Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Summer Shrimp Stir-fry Recipe - You're Gonna Love This!

One of the easiest dinners to make on a weeknight is stir-fry.  It's great if you have a wok, but if you don't, a large sauté skillet works just as well.  Stir-fry is my go-to meal when I'm completely unprepared.  I always have staples like rice, onions, and a variety of fresh veggies in the fridge.  And Ken always makes sure there's shrimp in the freezer - that's his staple!  Admittedly, fresh shrimp is best, but in a pinch frozen does fine. 

Now this recipe includes a few things that aren't necessarily staples, but the great thing about stir-fry is you can include or exclude to your heart's (or stomach's) content.  Any combination of more or less veggies will still taste great!

So give this a try, and let me know how it turns out!

Shrimp and Sun-dried Tomato Stir-fry - 4 servings

  • 1 pound medium sized cooked or raw shrimp
  • 1 zucchini, sliced
  • 3/4 cup sun-dried tomatoes
  • 1 green onion, chopped
  • pine nuts, toasted for 3 minutes in 350 degree oven
  • 1/8 cup soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • cooked rice

1. Saute zucchini in oil until it just starts to soften, about 3 minutes. Add half of the soy sauce and shrimp. If using raw shrimp, cook until shrimp starts to turn white. If using cooked shrimp, just warm it up with the zucchini, about 3 minutes.

2. Add green onion and sun-dried tomatoes. Cook 3 minutes.

3. Add remaining soy sauce. Mix well and heat through.

4. Serve over rice and toss with pine nuts.

So easy and so tasty!
Have a happy day!

Friday, June 21, 2013

Summer Fun Ideas to Last All Season

I was putting together ideas for summer fun themed gifts, and I came across this intriguing book titled, "Summer, A User's Guide" by Susanne Brown.  I thought, a user's guide to summer - what an interesting concept.  So I opened the pages and checked it out, and it really is the perfect gift! 

Over 200 pages of food, crafts, games, interesting facts and tidbits about all things summer!  And with amazing photos on every page.  It could be a coffee table book, a kitchen table book, an outdoor patio book, or a take-along book for road trips. 

Starting off with "50 fun things to do this summer", you'll find ideas such as:
  • making a summer shadow box
  • taking surfing lessons
  • hanging a hammock
and instructions for:
  • learning to play croquet
  • starting an herb garden
  • making seashell wind chimes
These are just a few, but the most wonderful thing about this book, along with the beautiful photos, is the fact that there is something in here for everyone!  That is what makes it such a wonderful gift, so we chose it to go along with our Summer Fun Gift Basket.

Have a happy day!

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Homemade Cookie Recipe: The Ultimate Summer Take-out

I found this homemade cookie recipe a couple of months ago in the Chicago Tribune and was completely enthralled with the idea of all these wonderful flavors packed into one little cookie!  I made them for our next BBQ and they were a hit! They are the ultimate summer take-out cookie, loved by adults and kids alike. Made without flour, they are light and crunchy - perfect for your next picnic or BBQ!

Chocolate Cherry Peanut Butter Oatmeal Cookies

  • 1/2 stick unsalted butter, softened
  • 3/4 cup each: granulated sugar, packed dark brown sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1-1/4 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 cup extra-crunchy natural peanut butter, at room temperature
  • 3 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
  • 1/2 cup salted, toasted pumpkin seeds, roasted hulled sunflower seeds or roasted peanuts
  • 1/2 cup dried cherries (chopped if large), dried currants or small dark raisins
  • 8 ounces milk or semisweet chocolate bars, roughly broken into 1/4 inch pieces

1. Heat oven to 350 degrees. Beat together butter and sugars in large bowl of electric mixer. Beat in eggs, one at a time, until smooth and creamy. Beat in baking soda and vanilla. Beat in peanut butter until incorporated. Use a wooden spoon to stir in oats, pumpkin seeds, cherries and chocolate pieces.

2. Use a teaspoon to make balls about 1 inch in diameter. Place on 2 parchment-lined baking sheets spacing them about 2 inches apart. Flatten slightly with a spoon. Bake until set and bottoms are slightly golden, about 12 minutes.

3. Cool cookies on pan, 5 minutes. Transfer with a metal spatula to a wire rack to cool completely.


Thursday, June 13, 2013

For the Love of Gardening...Flower Gardens, Sam Adams, and More

Last Sunday, this was my Facebook post:

So often, I am rushing through the weekend day's chores and activities, keeping a close eye on the time as I move from one activity to the next.  Last Sunday, I had the pleasure of spending most of my day in the flower garden, and at one point realized, that for once, I was not tied to a schedule.  It made my gardening work that much more as it is meant to be - peaceful, calming, and rewarding.

For those who love flowers and gardening, the rewards are plenty. Digging in the dirt brings a feeling of being at one with the earth. Feeling the warmth of the sun, the cold moistness of the dirt, and taking in the beauty of my well groomed garden is a delightful way to spend a day.  The accomplishment of planting a multitude of plants, knowing you will reap their floral rewards for months or years to come, is overwhelming, no matter how many times I do it.

Oh, yes, and not to mention the cold Sam Adams that Ken brings out after a job well done.  That is its own reward!

Here are a few snaps of my favorite garden elements! 

Our front garden with the new Japanese Maple we planted a few weeks ago.

Close-up of the beautiful azaleas behind the Japanese Maple.
My favorite planter - been with me for years!
And this is where I spent most of my day last Sunday:


Have a happy day and tell me, what is your favorite garden element?

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Unique Party Themes and Gift Baskets - In Celebration of the Hot Air Balloon

Yesterday, June 5, marked the first hot air balloon flight in 1783.  That got me thinking about hot air balloons and how I love their vast potential for design - colors, themes - the possibilities are endless.  And that got me thinking what a great idea for a summer party theme!

Whether it's a kids party, bridal shower, or milestone birthday bash, hot air balloons are a great theme for all ages.  For kids, they can be bright and colorful featuring just about any child's theme you choose.  For the bride, they can be elegantly designed in her wedding color choices.  For the milestone birthday, opulence, elegance, or the numbers theme will work! 

So consider these ideas and reply with a few of your own!

For the kids party, consider these well-loved themes:
  • Up theme in primary colors
  • Disney theme
  • Circus or jungle theme
For the bridal shower:
  • Vintage styled hot air balloons
  • Modern day chic
  • Nautical or Beach theme
Milestone birthday:
  • Opulent black and white theme
  • Traditional over-the-hill theme
  • "Coming of age" 21 or 30 theme

Depending on your level of craftiness, you can make many of your own decorations, invitations, favors, or there are lots of great products on the web if you're looking to buy.  Consider making a gift basket with a bouquet of balloons attached for an Up movie look.

Here are some great resources I found for ideas and where to purchase:

Bridal shower theme in silver and gold - easily adaptable to your colors and flower picks: 

Kids Up theme in primary colors - this adorable banner can be found on Etsy:

These ideas from Disney are also easily adaptable to your theme of choice: 

2lovebirdsblog has great ideas and LOTs of printables.  Not specifically for hot air balloon theme, but can be adapted to your hot air balloon theme of choice.  I love the opulent engagement party ideas here. 

Lastly, Scramble Squares brain teaser puzzles can be a great favor for any theme and any age group.  We love them in our gift baskets with their many themes, and their hot air balloon theme is especially challenging!

Reply with your ideas and have a happy day!