Meet the Sullivans: March 2011

March 28, 2011

Book Club

The Pioneer Woman: Black Heels to Tractor Wheels 
Part One

I'm linking up (late) for Book Beginnings & Bookends for Part I of the book club's questions for Ree Drummond's The Pioneer Woman: Black Heels to Tractor Wheels

From Rachel:
Has this book brought you back to the beginning of a romantic relationship in your life?
Yes! I think about when Keith and I started dating!

From Erin:
What surprised you about Ree? If this was your first time reading about her background, did anything surprise you about her "beginnings?"
I was pretty surprised to hear about her time in LA. I had no idea!

From Stephanie:
How do you think Ree's family felt that she was just going to give up going to Chicago for a guy she had just met?
I'm sure they were supportive. I know my parents would have been, possibly only because they would have been happy if I never left the small city we lived in.

From Rocky Mountain Wife:
If you were Ree and started to question your life plan (leaving Cali, moving to Chicago, being independent for a while) would you feel when this sudden romance came into your life at the 'wrong' time?
I don't think there is a "wrong time". If it's right, it's right.

From Meghan:Have you ever felt an instant connection with someone? How did it turn out?
Yep, my husband! I'm not kidding, or being Pollyanna, I had a pretty strong feeling he was "the one" very early on.

From Meredith:
I love all the details of Ree's cooking for Marlboro Man in the early stages of their relationship. Have you ever made anything for the guy in your life that was just an utter disaster? Did he choke it down anyway?
Hmm, the first time we cooked together we baked chocolate chip cookies and they turned out totally flat.

Now, back to reading so I can catch up with the Part II questions!

Pioneer Woman's Cauliflower Soup

This soup is so amazing that I've actually made it twice in the past 10 days! If you like your food delicious you'll love this. The first time, I made this for Keith and I on a rainy Saturday, and yesterday I made the soup to bring to work today for my co-workers. Everyone enjoyed it!
Pioneer Woman's Cauliflower Soup
For a printer friendly version click here.

  • 1 stick Butter, Divided  
  • ½ whole Onion, Finely Diced  
  • 1 whole Carrot Finely Diced  
  • 1 stalk Celery, Finely Diced  
  • 1 whole (to 2 Whole) Cauliflower Heads (roughly Chopped)  
  • 2 Tablespoons Fresh Or Dried Parsley (chopped)  
  • 2 quarts Low-sodium Chicken Broth Or Stock  
  • 6 Tablespoons All-purpose Flour  
  • 2 cups Whole Milk  
  • 1 cup Half-and-half  
  • 2 teaspoons To 4 Teaspoons Salt, To Taste  
  • 1 cup (heaping) Sour Cream, Room Temperature

    1. In a large soup pot or dutch oven, melt 4 tablespoons butter. Add the onion and cook for a few minutes, or until it starts to turn brown.
    2. Add the carrots and celery and cook an additional couple of minutes. Add cauliflower and parsley and stir to combine.
    3. Cover and cook over very low heat for 15 minutes. After 15 minutes, pour in chicken stock or broth. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and allow to simmer.
    4. In a medium saucepan, melt 4 tablespoons butter. Mix the flour with the milk and whisk to combine. Add flour-milk mixture slowly to the butter, whisking constantly.
    5. Remove from heat and stir in 1 cup half-and-half. Add mixture to the simmering soup. Allow to simmer for 15 to 20 minutes. Check seasoning and add more salt or pepper if necessary.
    6. Just before serving, place the sour cream in a serving bowl or soup tureen. Add two to three ladles of hot soup into the tureen and stir to combine with the sour cream. Pour in remaining soup and stir.
    7. Serve immediately.
    8. I also used my immersion blender, added a little more flour to thicken it and sprinkled in cayenne+salt+pepper+rosemary it was incredible.
      If you want to see step-by-step directions you can click here and head right on over to Ree's website for her beautiful and entertaining pictures and comments.

      March 23, 2011

      Irish Soda Bread

      Every year, for as long as I can remember, I have made Irish Soda Bread on Saint Patrick's Day.We loooove it so much. It goes well with traditional Irish cuisine (can you even call corned beef and cabbage cuisine?), and can even makes for a great breakfast!
      Irish Soda Bread
      Click here for a printer friendly version. 

      ***This recipe makes ONE loaf*** What you see in the pictures is a double batch.

      4 cups all-purpose flour
      4 tablespoons white sugar
      1 teaspoon baking soda
      1 tablespoon baking powder
      1/2 teaspoon salt
      1/2 cup butter, softened
      1 cup buttermilk
      1 egg lightly beaten 
      1/4 cup butter, melted
      1/4 cup buttermilk

      Preheat oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C). Lightly grease a large baking sheet. 
      In a large bowl, mix together flour, sugar, baking soda, baking powder, salt and butter. Stir in 1 cup of buttermilk and egg. 

      Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead slightly. Form dough into a round 

      and place on prepared baking sheet. In a small bowl, combine melted butter with 1/4 cup buttermilk; brush loaf with this mixture. 

      Use a sharp knife to cut an 'X' into the top of the loaf. Bake in preheated oven for 45 to 50 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the loaf comes out clean. You may continue to brush the loaf with the butter mixture while it bakes. 

      It should like like this when it's all done, nice and crispy on the outside and dense and yummy on the inside. Now, cut your self a slice.

      Good toasted, with butter or jam. Tastes ever better the next day! Enjoy!

      March 21, 2011

      Menu Monday 3/21

      Hello everyone! Can you believe it's Monday again already? This weekend flew by, and I was even lucky enough to have three days off! We stayed in Friday, I had class all day Saturday while Keith was at work and Saturday night we got together with both our families for a belated St. Patrick's Day celebration. On Sunday we went to church in the morning and went to see Limitless in the afternoon with my mom and sister, followed by dinner at our place with our friends Amanda and Matt. Great low-key weekend! 

      Here is what we have planned in the kitchen this week: 
      Clockwise from top left: 
      Southwestern Beef & Cheese Foldover (Keeping Up With the Joneses)- I just love these things! They are a great go to dinner; easy, taste great and make for great lunch leftovers.

      Beef Stew (Art of the Slow Cooker Cookbook)- I've made this stew in our slow cooker before and it turned out great!

      Blueberry-Orange Parfait (Cooking Light)- We've foregone sweets for Lent. It has not been easy. This fruit parfait will have to hold us over this week. Don't they look beautiful?

      Cobb Salad (Eating Well)- This is a favorite of mine. I especially like the dressing on his version of the standard salad.

      Have a great week!

      March 17, 2011

      Good Reads

      Who doesn't love a good book? The trick is finding a great one that will grab you without buying hundreds of them before finding the right one.

      Right now I'm reading two great books, so I've been bouncing back and forth between two really great stories. Rough, I know.

      I  made Pioneer Woman's Sherried Tomato soup last week and then fell asleep reading the book...on my iPhone. Kinda funny. Reading on my iPhone is my favorite way to read a book, it's easy to hold and I can just drop it when I get sleepy and don't need to worry about bookmarks (I'm so lazy, huh?) and it is always with me when the mood strikes for reading. The best part though is that, just like on the Kindle, you can download the sample first to see if you like the book before you hand over your money to purchase it. I'm telling you, this is the optimal way to read a book people!

      I've joined a book club at Book Beginnings and Bookends for this book, which is their pick for March.

      The scehedule if anyone else is interested in joining:

      Part 1: Questions will be posted Sunday, March 20
      Part 2: Questions will be posted Sunday, March 27
      Part 3: Questions will be posted Sunday, April 3

      Cute Calendar for Your iPhone

      ...and it's free. I know the iPhone already has a calendar (a pretty great one actually), but this one from Ashley Brooke Designs is just lovely. It's an image and you can download it (they even provide easy to follow directions) into iPhoto and set it as your wallpaper. I anticipate Ashley will have one for you in April too. Lucky you! Get the March one here.
      You can also get it for your Blackberry or Droid.

      March 16, 2011

      Prettiness for Your iPhone

      Hard to believe, but sometimes I actually show some restraint when it comes to shopping. Take last month for example, when CA Wife over at Life as a California Wife posted about a iPhone case she bought for her iphone 4G from Etsy seller Dani at Dani Notes Stationary.

      Aren't they so cute? When CA Wife posted about them my own clear iPhone case was in pristine condition and I held back the urge to just buy one anyway. Amazing, right? Well, last week when (for no reason) my case broke I knew where I was going for a brand new one.

      I picked a trellis design in gray and "pool" which is pictured on the left. Adorable and so cute! 

      It's going to take about two weeks to arrive and I can't wait to see my own personalized design!

      March 15, 2011

      English Cottage Pie

      Home sick today fighting off this awful flu / cold / illness, so here is something I made over the weekend.

      This is some real comfort food and it's also a Cooking Light recipe, which means you can feel a little less guilty as you enjoy it, knowing that although it tastes really great, it's not that much of an indulgence. I made this on Halloween last year and we really enjoyed it. I decided to make it again over this weekend, but this time share it with you step-by-step.

      English Cottage Pie
      Click here for a printer friendly version.

      1 tablespoon all purpose flour
      1 tablespoon butter, softened
      Cooking spray
      1 ½ cups chopped onion
      ½ chopped carrot
      8 oz. thinly slice cremini or button mushrooms
      1 lb lean ground beef or turkey
      2 tablespoons no salt added tomato paste
      1 cup low sodium beef broth
      ¼ teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
      ¼ cup chopped fresh parsley
      1 tablespoon fresh thyme
      ½ teaspoon salt
      3 cups mashed potatoes
      ¾ cups shredded reduced-fat sharp white cheddar cheese, divided (I used orange cheddar)
      Paprika (optional)

      Preheat oven to 350° and if you have 3 cups leftover mashed potatoes, by all means use them! If you're like me and you don't, them start them before you begin with the rest of this recipe.

      Combine flour and butter; stir well and set aside. Chop onion and carrots. Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Coat pan with cooking spray. Add onion and carrot; sauté 5 minutes. Add mushrooms; sauté for 5 minutes or until lightly browned. Remove vegetables from skillet.

      Add beef to pan; cook 5 minutes or until browned, stirring to crumble. Stir in tomato paste, and cook 3 minutes. Stir in broth and pepper. Return vegetables to pan, and bring to a simmer. Stir in parsley, thyme, and salt. Add flour mixture, and cook for 1 minute or until thick, stirring constantly.

      Spoon meat mixture into an 8-inch square glass or ceramic baking dish coated with cooking spray, spreading evenly. Combine the potatoes and half of cheese; spread the potato mixture evenly over meat mixture. Top with remaining cheese. Sprinkle with paprika, if desired. Bake at 350° for 20 minutes or until bubbly.

      Don't forget to let it sit under the broiler for a bit so it gets nice and brown.

      You'll love this, I just know you will!

      Oh yes, and I am linking up with 33 Shades of Green on this post for Tasty Tuesdays. Pop on over and check out the blog and the other superb recipes!  

      March 14, 2011

      Creamy Banana Bread

      Yes, another banana bread recipe is coming your way courtesy of me! We love bananas and so, I always have them on hand and end up making them into something else. Like this, and this.

      Creamy Banana Bread
      Click here for a printable version.

      1/2 cup margarine, softened
      1 (8 ounce) package cream cheese, softened
      1 1/4 cups white sugar
      2 eggs
      1 cup mashed bananas (I used 2 large bananas)
      1 teaspoon vanilla extract
      2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
      1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
      1/2 teaspoon baking soda
      3/4 cup chopped pecans
      2 tablespoons brown sugar
      2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
      1. Cream the butter or margarine and cream cheese together. Gradually add the white sugar, and continue beating until light and fluffy. Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Stir in the mashed bananas and vanilla. Add flour, baking powder, and soda; mix until batter is just moist.
      2. In a small bowl, mix together chopped pecans, 2 tablespoons brown sugar, and cinnamon. 
      3. Divide 1/2 batter into two greased and floured 8x4 inch loaf pans. Sprinkle pecan mixture over batter in pans, and top with remaining batter. 
      4. Bake at 350 degrees F (175 degrees C) for 45 minutes, or until an inserted toothpick comes out clean. 
      A little more bread beauty shots for your viewing pleasure...

       This bread was really great! It is definitely creamy and has great banana flavor. We really liked the cinnamon / sugar / pecan layer in the middle. See it in there? It looks lovely, doesn't it? Next time I would double the mixture for the middle. Mmmm. Enjoy!

      March 12, 2011


      Last month I was looking through Tidy Mom's blog and stumbled on a post that completely changed my life and answered all of my food blogging / wanna- be-photographer prayers.

      I love to take pictures. I especially love to take pictures of food I'm cooking or baking and other fun things I'm working on. Problem is, I am usually working on such things at home, and I'm usually at home in the evening hours when the natural light in our home is non-existent.
      Now,  we all know that in the world of blogging (and in photography, for that matter) using your camera's flash in a dark setting is a no-no. The pictures will turn out fine, but your subject (friend, mother, husband, dog, food or whatever) will look completely washed out and their natural color will be compromised. Not what you want, right?

      But if you go with the other option, no flash, you end up with photos that are too "warm", which also ruins the natural beauty of your subject. This brings me to my favorite new toy (!!!!) the Lightscoop.

      The picture on the top shows a camera with the Lightscoop attached and the picture on the bottom shows the Lightscoop on it's own. The best thing about it is that it's not very expensive, only $29.95. And it will change your pictures completely! 
      Here is a little roof for 'ya. A pic of my sis and hubs. On the left you see the picture taken with the Lightscoop and on the right is a picture taken with just my camera's flash. Isn't the one on the left so much better? Yeah, I think so too. It looks real. You're right, it also looks like a professional took it!

      How does it work this magic you ask? According to, "Redirecting the small light from your camera’s pop-up flash to the ceiling creates a larger source of light that also comes from a natural direction (rather than from the middle of your forehead). Softer, more diffused light coming from a natural direction will instantly improve your photos. Turning the camera vertically to direct the flash to a light-colored wall will create the kind of directional “window” light that is the hallmark of an interesting professional photograph. Plus, using the flash will stop blur from subject or camera movement." 

      Amazing, right? Who knew the answer all your problems would only cost $29.95? My loving and generous hubby bought it for me after he saw how excited I was about it. He fully supports my bogging and photography obsession. Love him! 

      March 10, 2011

      Pioneer Woman's Sherried Tomato Soup

      Who doesn't love the combination of tomato soup and grilled cheese? It's one of my favorite comfort foods. This recipe is tomato soup at its very best!

      I didn't change much about this recipe--I added a dash of cayenne and puréed the soup before letting it boil.

      Sherried Tomato Soup
      For a printer friendly version click here.

      6 Tablespoons Melted Butter
      1 whole Medium Onion, Diced
      1 bottle (46 Oz.) Tomato Juice
      2 cans (14 Oz. Cans) Diced Tomatoes
      1 Tablespoon (up To 3 Tablespoons) Chicken Base
      3 Tablespoons (up To 6 Tablespoons) Sugar
      1 pinch Salt
      Black Pepper To Taste
      1 cup Cooking Sherry
      1-½ cup Heavy Cream
      Chopped Fresh Parsley
      Chopped Fresh Basil
      Cayenne pepper (optional)

      1. Sauté diced onions in butter until translucent. Then add canned tomatoes, tomato juice, chicken base, sugar, pinch of salt, black pepper and stir.
      2. This is when I pureed it with my immersion blender, if you don’t have one you can pour the mixture into your blender in batches--but you don’t have to, the soup is great without being pureed.
      3. Bring to a near boil, then turn off heat. Add in sherry and cream and stir. Add in parsley and basil to taste and add a dash or two of cayenne if you like a little spice. Serve immediately with grilled cheese or crusty garlic bread.
      Many thanks to the ever inspiring Pioneer Woman for sharing this recipe with the world and keeping it so simple and delicious all at the same time!

      March 9, 2011

      Irish Coffee Muffins

      Irish Coffee Muffins 

      1 tbsp sunflower or peanut oil (if using)
      2 cups flour
      1 tbsp baking powder
      pinch of salt
      3 oz butter
      ½ cup sugar
      1 large egg, beaten
      ½ cup heavy cream
      1 tsp almond extract
      2 tbsp strong coffee
      2 tbsp coffee-flavored liqueur
      4 tbsp Irish whiskey
      whipped heavy cream, to serve

      1. Oil a 12-cup muffin pan with oil or line with 12 muffin paper liners. Sift the flour, baking powder, and salt into a large mixing bowl.
      2. In a separate large bowl, cream the butter and raw sugar together, then stir in the beaten egg. Pour in the heavy cream, almond extract, coffee, liqueur, and whiskey and stir together. Add the whiskey mixture to the flour mixture and then gently stir together until just combined. Do not overstir the batter--it is fine for it to be a little lumpy.
      3. Divide the muffin batter evenly among the 12 cups in the muffin pan or the paper liners (they should be about two-third full). Transfer to a preheated oven, 400 degrees, and bake for 20 minutes, or until risen and golden. Remove the muffins from the oven and serve warm, or place them on a cooling rack and let cool. If liked, fill the muffins with whipped heavy cream, to serve.
      4. To fill, let muffins cool completely and use a thin sharp knife to cut a cone out of the top of the muffin. Fill muffin with whipped cream and place cone back on muffin.

      March 8, 2011

      Bananas Foster

      This will always be a favorite of ours. My mom taught me to make it years ago. It is so, so good. This time I tried making it the grown-up way with rum and I tell you, don't leave it out!

      Bananas Foster

      1/2 cup unsalted butter (I thought this was too much, so I used 5 tablespoons)
      1/2 packed light brown sugar 
      3 bananas peeled and chopped (I used only two for us)
      1/4 cup dark rum
      Vanilla ice cream, for serving 

      Melt the butter. 

       While the butter melts you can get the other 3 ingredients (bananas, rum and brown sugar) ready near by. 

      Once the butter has melted, add the 1/2 brown sugar. Now, I started with too little butter, so yours will look a little different.

      When the brown sugar dissolves you can add the bananas. (This is when I realized we needed more butter, because the sugar / butter mixture shouldn't be so thick). 

      Cook the bananas for a little while until you think they look like they've soaked up all that sugary, buttery goodness. Now you can take them off the heat and pour in the rum. Stir the rum and place back on medium heat for about 10 seconds to let the rum heat up a bit. 

      Scoop a few generous helpings of vanilla ice cream into each bowl and then spoon your banana mixture over the top of it. 

      Eat this immediately! Not just cause its a little bit of heaven, but also because it tastes best when the ice cream hasn't melted all the way!

      Enjoy this my friends!

      March 7, 2011

      Menu Monday 3/7

      Happy Monday everyone!

      Mardi Gras ends this week on Tuesday, with the start of lent on Wednesday with Ash Wednesday!
      Bananas Foster- My mom taught we how to make this and I haven't made it in a while. This dessert inspired my interest in this great bread recipe. Give both a try! 

      I blogged about this recipe here. 

      Slow-Cooker Chicken Gumbo- I'm going to make this to bring to my mom's on Thursday! I've never made gumbo in the slow-cooker before.

      This was good. I didn't take any pictures, but here is the Food Network recipe I used. 

      Irish Coffee Muffins- I made these Sunday morning. They taste great and look cute too! I'll share the recipe this week.

      I blogged about this recipe here.

      Risotto with Spring Vegetables- On Fridays during Lent we will not be eating meat. Its hard to get used to at first, but eventually its fun to find creative or new recipes!

      What do you have planned for the week?

      Have a great day!

      March 6, 2011

      Pioneer Woman's Mini Meatball Sandwiches

      Mmm, these were good. You should make them, tonight.

      I can't take any credit for this wonderfulness, the Pioneer Woman is a-mazing! 

      Pioneer Woman's Mini Meatball Sandwiches


      • 1 pound Ground Chuck Or Ground Beef
      • ½ cups Panko Or Other Bread Crumbs
      • 1 clove Garlic, Minced
      • ½ teaspoons Salt
      • Freshly Ground Black Pepper
      • ½ cups Milk
      • 2 Tablespoons Olive Oil
      • ½ whole Medium Onion, Diced
      • 1 jar (large) Marinara Sauce
      • 12 whole Dinner Rolls (or Slider Rolls)
      • 4 slices Provolone Cheese, Cut Into Four Wedges Each

      Preparation Instructions

      Mix meat with bread crumbs, garlic, salt, pepper, and milk. Knead together with hands. Roll into heaping tablespoon-sized rolls. 

      Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add onions and cook for one minute. Add meatballs between the onions and brown for one minute. (You might have to do this in two batches, depending on the size of your skillet.)

      Pour in jar of marinara; shake pan gently to mix. Put on lid and allow to simmer for 20 minutes.

      When ready to serve, cut each dinner roll in half. Place a wedge of Provolone on the top and bottom of each roll. Spoon a meatball with the sauce onto the bottom bun; top with the top bun.

      Serve immediately! Thank you Pioneer Woman, for this easy and yummy recipe!

      March 3, 2011

      Party, Party, Party

      Last weekend was so packed! All I did all weekend was celebrate and have fun with the people I love, rough huh?

      On Saturday, Keith and I went to our nephew Nick's confirmation. Keith was his sponsor. It was very special and I was so happy to watch Nick become an adult member of the Catholic church. Congrats Nick! 

      Later that evening, actually immediately after the Confirmation, we celebrated the engagement of our friends Anne and Jaeson. It was a fun party and we're all looking forward to their wedding this November in Hawaii!

      Our two Mommy-to-be friends, Nicole and Allison and the Bride-to-be, Anne.

      The cake was gorgeous! It could have been someone's wedding cake, it was delicious too!

      The future Mr. and Mrs.

      The future Mommies!

      Baby Dean's Shower

      We all gave baby Dean a book, instead of a a card. These are some of the books...

      Nicole talking with her aunt.

      Kathee with Nikki, the guest of honor.

      We measure Nikki's belly as part of a game.

      As part of our gift we gave Dean, who's parents are San Francisco Bayarians now living in New York, a San Francisco Giants Buster Posey t-shirt. The little guy has to represent his heritage!

      We measured Allison's belly too. They are due on the same day. Can you believe it? What are the chances!

      Nikki and her mother-in-law.

      Nikki and the shower hostess, Jackie.

      And with her mom!

      The cake was delish! Dean, we just can't wait to meet you! I love you already, little guy!

      What a busy and fun filled wonder I'm so tired this week!