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Apple Crumble

Finally I am posting an update!  Coming to you from the beautiful country of South Africa!  If you read my prior post, I said I’d be back!  I wasn’t joking.  So there’s a bit of adjusting to do when baking and cooking overseas.  Did you know that the USA is only one of 3 countries not on the metric system – Burma and Liberia being the other two?  Crazy talk right!  Especially when you love spending time in the kitchen.  The oven I am using is neither from the USA nor most of the ingredients I am using.  With some deep breaths behind the frustration in looking for certain items in grocery stores, I am doing okay – adjusting and adapting.  No accent changes yet, although it’s only been a few weeks here.

Apple Crumble, Brown Betty, Apple Crisp

To introduce my usage of metric system conversions from the imperial system, (that’s the system the USA and the other two countries use) I am starting with some Apple Crumble.  Brown Betty, Apple Crisp, whatever you’d like to call the dish.  It’s delicious.  Soft, sweet apples topped with a crumbly and crunchy topping.  Need I say more?  I whipped this recipe up with a bit of Rum and a little less sugar than normal.  I just saw this bottle sitting around looking lonely and thought I’d pay it some attention.  Rum always seems to make fruits like apples and bananas infinitely better anyway.

crumbledish1

I love being right.  You can omit using the alcohol if you are serving this to children but if you prefer this to be an 18 or 21 plus kind of thing.  Use the Rum.  I skipped the vanilla ice cream topping as well because I have been putting in some hours working out.  The apple crumble alone is good enough to serve without the ice cream!  Hopefully you and your family will enjoy.  Double-check the metric conversions, as this is definitely my first post using them.  My little crumbles came out quite delicious though.

crumble2-wm

 

Click here for the full recipe!

Back from the Trip of a Lifetime!

I cannot begin to tell you how incredible the past few weeks have been.  As much as I wish I could be including a recipe with this post, I feel I have way too much to share than just a dish.  A new recipe will be up soon, promise.  This is just going to be a summary of the trip with lots of pictures.  I pinch myself every few minutes to make sure this was not just a dream.  Yep, it was all real.

Sunset in South Africa

Sunset on a game drive in Pilanesberg.

I arrived into Johannesburg on the 5th of November late evening and was immediately welcomed by the most hospitable and generous people.  The first part of my trip was business (poker) and I finished 9th in a 6-max $1,000.00 entry tournament but had no luck in the WPT main event.  I stayed at Emperor’s Palace Hotel and Casino.  Definitely cool to see a Las Vegas style casino in such a beautiful location.  From there, I went to the Lion Park to cuddle lion cubs, feed giraffe and drive around the protected enclosures to see the adult cats.  Still pinching myself.  Yes, still real.

Friendly Giraffe

Such a wonderful personality.

Belly rubbing cubs

These guys are only 3 months!

Gorgeous male lion cub.

Gorgeous male lion cub.

Beauty of Africa Lion

Spectacular…

From Emperor’s Palace, I was sent to the Ivory Tree Lodge in Pilanesberg for two nights.  The resort is absolutely beautiful and serene.  Each luxury suite is an unattached bungalow and the main area has a beautiful pool with more of a resort like feel while on such a natural and beautiful safari game reserve.  Eating outside while looking out past the fence to see some visitors at any meal is just so cool.  Can’t believe this is still something I just got back from, a week ago!

Ivory Tree Safari Game Lodge

Ivory Tree Safari Game Lodge

Kudu spotted the first day at the lodge during lunch.

Kudu spotted the first day at the lodge during lunch.

Large elephant bull crossing the path on the first game drive.

Large elephant bull crossing the path on the first game drive.

Breeding pack of elephants with Matriarch second in line.

Breeding pack of elephants with Matriarch second in line.

Ivory Tree Game Lodge Safari Jeep.

Ivory Tree Game Lodge Safari Jeep.

Beautiful pregnant zebra alongside the road.

Beautiful pregnant zebra alongside the road.

Baby white rhino and mom.

Baby white rhino and mom.

Got to see a leopard to make 4/5 of the big 5 spottings.

Got to see a leopard to make 4/5 of the big 5 spottings.

For the four total safari game drives, I got to see 4/5 of the “Big Five”.  I hear the leopard is one of the most difficult to see when doing safari drives so I was super excited to see one the last day.  On the departure day, I went to the Elephant Sanctuary and the Monkey Sanctuary.  I will post more pictures from there and give details on each of those another day when I post my first South African “inspired” recipe.

The whole trip was magical, life changing and to be quite honest, one of the best experiences of my entire life.  I left the country a different person.  Fulfilled with love, understanding, and with more compassion and inspiration than I have ever felt before in my life.  I will never be the same because of this trip.  I fell in love in South Africa with the country, it’s creatures, it’s people.

I will be back.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Spaghetti & Turkey Meatball Soup

Hi strangers!  I have been so busy getting ready for some exciting upcoming trips.  Some of you may not know this but I am also a professional poker player.   I am teamed up with a company called DeepStacks and we travel all over the world now to host poker tournaments in local casinos.  I will be heading over to Portland and hosting a DeepStacks event called the Oregon State Poker Championships at Chinook Winds Casino starting at the end of next week.  Then from Portland I am super excited to travel to South Africa for the first time and play in the WPT South Africa tournament held at Emperor’s Place Casino.  It’s still setting in that I’ll be able to cross off an African safari experience from my bucket list.

With all the travel coming up, I decided to come and see my friends and family back in my home state of Delaware.  I also got to make some yummy meals for my parents and spend some quality time with them.  Seeing my pets and my family is always exciting as I don’t get to see them as much as I’d like to while living in Chicago.  Here’s a few pictures I took of my furry family the day I arrived. My Fur Babies

The recipe I am featuring today is a very quick and easy meal for any weekday.  The only time consuming thing is to mix up the meatballs.  I learned to make perfect turkey meatballs from Giada de Laurentiis.  She uses regular breadcrumbs but I like using Italian style breadcrumbs and I also add some fresh garlic and onion powder.  With turkey meat, overworking the meat really makes it tough so it is important to mix the breadcrumbs and just lightly blend the mixture into the turkey meat.

Spaghetti and Turkey Meatball SoupFor the broth, I made an entire broth from scratch with carrots, onion, celery, basil, crushed tomato and white wine.  I strained the broth, placed it back into the pot and tossed in the meatballs.  Although it was really tasty, I sat there wondering to myself, “how can I simplify this?”  So I picked out my favorite jar of store bought spaghetti sauce, boiled it with white wine and added chicken broth.  The results were just as good, if not better than my homemade broth.  Go figure!

Spaghetti and Meatball Soup 2This hearty soup is a great change-up from the regular spaghetti dinner.  It’s very flexible too so you can add different pastas, use different types of jarred sauce and even to save time, use your favorite store bought meatballs.

Spaghetti and Meatball Soup

Click here for the full recipe!

I can’t wait to share some of the pictures I take on my travels with everyone!

 

Healthier Baked Chicken Nuggets

Healthy Baked Chicken Nuggets

This is a lightened up version an All-American favorite, chicken nuggets.  Chicken nuggets are a kid friendly food but also fun for adults to eat too.  Nix the utensils and extra dishes and serve up some finger food.  If you prefer a chicken tender, just cut up the chicken breasts into strips instead of bite size nuggets.   Short on time?  No problem!  Make these ahead and either refrigerate the battered chicken nuggets or freeze them.  Baked not fried, these chicken nuggets pack a ton of flavor and the breading seals all the moisture in!

Healthier Chicken Nuggets

There are so many scary things that we ingest on a daily basis that we really don’t know what they are.  Recently, there has been research on a lot of fast food chicken nuggets.  Haven’t read anything about the grossness yet?  Check out what’s really in a chicken nugget.  If you still want to eat a bunch of byproduct, go for it.  But I’d rather make something at home so that I know exactly what I’m eating!

Chicken Nuggets Healthier

I served my nuggets with homemade honey mustard (so easy only 3 ingredients) and sweet potato wedges.  I found out my oven has been acting up so it took me over an hour and a half to get my sweet potato wedges to cook but the taste was really good! I’ll post a recipe for the wedges as soon as my oven is repaired (next week) so I can post the actual cooking time!

Nuggets Honey Mustard Fries

Click here for the full recipe!

Strawberries with Champagne Cupcakes

Strawberries with Champagne CupcakesThese pretty in pink cupcakes are perfect for so many celebrations.  Using all natural strawberry jam gives the cupcakes a delicious strawberry flavor.  These are also beautiful cupcakes for anyone who just loves the color pink.  Strawberries and champagne together make a beautiful pairing because strawberries enhance the flavor of the champagne.

Strawberry Cupcakes with Champagne Buttercream

I jumped through a few hoops attempting to make a great frosting for the cupcakes.  At first I wanted a whipped cream champagne frosting.  Yeah, that didn’t quite work out so well.  Let’s just say, it tasted pretty funky like spoiled milk and tangy champagne.  If you like that sorta thing, I say go ahead and make it but I wouldn’t recommend you serve them to anyone you like! I also made a whipped cream cheese frosting.  Again, the flavor just wasn’t something desirable.   After much determination and stubbornness, I finally made the perfect frosting for these cupcakes.  I made a buttercream that is a little less sweet than most so that the sugar does not overwhelm the strawberry cupcake and the champagne in the frosting.

Strawberry Cupcakes with Champagne FrostingThis recipe totally works and is sweet way of celebrating a wonderful occasion.  The cupcakes are just so pretty!

Strawberry Cupcakes with Champagne Buttercream

Click here for the full recipe!