the park.

Could there possibly be a more photogenic dog? That boy knows a camera.

See what I mean?

When we got back home after a day of fun with our sweet boy, we got some sad news. Our good friends Jessica and Brian's dog, Ruby, who had been missing since January, had been found and she had passed away.

Ruby, a boxer, went out to play at their house on the lake in Conway and didn't come back. I was still hopeful that she'd make her way back. Even on this day, as we walked into the park we saw a boxer and I joked, "Ok, if somebody's got Ruby out here, you grab her and I'm gonna punch somebody in the nose."

But, Jessica and Brian's neighbors found her in the lake while they were fishing. She had apparently fallen through the frozen lake and wasn't able to make her way out.

It hurts my heart. She was always happy and loving and she was Oliver's buddy.

You just say the name "Ruby" and he still cocks his head to the side and gets so excited.

This is them playing in the sprinkler when we kept her for a summer weekend.

Waiting patiently to fetch...

Playing tug of war...


She was just a month older than him. So right now, as he snores loudly underneath a blanket on the couch, I think about how precious his life is to me. It's a love only a dog owner could truly understand. So kiss your pups and enjoy your time with them. They'll give you all the love in the world while they're here.

Rest in Peace Ruby Kay Krug
Best Friend to Angels, Remembered Always

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Play. Move. Grow.

Today was a great day for me. It was the last day of my first Level II fieldwork at Faulkner County Day School, Milestones, where I've been for 3 months. I painted this for Cathy, my clinical instructor, to hang in her OT room.

Today, I only had to go in for about an hour to work with a kid while she was in a staff meeting, then go over her evaluation of my performance over the last 3 months. I think about some of the kids now and miss them already. While I was there, I witnessed some amazing growth and improvement in several children and got to be a part of it. I enjoyed being there so much and can't wait to be a therapist for a living.

So, I'm ready to get the next 3 months going. It's going to be a totally different experience, so I'll update after I get through the first week!

~Forevor Young~

I finished this small acrylic on canvas last night. It's a small center scene of blowing dandelions with the lyrics to 'Forever Young' written in script in the background.

I free-handed the words with a small brush, making sure to keep it wet so the words flowed smooth. Then, I lightly spray painted in a cream color from about a foot away, to make the words appear faded and distant. Lastly, I went back over select words to make them stand out in the foreground.

My mom said this song always made her think of me, so of course now when I hear it, I think about her. It's always stuck in my head. In a good way.

May the good lord be with you
Down every road you roam
And may sunshine and happiness
Surround you when you're far from home

And may you grow to be proud
Dignified and true
And do unto others
As you'd have done to you

Be courageous and be brave
And in my heart you'll always stay
Forever young

May good fortune be with you
May your guiding light be strong
Build a stairway to heaven
With a prince or a vagabond

And may you never love in vain
And in my heart you will remain
Forever young

And when you finally fly away
Ill be hoping that I served you well
For all the wisdom of a lifetime
No one can ever tell

But whatever road you choose
Im right behind you, win or lose
Forever young

Coffee Table Revamp

Like I mentioned before, I picked up a coffee table from the flea market on the day of our spring fling. I've been searching for a square coffee table to fix up, reasonably priced of course, for over 2 years. For some reason, everything I found was round or a long rectangle. The few I did find would be gone by the time I got Sean to go with me to get it.

This happened several times.


But I finally found one this day so I had to get it, even though I felt the $35 was a little much for the flea market. (I know, I know. I'm just so used to a bargain.) I needed square because of the layout of our living room...the long rectangle hand-me-down I have is always in the way, not to mention banged up beyond recognition.

Go figure I would find it just a few months before I'll move out of this house and undoubtedly have a furniture configuration that warrants a different shape. But nonetheless...

Here's the Before:

Are you saying, "What was she thinking?" yet?

Revamp Steps:

1. Using a medium sanding block, I sanded the entire thing, wiped it clean with an old tee and then sanded again.
2. After it was all clean, I removed the ugly brass pieces when I realized they were simply screwed in.

3. I decided the bars across each side were just more clutter for the eye and decided to remove them too. I knocked them a little loose with a hammer then, jimmied the edge with a flat head screwdriver.

4. They were held in place with wooden dowels, so I used some floral snippers to cut through the wood and break the bar loose. Then, I sanded down the wooden nub that was left and wiped it clean.

5. I chose a dark mahogany stain and was originally going to stain the entire table. But, just for something different, I decided to stain the wood top, then paint the legs black. Good decision! Following the can's instructions, I stained the top using a foam brush.

6. The next day, I covered the stained top with trash bags and painters tape, and primed the legs with primer.

*You should try to get a similar color to the top coat, but Walmart was out. Can you imagine that?

7. After the primer dried, I used my worn down sanding block to lightly brush over the primer. You should use steel wool if you have it, but I didn't. Then I wiped the legs clean with the cotton tee.

8. Next, I spray painted the legs with a black satin. I debated in the store whether I felt like painting from a can or spraying, and chose spray paint for 2 reasons. A, It was cheaper, and B, I thought spray paint would be faster and easier. That is true, when what you are covering is small or detailed, but while it dried much faster, it ended up taking longer because I had to go over it several times and ended up using the whole can. My right hand was numb for a half hour after.

9. After the legs were sprayed and the paint dried (10 minutes) I pulled away the trashbags and gave a 2nd and final coat of stain to the top. After 5-6 hours, it was ready to bring in!

I'm in Luuurve with it. It looks BRAND new sitting in the living room. I'm so glad I decided on the two-toned look. I would not have been so impressed with a same-ole wood stained coffee table. But, with every project, I learn new things and there are a few things I would do differently.

  1. Attempted to bargain with the flea market. I usually do, and I don't know why I didn't this time, but...I didn't. I just brought the sticker to the counter and paid. For goodness sake, the girl checking out in front of me had rainbow colored yarn sewn into her dreads and no shoes....Hence, its the type of establishment that wouldn't be offended by bargaining! Next time, I will at least ask.
  2. Used paint and a brush for the legs, rather than spray paint. It worked, and the results are great, but the process is where I would have saved. I'm well aware that while my end product is usually successful, my methods are always hit or miss. I learn something new everyday!
  3. Worn gloves. I had them. Again, I don't know why I didn't put them on...I just didn't. Stubborn? I had turpentine to get any stain off of my hands, but there are spots around my nails that look like they haven't been washed since the cute rainbow-dread girl last washed her hair.
Overall...Very successful revamp! The before and afters say it all.

Money Breakdown:

Coffee Table from Flea Market: $35
Primer: $2.30
Spray Paint: $2.30
Sanding block: $2.00
Stain: $4.58

Total: $46.18

Not bad for the beautiful piece I ended up with!

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Pretzel-Pecan Crusted Chicken Tenders

Our springtime celebration was such a fun day...we felt like kids who hadn't been able to play outside in forever. It seemed appropriate to have a comforting kid-friendly supper that would take us back to childhood.

It's always my mission to make a healthier version of the guilty pleasures we love. I haven't actually eaten fried chicken in many years...can't even really remember the last time now that I think about it...but with the way I make chicken tenders, I haven't wanted to one bit.

What makes fried chicken Oh-so-bad for you is that it's...well...fried.

And also coated with breading so its nice and crispy. With both of these elements subtracted, my chicken tenders are pretty guilt free. But O.M.G. they are SO stinkin good.

The most obvious alternative to deep frying was to just crisp up the outside in a skillet with a little bit of extra virgin olive oil (the GOOD fat). But figuring out the breading took a little more thought. Over a few years...its now perfect. The combination of pecans and pretzels gives a just-right crunchy coating.

We had our chicken tenders with homemade mac-n-cheese, creamy mixed veggies, and dinner rolls. We took a ride for icecream later and I was still raving, "O ma gah that was so good." Sean said, "Well, if you do say so yourself!"

Ha. I couldn't help it. I didn't invent the concept...just tinkered with it til I liked it. And I like it ALOT.

Pretzel-Pecan Crusted Chicken Tenders

  • 2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (if cooking for 2) or enough tenders for the people you're serving
  • 1 1/2 cups pecans
  • 1 1/2 cups pretzels
  • About 1 1/2 cups milk
  • 1/2 tsp dried Parsley
  • 1/2 tsp Garlic Salt
  • Pepper
  • Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • 3/4 tsp Fried Chicken Seasoning (McCormick makes, I know, but whatever brand you find)

Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees.

In food processor, grind pecans and pretzels until a fine crumb consistency.



*You can crush with a rolling pin in a ziplock bag if you don't have a processor.*

Add spices and toss. Start an assembly line with a bowl of milk, a shallow dish of breading, and a large skillet with just enough olive oil to coat pan. Turn to Medium heat.

Because the next steps involved messy hands, no pics were taken. :)

Place 7-8 tenders into milk, toss in breading until coated, then place into heated skillet.

Cook for about 4-5 minutes per side then place onto baking dish. Continue until all tenders have cooked in skillet.

Bake for about 10 minutes, just to ensure they are cooked through. Pierce one of the largest tenders with a knife to make sure there is no pink inside. I served mine with honey mustard (equal parts yellow mustard, miracle whip, and honey)

Trust me, I'll never make fried chicken when I can make these. They're delicious!

I even came out with one shaped like a chicken leg:)


The sides need no step-by-step. Simple mac-n-cheese with macaroni pasta, sharp cheddar cheese, milk, butter, salt and pepper. Creamy mixed veggies with a bag of frozen mixed vegetables, cooked and salted, then mixed with a can of cream of mushroom and topped with french fried onions. (Kind of like green bean casserole but with lots of veggies.)

We had my FAVE rolls ever. You won't believe what they are. I get them from the bakery bread section of Walmart and they are typically $2.50. This time, they came from the "Oops, we baked too much" cart so they were $1.50.
They're called "Yeasty Dinner Rolls" and they are amazing. You just dab with a little butter on top and microwave for 10 seconds, or stick in the oven to warm after everything has cooked.

I hope you'll try these chicken tenders...they're worth it.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

*~*First Day of SpRiNg*~*

Our "1st Day of Spring" Celebration

This has felt like the longest winter of my life. I've had major spring fever for months. With spring comes the obvious: warm weather. But also the half-way mark for my clinicals (can't believe we're almost done!) and the reassurance that summer is around the corner.

When this year's first O-fficial day of springtime fell on a Saturday, I was so excited to celebrate outside. But the weather promised temperatures in the 40s and a 90% chance of rain.
By what may be described as a springtime miracle, we woke up to a gorgeous day in the upper 60's...and we celebrated by doing some of our favorite things. I made a trip to Hob Lob and a couple flea markets, and found an old coffee table I'll redo this weekend.

Then we decided to go to one of our favorite places in Conway, Toad Suck Park, for a picnic.

Since the day was supposed to be spent inside, I didn't plan a cute little picnic basket full of homemade goodies, so we reached for the next best thing.

Sonic Picnic To-Go!

After eating, we followed the beaten path to the beautiful little hideaway we stumbled upon a few years ago.

It's the kind of spot I would have loved to have as a kid. I would have spend hours "exploring" and imagining all kinds of tales.

Oliver ripped and romped in the sand...

And looked just as cute as ever. I can't stand it.

I did another one of my favorite things and searched for interesting river rocks to paint. And posed with my boy.

Sean got to do one of his favorite things too...

Play ball.

While me and poop watched.

We headed back with full bellies and pockets full of rocks. The day was perfect.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Angel Hair Stir Fry

~My favorite quick-fix meal~

On those busy days when I'm not able to think about dinner until I'm so starved that my head is pounding and I'm about to lose my mind...I make this. It's the quickest-cooking meal I've come up with. Only a few minutes more than those 8-minuter lean cuisines (Doesn't that defeat the purpose...).

10-12 minutes from conception to completion. I snapped a pic of the start and finish time to prove it.

And it's SO YUM. It's a meal with perfect timing...
frozen stir-fry veggies: 6 minutes. Angel Hair Pasta: 6 minutes. Steak strips: 6 minutes.

Everything is done at once with just additional time for maneuvering a pot and a pan. The angel hair is a much tastier alternative to rice, in my opinion. The ingredients are staples in my kitchen so it's on hand whenever I need a quick fix.

Angel Hair Stir-Fry

  • 16 oz pkg frozen stir-fry vegetables, whatever variety you like
  • 8-10 oz angel hair pasta
  • 1/2 lb thawed steak strips (Or chicken, pork, or shrimp...whatever you have)
  • Soy Sauce to taste, maybe 1/4 cup or so...Sorry, I don't measure ANYTHING!
  • About 1 cup beef broth
  • Olive Oil
My start time:

In a large pot, bring water to a boil and salt liberally (2 tbs). (Put the lid on and your water will boil super fast. Add angel hair. In skillet or wok, circle the pan 2-3 times with oil and begin sauteing steak strips, just to get them going before the pan is crowded.

After about a minute, add the bag of veggies.

Stir-fry on medium high for about 6 minutes. Shake with soy sauce to taste and add beef broth.
The pasta will be done at the same time, so using a pasta fork, lift noodles from water and toss into veggies. That's it!

My finish time:

It's usually 10... blame the extra 2 minutes on snapping pics! But you get the gist...