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Caprese Skewers

Caprese Skewers

I made these yummy caprese skewers back in November at the game night. They were so simple to make!Caprese Skewers | Stone House RockYou only need four ingredients:

  1. Cherry tomatoes or another small variety
  2. Fresh basil
  3. Small mozzarella balls
  4. Balsamic reduction – this means the balsamic is thick and less runny than your run of the mill balsamic vinegar. You can buy this in stores or make it yourself. I got mine from a lovely coworker. 🙂

Caprese Skewers | Stone House RockThe first thing you do is slice the ends off your tomatoes so you can sit them upright without falling over. I put the toothpicks in first but quickly found out that that made everything harder… though it did make for a pretty picture!Caprese Skewers | Stone House RockThe reason it made it harder was that it took longer to put on the basil and the mozzarella balls. In the future, I’d put the tomatoes on the plate after cutting them, tear up bits of basil into a pile and then while holding the basil and mozzarella on top of the tomato – spear all of them at once with the toothpick. It would save so much time and effort!Caprese Skewers | Stone House RockThis is what it should look like when done – whether you use the toothpicks the most efficient way or not. Ha!Caprese Skewers | Stone House RockLastly, you drizzle all the caprese skewers with the balsamic reduction for a pretty and sweet result!

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Preparing an Appetizer Dinner for 25 Guests at Game Night

Preparing an Appetizer Dinner for 25 Guests at Game Night

My husband had a birthday last month! We have a habit of throwing a game night to celebrate. We love having people over, and most of the time we have everyone brings an appetizer while I provide an entree dish. This time, however, I decided to do it all myself! I had an idea in my head and wanted it to be perfect.

I spent much of the week preparing for it and this was the state of the fridge the day of the party:Preparing for 25 Guests at Game Night | Stone House Rock
Phew! That’s a full fridge! As you can tell from all the prepared food, my theme for dinner was:

Appetizers and Bites

The easiest appetizer to prepare was the cheese. I bought some crackers and cheese from Fred Meyer and set it out on my cute cheese plate.
Preparing for 25 Guests at Game Night | Stone House Rock
I also had a fruit salad with strawberry, pineapple and melon; chips and a cheesy BBQ chicken dip, caprese skewers, veggies and dip, bacon asparagus skewers, and jalapeno poppers. A good friend also brought some banana bread to share!
Preparing for 25 Guests at Game Night | Stone House Rock
Over the next few posts, I’ll share some of the recipes that I found for these various appetizers. They were SOOOO good! (Especially the jalapeno poppers.)

For dessert, I made a giant cookie in a cast iron pan. The ingredients were simply 2 of the pre-made chocolate chip cookie dough packs and 8 oz of chocolate in-between the two packs! It turned out so gooey and delicious.
Preparing for 25 Guests at Game Night | Stone House Rock
Both the cookie and the bacon wrapped asparagus recipes are part of this three-course Tuscan meal that I found here. Try it out and let me know what you think! By the way, the entree dish in the three-course meal was incredible too, though I made it on a different day that same week.

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Housewarming Party!

Housewarming Party!

We held our housewarming party earlier this month. It was a two-part party: open house in the afternoon and then board game night all evening long. Literally all evening, since the last game ended at 1 AM.

Dining roomI spent all week doing the final organization of the house, hanging the last picture frames on the walls, and so on. (Note the lightsabers on the wall in the photo above!) On Friday night and Saturday morning, I did a full house cleaning as all our little projects and moving in seemed to bring in a ton of dirt and dust!

Here’s the way the house looked for the party. As you can tell, we still have no blinds. We had the Bali Blinds book out to let people give us their ideas for blind colors. Living area

We don’t currently have a dining set (since our previous place had no dining room), so we’re happy with our folding tables and chairs for the moment. The rest of this area is so comfortable though, complete with the lightsabers on the wall! Yes, we do actually play with them… our neighbors say they’ve seen us have epic battles, as we have no shades yet, ha!

Anyways, going back to the housewarming – I had a lot of fun prepping all the food. We provided fruit skewers, chips and guacamole, veggie tray, tomato and mozzarella on bread, brownies, and chocolate covered almonds during the open house and then burgers and tater tots during game night.

Mmm food!

Here are some close-ups of the food:

Fruit SkewersGuacamole!Mozzarella, tomato and basilBy the way, these are the best brownies ever… the Ghiradelli brownie mix from Costco. Cook them for 5 minutes under what the recipe says and let cool. Best. Thing. Ever.

Ghiradelli brownies....Anyways, we had about 35 guests over the course of the day and evening and had a blast! I’m excited to continue to have people over, host more parties as well as smaller dinners or game nights with friends, and hosting more Baha’i events. Woohoo!

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Star Wars Movie Nights

Star Wars Movie Nights

Is anyone else getting excited for the new Star Wars movie? Well, my husband and I definitely are excited. We’ve hosted three Star Wars Nights (we have one more coming up in November) to prepare for the new movie. We started by watching 4 and 5 in August. We continued with 1 (for those who wanted to watch) and then 2 in September. We watched 3 just a few weeks ago, and coming up soon will be number 6.

Watching in the order 4, 5, 2, 3, 6 is called the machete order. You chop off number 1 because it’s not relevant to the other movies and you watch in this new order so that you don’t get any information from other films that mess up some surprises. For instance, if you watch from 1 to 6 in episode order, you’ll find out who Luke’s father is too soon. Read more about it here… but be aware that this explanation has spoilers in it!

We ended up adding in episode 1 for our friends who had never seen Star Wars and wanted to see it. The rest of our friends showed up part way through the movie night to watch number 2.

Anyways, I love a good movie night and party. I always try to create themed foods around whatever movie or theme we have for the evening. I looked at both Pinterest and “The Star Wars Cookbook” for inspiration. Here were a few of my favorite things over the past few months:

Han Solo in Carbonite (Jell0):

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Please wash your Hans sign in the bathroom:

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Yoda Soda: This is definitely one of the biggest hits. You take carbonated water, lime (like 2 limes per drink OR just buy lime juice at the store… I figured that one out recently. Ha!), sugar, and lime sherbert. You want a lot of lime and a heaping tablespoon of sugar in your glass. Fill with water (not all the way full) and put a nice dollop of lime sherbert in on top. If you put the sherbert in first, it’ll fizz up too much as your mix the lime and sugar in the bubbly water!

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May the Forks be with You sign:

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Yodamelon: I bought two small watermelon and chopped one up, leaving triangle shaped pieces to attached to the other melon with toothpicks. I opened the back of the other watermelon and scooped out the watermelon, leaving its shell in tact. I then attempted to draw Yoda’s face on the front of the watermelon. I think I could’ve done a better job of drawing, but people got a kick out of it!

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I’ve also made Greedo’s Burritos, Jawa Jive Milkshakes, Vader Taters, Tie Fighter Ties and more! What would you make if you were having a Star Wars party?

Pizza Zucchini Bites

Pizza Zucchini Bites

I’ve been experimenting a lot lately with recipes so hubby and I can eat more exciting low-carb recipes. One of my favorites lately is a picture I saw on Pinterest: Pizza Zucchini Bites!20150111-102113-37273706.jpg For the Pizza Zucchini Bites, I pre-heated the oven at 350 degrees fahrenheit. I used two small, organic zucchinis (one for each of us) and sliced the zucchinis with 1/3 of an inch slices. You don’t want the slices to be too thin or too thick. From there, I put a small spoonful of a tomato sauce (any kind will do, pick your favorite! I tried to pick the healthiest one at the store I could find) and sprinkled mozzarella on top. Put the pizza bites in the oven until the cheese has melted (about 5-7 minutes). Then they are done! The zucchini slices were still slightly crispy so you could pick them up with your fingers, but the inside of the slice was nice and cooked through. 20150111-102111-37271102.jpg Along with the Zucchini Pizza Bites, I pan-fried tilapia in butter and lemon and made Mashed Cauliflower. It was a strange selection of items that I put together here, but some of it was just what we had in the fridge. 🙂 Either way, the Zucchini Pizza Bites are delicious and something I’ll definitely make in bulk for our next game night!

Coconut Milk Shrimp

Coconut Milk Shrimp

I found this recipe in Sunset Magazine and thought it was so delicious! You are supposed to serve it over rice, but we didn’t. I think it would be scrumptious either way!

The recipe itself is very easy and takes 20-25 minutes tops (depending on how slow you are at cutting a carrot into matchsticks… I’m very slow, haha!)

This recipe serves four and is 369 calories per serving (plus whatever rice you eat).

The ingredients are:

  • 2 tbsp. oil
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 1 medium carrot, cut into matchsticks
  • 1 tsp. red chile flakes
  • 15 oz. coconut milk
  • 1 medium tomato, chopped
  • 1 lb. shelled and deveined medium shrimp
  • ½ cup chopped cilantro
  • Lime wedges

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Step 1: Prep the onion, carrot, tomato and cilantro.

Step 2: Heat the oil in your frying pan. Once heated, you cook the onion, carrot and chile flakes until the onion is soft. (About 3 minutes.)

Step 3: Stir in the coconut milk.

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Step 4: Add the tomato and shrimp and cook until the shrimp is pink. (About 4 minutes.)

Step 5: Serve with rice (or cauliflower rice) and sprinkle with cilantro. Serve with lime wedges.
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That’s it! Super simple, quick and so delicious! You can make it spicier by adding more chile flakes, or if you don’t like any spiciness… just leave the chile flakes out altogether.

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Chicken Chili Soup

Chicken Chili Soup

Since it’s the holidays, I’ve been busy hanging out with family and trying to relax. I didn’t have time to work on a Travel Tuesday post this week, so instead, here’s a fun slow-cooker meal I made: Chicken Chili Soup!

I found this super-easy and very delicious recipe on Caveman Keto’s blog. My sister bought me a crockpot a few years ago, and I haven’t used it as much as I should have in that time. Crockpot meals can have 10 minutes or less prep time and you just set them to go. 6 to 10 hours later, you end up with a succulent meal that hardly took any time out of your day!

Since hubby and I are are still low-carb, I searched and search for recipes that we could use. I stumbled upon Caveman Keto’s site and found a ton of recipes that look amazing!

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All the ingredients are shown above plus bacon (forgot it in the photo!) and the spices: salt, pepper, and thyme. For the exact list of ingredients and the directions, please go to this blog post.

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When I first threw everything into the crockpot, I was a little unsure. It doesn’t look too appetizing like this, does it? After 6 hours on low, the chicken fell apart and I stirred it all together. And, oh my goodness, the smell in my house when I came home from work? I was suddenly starving and salivating, and dinner wasn’t for another hour!

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The best part about this recipe? It makes a lot of food, especially if you serve it with a side salad or appetizer. I had leftovers to take to work the entire week! I look forward to trying more of Caveman Keto’s recipes – if they’re anything like this one, they’re sure to become a household favorite!

Gormeh Sabzi (Persian Stew)

Gormeh Sabzi (Persian Stew)

GormehGormeh Sabzi is a Persian Stew that my husband and I love to make. It’s great comfort food and really nice for parties/large gatherings along with some rice. We made a double serving for hubby’s birthday since we had many, many friends over for a game night, but the recipe I’ll explain here is for 6 servings. It will take about 30 minutes in prep time and 2+ hours of cooking. I say 2+ because the stew always gets better as you stew it for a longer period of time.20141207-165148-60708305.jpgHere’s what you need (remember the picture above is a double portion):

  • 2 onions
  • 2 pounds lamb, tofu or beef (I buy beef stew meat)
  • 1 can kidney beans
  • 1/3 cup oil
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon tumeric
  • 2 cups chopped parsley
  • 1 cup chopped cilantro
  • 1 cup chopped chives or scallions
  • 1/2 cup chopped spinach
  • 3 tablespoons dried fenugreek leaves
  • 3 cups of water
  • 4 whole limou-omani (dried limes, can be found in the international aisle or Persian markets), 4 tablespoons lemon juice may be substituted

The instructions say to finely slice the onions and to chop all the greens. Instead, I usually roughly chop the onions and then throw them into the food processor (on a more choppy setting – you don’t want to turn the vegetables into soup). Keeping the onions separate from the greens, I then remove the stems of the greens (roughly, don’t need to be too exact here) and throw them into the food processor. When finished, I have a bowl full of finely chopped onions and one large bowl of finely chopped spinach, parsley, cilantro and scallions.20141207-165152-60712240.jpg At this point, I put oil on all the pans and get them heated to med-high. Usually you’ll only need two fry pans and a big stew pot, but I made a vegetarian version for our party as well, so had to have an extra for the tofu Gormeh Sabzi.20141207-165154-60714035.jpg I threw the onions in one pan with some of the salt, pepper and tumeric and began to carmelize them. In another, I began to brown the meat, also throwing spices on top of it. You want to get the meat nice and brown and pretty well cooked. As the pieces of meat get a nice dark brown look to them, throw them into your stew pot which should have a little oil and be on a low heat setting – just to keep the meat warm.

Once the meat is done cooking and in the stew pot, add the onions and add in 3 cups of water. Put in the rest of the salt, pepper and tumeric at this point as well. Turn up the heat, bringing the stew to a boil, cover and simmer for about an hour. Be sure to stir occasionally. Check the water level and pour in a half cup of water at a time as needed. You want the water level to be equal to the top of all the stuff in the stew (ie, equal with the height of the meats, onions, greens, etc); you don’t want the meat and greens to be floating in a soup of water, but you want the meat to be in the water and not sitting out of the water).

(Note: If you are making vegetarian stew, I would take the tofu out of the pan after you’ve browned them nicely and then stew everything else. Throw in the tofu about an hour before you want to serve the stew.)

While stewing saute the chopped greens and dried fenugreek leaves in the remaining oil till they turn a darker green/wilt a little. Once finished, throw this into the stew as well with the limou-omani or the lemon juice. If you have the whole limou-omani: Break it on a cutting board with your palm or a nutcracker and throw the whole thing into the stew. It’ll soften up and the lime flavor will steep in the stew. Continue to let it simmer for at least another hour, stirring occasionally. If you have time, let it simmer another hour or two because the flavors get better with time. An hour before you want to serve the meal, add the kidney beans (if you are short on time, add this at the same time as the chopped greens). Open the can and pour all the kidney beans into the stew, without draining the liquid. Stir and let simmer for an hour before serving.

Lastly, you’ll want to taste it before serving. Make sure that it’s salty enough to have flavor and you can taste the lime or lemon in it. Adjust the spicing as needed. And that’s it! It’s ready to eat.

20141207-165528-60928770.jpgThis is what Gormeh Sabzi looks like! Here’s the short version:

1. Chop the onions and the greens separately.

2. Brown the onions and meat in a fry-pan with salt, pepper tumeric.

3. Add the onions and meat to the stew pot with 3 cups of water. Bring to a boil, cover and simmer for an hour, occasionally stirring.

4. Saute the greens and dried fenugreek leaves in the remaining oil; then add to the stew along with the crunched limou-omani or the lemon juice. Simmer for at least another hour, but more if desired.

5. One hour before serving, add in the can of kidney beans to the stew. Continue to simmer and occasionally stir.

6. Taste and add seasoning as needed.

7. Enjoy!

A couple of bonuses: 20141207-165527-60927945.jpgThis is a Persian Smothered Rice that goes along with any Persian Stew. It deserves its own blog post because it can be difficult to make without burning it. In fact, my husband makes the rice because I screw it up every time! 20141207-165150-60710417.jpg Lastly, I know I’m not the only one… onions make me tear up like no other. The only thing I’ve found that works to keep the tears away are science goggles! They work like a charm.

Food for a Hot, Summer Day

Food for a Hot, Summer Day

It’s been majorly hot outside – Sunday was around 90 degrees Fahrenheit! (Well, for some of my Texan and Oklahoman friends, that isn’t so hot for the summer – but with a week of upper-80’s to lower-90’s in Seattle is ridiculous!) Hubby and I have been busy working on house projects for the last few weeks and it’s difficult to feel motivated with this heat.

I’ve also discovered that most weekday nights we either go out or eat something really simple for dinner like a quickly make salad or something that takes less than 20 minutes to put together. For that reason, I decided that once a week I’d make something more intense and exciting. Thus, the first “Sunday dinner” happened at our house!

Hubby found a few food-sharing websites and has been making his own lists of things he wants to try. We have a shared Google document just to list the meals we want to try. The two websites we’re using are Food Gawker and Taste Spotting.

This past Sunday, I didn’t want anything too hot or heavy (well it was a little heavy, but the sides really helped lighten the meal up for a summer dish.) I decided to make flank steak with chimmichurri sauce, avocado arugula salad and black bean and white bean salsa. The recipes called for jalapenos in the chimmichurri sauce, but it was just too hot to want anything spicy. Also, I used white beans instead of chickpeas. Honestly, I was at the grocery store for too long and canned chickpeas were the last thing I needed – I couldn’t find them with a quick scan of the shelves and decided to just get white beans to keep the same color.

 Here is how the black bean and white bean salsa turned out – it was a tasty, cool addition to balance out the steak!

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And here is the avocado arugula salad with a very light, lemony homemade dressing. I don’t eat that much arugula (I tend to buy more spinach), but this salad is delicious and very quick to make! I imagine I’ll be making it all summer long.

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This is a close up of the chimmichurri sauce and our cool cover for it. I made it ahead of time and needed to seal it in a bowl and keep it chilled for awhile.

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The cool thing about this cover is that it’ll work with almost any size bowl (except for extra large) and it really ensures no air gets through at all. See? I can pick up the bowl by the cover!

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And… drum roll please… the finished dish! Hubby tasted this and said now wants to eat in more often if I cook things like this. Haha! Big productions will probably only occur one a week, on the weekend because I just get tired after work – but I really do enjoy putting together fun meals like this. And hubby’ll help me cook, but I wouldn’t let him this past weekend because he’s been doing a ton of house projects (blog posts to come) and I wanted to treat him with something special!

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If you want the recipe and shopping list, you can find it here.