Thursday, August 29, 2013

Year Two in Review

It is hard to believe it has been TWO years since I started Perfecting the Pairing!  Thank you to everyone that reads my little pet project.  I can’t tell you how much I appreciate hearing your feedback, comments, stories, etc.  It is the best feeling to find out that someone has made and enjoyed something from this site.  Makes it all worth it!  I have learned so much along the way and I can’t wait to share more recipes and perfect pairings in the coming year.

Let’s do a little recap of year two. Ok, maybe it is not little.

Top ten most viewed posts from year two 

Lake House Brownies  - I have to agree with this being the #1 most viewed post, they are just ridiculous.

World’s Best Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies – Yep, agreed.  Awesome.  Great Grandma Lucy nailed it.  It could be so popular because I go topless in this post.  True story.

Garlic and Onion Biscuit Ring – Super easy side dish

Pasta Fagioli Soup – Just like the Olive Garden…. But better!

Thai Peanut Pasta Salad – So easy, it will be your new favorite salad.  I’m predicting it!

German Sugar Cut-Out Cookies – Family favorite.  You have to check out the frosting tip in this post.  Life changer.

Smoked Salmon Breakfast – I like all the things on my toast.

Candied Bacon, Tomato and Avocado Sandwich – You read that right, candied bacon.

All Purpose Breakfast Casserole – I use this recipe all the time.

Pumpkin Pecan Shortbread – Falls a comin’, break out the pumpkin

I love all of the top posts but I have to share my personal favorites from each month.

September 2012

Strawberry Pie – Make it with the press no mess crust.  I love it the next day for breakfast.  Just an idea.
October 2012

I can’t make up my mind.  October was a good month. 

Spinach and Mushroom Lasagna Roll Ups – Let’s face it, these are just more fun than normal lasagna

Overnight French Toast – No words.  Just make it.

November 2012

Alright, November must have been a really good month because I HAVE to share three favorites.  Have to.

Butternut Squash and Chickpea Tahini Salad – Surprising flavor combo that is delightful.  Funny story about this salad…. Before I posted it on my blog I told my brother to make it and somewhere along the line he confused tahini for tzatziki.  FYI, tzatziki is not a good substitute for tahini.

Apple Cake with Warm Caramel Sauce – The best fall dessert, ever.

Tortilla Soup – I make this ALL the time.  It is so easy, filling, and healthy.  Love it.

December 2012

Basil Slice and Bake Crackers – Best enjoyed with a glass of vino

January 2013

Creamy Spaghetti Squash with Fresh Tomato Sauce – Best plate of food for 225 calories. 

February 2013

Butternut Squash Risotto – Comfort food

March 2013


April 2013

Corn Casserole – No joke, I have never made any dish more than this one in my life. 

May 2013

Greek Turkey Burgers – Spinach and Feta IN the turkey burger and topped with Tzatziki (not tahini, see November above)

June 2013

Raisin Bran Muffins – Staple in our house

July 2013

Salted Peanut Bars – Gooey salty goodness

August 2013

Mini Chile Cheese Corndog Muffins – There are never any leftovers of these bad boys

What a year! 
I hope you will stick with me for another one.  xoxo

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Grilled Bacon Wrapped Beer Cheese Stuffed Meatloaf

Perfect Pairing:  Freezer meals

I really wish I had a better picture of these suckers.  Let’s just review… they are meatloaves stuffed with a homemade beer cheese, topped with bacon and an awesome glaze and then grilled.  What could possibly be bad?  Except my picture of them, of course.  You see, I had people waiting to eat and well photography was just low on my priority list at that moment.

I made these during our family vacation this summer.  It was actually kind of a staycation since we were all at my parents’ place.  We had an absolute blast playing in and around the water, boating, relaxing, laughing, eating, swimming, floating, playing bags, tea parties, kiddo dance parties, etc.   We also had the third annual Lake House Chef Challenge, but that is another post another time.  I have to share some of my favorite photos from the week.
My mom and I figured that we served about 400 meals that week.  If you know us you know that it was not frozen pizza and premade stuff.   We like to make things difficult apparently.  Below is the menu for the week.  You will notice that a lot of the items are featured on this site.  We had a big folder with all of the recipes so we were ready to go each day.

In case you were wondering, this is what one of the refrigerators looked like.  I am sure my mom will be thrilled I am sharing this.

We pretty much stuck to the menu! The lake is about 15 miles from a decent grocery store so we had to be REALLY prepared.  We also wanted to make as many things ahead of time as possible.  One of the things we made in advance was this dish.  I made the beer cheese and meatloaf mixture earlier in the month, assembled them, wrapped them individually in plastic wrap and stuck them in the freezer.  I let them defrost in the fridge and then topped them with the bacon and made the glaze the day we grilled them up.  It worked out really well. 

FYI…. The beer cheese is pretty awesome as a dip with pretzels.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Un-Recipe Files - Vanilla Fruit Salad


They say life is all about simple pleasures.  I have to agree with that.  One of my favorite simple pleasures is a good fruit salad.  How great is it to have a big bowl of ripe fruit all clean and cut for you?  It is even better if it is the perfect proportions of produce.  I get so annoyed when you are at a restaurant and they give you 1 strawberry, 4 grapes and a few pieces of tasteless honeydew.  Bleh.

I am perfectly pleased with straight up fruit but this salad has a vanilla sauce that adds a nice sweetness and makes it a little extra special.  There is no real recipe for this salad.  I drained the juice from a can of peaches and a can of pineapple chunks into a large bowl.  Next, I whisked in about half a package of vanilla instant pudding.  Then, gently fold in the fruit.  I used strawberries, grapes, blueberries, and the canned pineapple and peaches.  It was so delicious. 

The next day I added more fruit and there was still plenty of sauce to coat another batch.  Delicious! 

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Lemon Orzo Salad

Perfect Pairing: Summer Songs

I made this salad for my family over vacation and it was a hit.   The almonds give it a little crunch, cranberries a little sweetness, and the lemon dressing keeps it fresh.  Quick, simple, delish. 

I like to cook my orzo in chicken broth to give it some depth, but that is optional.  You can certainly use water or veggie broth if you are keeping it vegetarian.

It has been awhile since I provided some tune suggestions.  Overdue!  Below are my personal songs of the summer.  I have listened to each of them an obnoxious amount of times.  I just got a new car that lets me plug in my iphone.  Life changer.  

Make Me Crazy, Brett Dennen and Femi Kuti – No surprise I like this one, it has a great reggae feel to it.

Addicted, Morgan Page and Greg Laswell – I’m addicted to this song.  On repeat.

Pressing on a Bruise, Brad Paisley and Matt Kearny – I am on a major country kick this summer.  Can’t get enough of it!

Springsteen, Eric Church – My dad introduced me to this song.  That was a new experience!  I was proud of him.  Side note for the ladies…. Notice Eric in the hat and sunglasses at towards the end.  That alone makes this worth watching.  Smokin.  I’m a sucker for a guy in a ball cap.

Don’t Ya, Brett Eldredge – He’s not hard on the eyes either…
Cold Chicago, Humming House - I hate thinking about Chicago being cold, but this song is so fun.  It is hard to not tap your toe to this one.

Friday, August 16, 2013

Cucumber Salad

Perfect Pairing:  Garden Cucumbers

If you have a garden in the Midwest you probably have an abundance of cucumbers right now.  Not that I would know what that is like because I pretty much kill everything I try to plant.  I am not being overly dramatic, this is real life.  Fortunately for me I know nice people who do know how to grow things and generously offer up some of their home grown produce.  I never turn that down!  I have been living off garden tomatoes this week. So, so good.

Anyway, cucumbers.  I love them.  This salad is so easy, tasty and light.  Thinly sliced cucumbers (I used a mandolin) are mixed with red onions and fresh dill in a simple sweet vinegar dressing. 
Here are some other ways to use up those garden cucumbers!


Monday, August 12, 2013

Nutella Crunch Ice Cream Cake

Perfect Pairing:  Freezer Space

When I saw this cake on Foodgawker I knew I had to make it.  There are only three ingredients, vanilla ice cream, rice krispies, and nutella.  These are all very good things.  It kind of reminded me of everyone’s favorite Lake House Brownies.

I followed this recipe from Family Feast exactly, down to chilling the bowls and pan.  They give great instructions.  It takes up quite a bit of freezer space, but it is worth making the room.  They recommend letting the finished product freeze for 4-6 hours or overnight.  I believe I took it out around 4 hours and it was a little soft.  It would have been fine to eat right away but I wanted to take pictures.  This ended up being quite the scene. 

I removed the dessert from the springform pan and placed it on the pedestal I had picked out for the pictures.  It looked lovely!  Maybe a little soft, but I would make it work.  Plan A was to put it on the counter and stand above it on a chair.

Well the lighting was all off and it clearly was not going to work.  It was also melting very fast.  I knew I needed to hurry.  In my rush to jump off the chair I sustained an injury.  This particular chair has sharp metal corners.  I had spent the day by the lake so I was in my swimsuit and a skirt.  The sharp metal corner got me in the back of my leg right by the, uh…. Tush.  I don’t often swear but man I wanted to at that moment.  Grandma Rosie was right there so that was not going to happen.  Once I stopped seeing stars I carried the cake into a different room with better light.  Annnnd dripped the entire way.

OK, the dessert was in good light and I started snapping away.  It kept dripping. 

I finally got a somewhat decent picture and quickly got the whole thing back in the freezer.  The next day when it came out of the freezer it was the perfect consistency and sliced beautifully.  Also, it was absolutely delicious.  How could it not be amazing?  Totally worth the embarrassing injury and messy floor.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Mini Chile Cheese Corndog Muffins

Perfect Pairing:  Yellow mustard

I am back to reality after an amazing family vacation at the lake.  We filled every minute with fun, and I am exhausted.  There was lots of floating, boating, bags, and laughing.  There were always little ones running around so there was also a lot of, “put on your life jacket!”, “don’t step there!”, “you must always have an adult with you”, “please don’t drive the mini gator down the driveway that fast!”, “no, you have to eat (insert number of bites of healthy food) before you can have dessert”, etc.  I already miss everyone!  If you are interested there are some adorable kid/food/vacation/life shots on my instagram account.

We had a lot of groups coming and going throughout the week which meant we cooked a lot.  I mean, A LOT.  My mom and I figured by the end of the vacation we had served about 400 meals.  Since the lake is about 15 miles from a decent grocery store that required a ton of planning.  We also had the third annual Lake House Chef Challenge.  More on that in another post! 

Before I get too ahead of myself I need to back up and talk about the fun party we had over the 4th of July.   We called it a wienerpalooza party after getting the idea from a family friend.  Basically we had every kind of hot dog, brat, and topping you could possibly want.  Everything was cooked over the fire pit.  Here are some of my favorite shots from the party.

Our neighbor brought the most amazing smoked baked beans.  Everyone said they were the best beans they had ever tasted.  We also put out the way too easy chili cheese dip (queso and chili) with fritos, Summer Corn Salad, Thai Peanut Pasta SaladWorld's Best Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies, and Salted Peanut Bars.



Callie was VERY excited to learn she could reach the potato chips.  She was not so happy when she was cut off from said chips.  They were served with my favorite Caramelized Onion Dip.
Lots of cute kids!


I was so excited to have my best friend, Jill, and her family there for the weekend!  Notice Callie is still after the chips...

Dad cooked everything on a "redneck grill" over the fire pit.
Of course, that ended up being the center of operations for everyone of the male gender.  Men love fire.
So since this was a wienerpalooza we didn't stop at just hot dogs in buns!  I also made Mini Chile Cheese Corndog Muffins.  I have made these a few times and there are never any leftovers.  They are so easy and tasty!  Of course they are perfect served with some good old fashioned yellow mustard.
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