Saturday, December 31, 2011

Champagne and Chocolate - New Years Eve Beverages

What are you doing New Years... New Years Eve?!  Whether it's a quiet night at home with family or a large party with numerous friends, the food and drinks should be memorable for ringing in the New Year.

For the last several years, we've spent New Years Eve with some family and friends.  There is always a pleasing spread of food; such as BBQ cocktail franks, veggie pizza, salads, leftover Christmas cookies, bacon-wrapped water-chestnuts, and spinach dip.  At midnight, champagne is the typical beverage of choice.

If you are looking for a few fun drink recipes, I hope one of these can make a guest appearance at your event.

Chocolate Irish Cocktail
- 1 shot of premium vodka
- 1 1/2 shot of Irish Cream
- 1 shot of milk
- Chocolate syrup

Add ice to a short glass.  Pour in the vodka, Irish cream, and milk.  Stir until liquids are mixed together.  Drizzle the chocolate sauce over the top in a cross-hatch pattern (something taken from my days as a barista at Starbucks).  Serve and enjoy!

Holiday Champagne
- 4 to 5 ounces of champagne (regular, not blush or color)
- 1 TBSP of cranberry juice
- 2 whole cranberries

Pop 2 or 3 whole cranberries into the bottom of the champagne flute for decoration.  Then pour the champagne into the flute.  Add the cranberry juice and stir slowly. 

This idea came for - Poinsettia Recipe

Chocolate Pudding Shots
- 4 oz. package of chocolate pudding mix
- 1 cup cold milk
- 3 oz. Irish Cream
- 3 oz. Kahlua
- 1 cup "Cool Whip"

Combine the milk and pudding mix into a bowl.  Use a mixer to blend evenly.  When it's smooth, blend in the liquors.  Fold in the cool whip.  Separate into individual cups.  Refrigerate until party time.

This recipe was sent in by a friend - she found the recipe on My Science Project.

Most importantly, drive safe and plan ahead!  I hope that you all have a very safe and Happy New Year!

*Image taken from

Monday, December 26, 2011

Resolutions Beyond The New Year - Low Cal Food

For those of you that are starting a new workout or diet plan on January 1st... this post contains 3 excellent diet foods that you are sure to love.

I am a firm believer in making lifestyle changes instead of jumping on the latest "diet trend".  I also believe that you should exercise and choose a diet/lifestyle plan that fits you best.  Some people choose to count carbs, cut out high fats or join a gym.  Personally, I have been counting calories and doing an interactive workout plan at home.

As part of my recent lifestyle change, I am happy to share low-cal foods that I love.  Be sure to pick these up on your next grocery trip.

Skinny Cow - Chocolate Fudge Brownie Ice Cream
Calories = 150
Weight = 5.8 oz
Price = $1.22

I am the typical woman and sometimes get a craving for chocolate.  I ate this small container in 2 sittings.  This made for a great low-cal desert.  Assorted flavors are available.

Weight Watchers White Cheddar Cheese Wedges
Calories = 1 wedge, 30 calories
Weight = 4 oz container
Price = $2.25

This is a great low-cal snack for those mid-day cravings.  Pair with Reduced Fat Wheat Thins (16 Pieces = 130 calories).  I do not participate in Weight Watchers but they do have a lot of food options that work with a low-cal diet.

Lean Cuisine - Fajita-Style Chicken Spring Rolls
Calories = 3 rolls, 200 cal
Price = $2.00

I really like eating the spring rolls for lunch.  The box comes with 2 servings of spring rolls and 2 heat jackets.  So it can provide you lunch for 2 days.  Pair with an apple, veggies and/or a yogurt.  It makes for a great low-cal lunch and will keep you satisfied for the afternoon!

I wish you all a very happy and healthy new year!

Copyright 2011 A Hint of Thyme. All rights reserved.

* Images taken by Mara D.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Flashback Friday - Christmas Morning Traditions

Flashback Friday

My typical breakfast during the week is apple & cinnamon oatmeal, Greek yogurt, or some type of non-sugar cereal.  During the holiday season, I like to make a nice breakfast for myself and Jon.  I kick breakfast up by adding whip cream or Irish cream to coffee and sprinkling cinnamon or nutmeg on top.  

Last year was our first Christmas as a married couple and I wanted to make it extra special.  If I've said it once, I've said it a hundred times... the way to a man's heart is through his stomach!  I plan to make a "breakfast casserole" for Jon again.  This time I will add bacon instead of sausage.

Check out December's Flashback Friday recipe for "Set it and Forget it - Christmas Morning". 

We wish you all a very Merry Christmas!  God's blessings on your holiday season.

We could all use a hint of more time.
Copyright 2011 A Hint of Thyme.  All rights reserved.

*Image taken from

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

2011 Thanksgiving Turkey Poll - The Results

Here are the results from the 2011 Thanksgiving Turkey Poll, as mentioned in a previous post "Another Year of Turkey and Thanks".

Question 1 - Where is your Thanksgiving typically held?
  • 45% answered "another relatives house".
Question 2 -  What is your favorite food to eat on Thanksgiving day?
  • Two answers came in at 33.5% for "the turkey" and "stuffing".
Question 3 - What is your favorite kind of pie to eat on Thanksgiving? 
  • "Pumpkin pie" came in with a land slide of 66.7%.
    Question 4 - What kind of utensil do you use to eat pie?
    • No question about it... 100% answered "fork".
    Question 5 - What is your favorite pie topping?
    • 88.9% answered "whip cream".
    Question 6 - What do you love most about Thanksgiving?
    • 100% came in for "spending time with family" ... that's my favorite too!
    • 66.7% said "taking time to reflect and be thankful for the past year" and "eating a ton of yummy food".
    • 55.4% happens to enjoy "watching football" that day.

    Thank you to all that took the time to participate in a quick poll.  Check back in a few days for the "Christmas Poll".

    Coming soon...  
    Tips and Recipes for Traditional Christmas Meals.

    We could all use a hint of more time.
    Copyright 2011 A Hint of Thyme.  All rights reserved.

    *Image at top taken from

    Wednesday, November 30, 2011

    Low-Cal Eating: 3 Quick Tips and Recipes

    I recently started a new workout plan with "NBC's Biggest Loser Workout" for Wii.  Forecasting even a small weight loss goal or trying different exercises has been less than exciting, as I have suffered from severe chronic back pain for more than a decade.  It's true that a body in motion stays in motion... so I picked up the Wii workout on a whim.  It has been fantastic thus far.  And I love that it's interactive.

    One of the many features of the Biggest Loser Workout includes short video tips for exercising, lifestyle and diet.  I decided that I'd share some of the healthy eating tips with my devoted readers.  The lunch and dinner option came straight from the brain of this lady.  I cannot claim to be an expert on low-calorie diets, but I am working on gaining more knowledge.

    Low Calorie Snack:
    Cinnamon Apples - 70 calories
    - 1 medium sweet apple (recommend Gala or Macintosh)
    - 1/4 TBSP cinnamon
    - 1/2 TBSP water
    - 1 teaspoon sugar (or sweetener)

    Chop the apple into bite size pieces and place into a microwavable bowl.  Add the water, cinnamon and very small amount of sugar or sweetener.  Stir.  Microwave on high for 1-2 minutes.  Delicious and nutritious!

    Low Calorie Lunch:
    Hummus and Turkey Sandwich - Approx. 230 Calories
    - Whole Wheat Sandwich Thins (100 Calories)
    - 3 pieces of turkey lunch meat
    - Leafy greens or lettuce
    - 2 TBSP of hummus (I have been enjoying the Sabra Spicy Hummus)

    I'm not sure that this requires much instruction.  If you don't know how to assemble a sandwich... we have bigger problems.

    Low Calorie Dinner:
    Balsamic Dill Salad with Tuna - Approx. 300 Calories
    - 1 can of tuna
    - 1.5-2 cup of leafy greens or lettuce
    - 1/4 medium sweet onion, julianed
    - 1/2 fresh tomato, julianed
    - 1 tsp of dried dill
    - 1/2 TBSP balsamic vinegar
    - 1/4 TBSP extra virgin olive oil
    - Salt and pepper

    Combine together in a bowl and enjoy!  It tastes great and was filling too.  Not satisfied yet?  Add a yogurt or the apple snack from above.

    Thank you for taking the time to read some of my healthy eating tips and recipes.  If you have any other suggestions, please feel free to email them to me directly at  I wish you all happy, healthy eating!  Have a great week.

    We could all use a hint of more time!
    Copyright 2011 A Hint of Thyme.  All rights reserved.

    Saturday, November 26, 2011

    Another Year of Turkey and Thanks!

    Happy Thanksgiving!

    I hope that you all had a wonderful and delicious Thanksgiving dinner.  It's a day revolving around food, tradition and family.  We pass on old traditions and create new ones. 

    Every year we spend Thanksgiving Day at my parents home.  My mom creates a fantastic dinner and others make their usual contributions to the meal.  My sister makes the green bean casserole, my aunt makes the sweet potatoes and fruit fluff, and my other aunt makes the pies. 

    My mom plans to teach techniques and cooking ideas to my sister and I next year.  She is going to gradually pass the "Thanksgiving Dinner Torch" off to us.  And we are pretty excited to learn from a talented woman that has spent over 20 years making some awesome food on this holiday.

    As I reflected on tradition and food... it made me wonder what other families do for this particular holiday.  So I have created a survey and will display results in a couple weeks.  This survey is intended to ONLY collect data and not for "selling email addresses" or spam.  It was created by me and is purely just for fun.  Please take 2 minutes to answer the 6 questions in my Thanksgiving Poll 2011.  I really appreciate your participation.

    Have a great holiday season!

    We could all use a hint of more time!
    Copyright 2011 A Hint of Thyme.  All rights reserved.

    *Free photo at top from

    Saturday, November 19, 2011

    Cooking With Wine - Chicken Dumpling Soup

    A couple weeks ago we attended a weekly church group gathering.  During the discussion about food, some of the women in our group had expressed their love for a local restaurants' "dumpling soup".  They said that it did not have chicken but was undoubtly delicious.  I was intrigued.

    Several days later I decided to create my own "dumpling soup", but would definitely include chicken.  This recipe is the perfect winter meal.  I also created it as a thank you dinner for my dear friend, Danielle (read about the soup that she made for me).

    The soup is inspired by Paula Deen's recipe.  I was a bit cautious at first - considering how much butter she uses.  With numerous changes... I am able to call this soup my own.  I hope that you enjoy it as much as we did.  My husband said it was a "home run".  In man terms, I'll take that as pretty-gosh-darn-good!

    Prepare time = 30 minutes
    Cook time = 2 hours

    Chicken Vino Dumpling Soup

    - 6 cups of chicken stock
    - 4 cups of white wine (I recommend Sauvignon Blanc. Note: I only spent $3 on the wine)
    - 1 TBSP of butter

    - 2 cups of shredded chicken (Tip: I used a store-bought rotisserie chicken and still had some left over)
    - 3 celery stalks, diced
    - 3 peeled carrots, diced
    - 1/2 medium yellow onion, diced
    - 1 clove garlic, minced
    - 1/2 cup of frozen peas or corn
    - 1/4 cups fresh parsley, chopped

    - 1/2 TSP ground nutmeg
    - 2 TBSP tarragon
    - 2 bay leaves
    - 1 TBSP thyme
    - Ground pepper to taste
    - Kosher salt - approx. 1 1/2 TBSP

    - 2 TBSP butter
    - 1 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
    - 2 large eggs
    - 1/2 TSP ground nutmeg
    - 1 cup of milk
    - Salt and pepper

    Prepare all vegetables and meat before adding liquids to a large cooking pot.  Add the liquids to the cooking pot.  Gradually begin to add the chicken and all vegetables.  Season with salt and pepper.  Taste.  Then add all the spices.  Cook on medium-low heat for 1.5 hours, stir occasionally. 

    In a medium sauce pan, heat the butter and milk to a slow simmer.  When it begins to slowly bubble, add the flour.  Remove from heat and add the eggs.  Season with nutmeg, salt and pepper.  Whisk until dough is thick.  Use a tablespoon to from small to medium sized balls of dough.  Gradually drop dough into the heated soup broth.  Stir gently.  Cook on medium-low heat for another 30 minutes.  Serve and enjoy!


    I can shamelessly admit that creating the dumplings made me a bit nervous.  Everything turned out very well though.  We used a french bread for dipping.  If you choose to make your own bread... I would recommend a dill bread or fresh dinner roll.  Pair with a crisp glass of your favorite Riesling.

    This recipe will make enough for 6-8 servings.  I hope you enjoy it! 

    Please leave a comment and let me know if you try it.  Have a fantastic weekend!

    We could all use a hint of more time!
    Copyright 2011 A Hint of Thyme.  All rights reserved.

    Tuesday, November 8, 2011

    The Other Meat - Slow Cooker White Chili

    I have to be honest... I've never thought about making white chili.  As a food lover, I have subscribed to numerous food magazines and emails.  It helps to revive creativity and brainstorm new recipe ideas.

    An email from highlighted a fantastic White Chili recipe.  I thought it would be great for our food budget and a 4-day meal plan.  So I researched different white chili recipes and here is what I came up with...

    Mara's Slow Cooker White Chili

    - 1/2 lb of ground pork
    - 1/2 lb of lean ground beef (You may substitute with 2 chicken breasts or ground chicken)

    - 3 cups of chicken stock
    - 3 cups of beef stock (you may substitute with vegetable stock... but this does give great flavor)
    - 2 cups of water

    - 2 cans of Pinto Beans
    - 2 cans of Northern Beans
    - 1/2 cup flour
    - 1/4 cup corn starch

    - 2 bell peppers, roughly chopped (any color of your choosing... I suggest going for a color variety)
    - 1/2 medium red onion, chopped
    - 3 to 4 stalks of celery, chopped
    - 1 clove garlic, minced

    - 1 TBSP dried oregano
    - 1 TBSP ground cumin
    - 1/2 TBSP chili powder
    - 1/2 TBSP chili 3000 from Penzey's (try smoked paprika as a substitute)
    - 1/3 TBSP dried tarragon
    - 1/3 TBSP dried or fresh rosemary
    - 1/4 TBSP freshly grated nutmeg
    - Crushed red pepper (Optional: Season to taste)
    - Salt and pepper to taste

    Optional side
    - 1 or 2 cups white rice

    Phew!!  I know this seems like a lot of ingredients but putting them all together is relatively quick and easy.  Just combine and let the slow cooker do the rest!

    Add the beef stock, chicken stock and water to the slow cooker. Heat on high for 10 minutes.  When the liquids become warmer, begin browning the meat.

    Brown the meat in a skillet.  Season with salt and pepper.  When the meat is brown, add the flour and corn starch.  The stock and water should be hot, but not boiling, by this point.  Combine the meat with the hot liquid and continue stirring. 

    Gradually begin to add the vegetables - onions, peppers, celery and garlic.  Continue stirring.  Add the seasoning little by little.  Be sure to taste the chili - you can always add more seasoning but you cannot take it away. 

    When all ingredients have been combined, set the slow cooker to low and walk away.  Stir occasionally for 2 hours.  Turn to warm when it becomes thick.  While the chili is on warm, boil 1 cup of rice with 2 cups of water.  Fluff with a fork and set aside.

    Add the rice to the bottom of a bowl and ladle chili on top.  The best topping for this particular chili is Asiago cheese and red onion.  You can also try Colby Jack and chives. 

    For those of you outside of Wisconsin, we like to mix our chili with a form of starch.  Regular red chili is typically combined with pasta here.  We wanted to change it up and try rice instead.  It is a very pleasing combination.

    I made the white chili on a Saturday afternoon and it fed 2 of us for 4 more days.  Although it's a slow-cooked meal... a slow-cooker is not needed.  This can also be cooked in a large pot on low heat for the same amount of time.  Perfect for cooking on weekends!

    We hope that you enjoy this as much as we did.  Have a great week!

    We could all use a hint of more time!
    Copyright 2011 A Hint of Thyme.  All rights reserved.

    Monday, October 24, 2011

    Quick Fix Meat Tips

    When I was growing up, eating any kind of red meat was an absolutely revolting thought.  Beef... not a fan.  Pork... maybe.  Ham... forget it.  Up until I met my husband, it was very rare for me to eat or even cook some sort of red meat.

    After we got married and moved in together, it became apparent that I was going to be cooking red meat.  It was also apparent that I would have to eat the red meat ..... or possibly go hungry.  Just kidding.  I definitely cook healthier meats, such as fish and chicken, more often.

    So what happens on the days when a time consuming pork or steak recipe is not option?  You know... the days when your dog needs to be walked, the kids need homework help, your neighbor stops by at random and the dishes aren't washed.  Suddenly a 90-minute braised pork recipe begins to look less and less likely.

    Fear not... there are plenty of quick fix options that will still create a delicious dish.

    Quick Fix Ideas:

    1.) 10-Minute Breaded Pork Chops:  1 cup of garlic bread crumbs, 1/4 TBSP of onion powder, 1/4 TBSP of Thyme, salt and pepper.  I don't bother messing with the flour and egg prior to the bread crumb dunk.  This will still give you a crispy, tasteful crunch in less time.  If you don't have garlic bread crumbs, then add a 1/3 TBSP of garlic powder to the mixture.  Mix thoroughly in a small bowl.  Evenly coat the boneless pork chops in the bread crumbs.  Bake in the oven for 20-25 minutes at 425. 

    2.) 10 minute marinade:  1 1/2 TBSP Worcestershire sauce, 1/2 TBSP oregano, 1 TBSP extra virgin olive oil, 1/4 TBSP of soy sauce, 1 TBSP Italian dressing, salt, pepper and a pinch of crushed red pepper.  Mix together and add to a large plastic zip bag.  Add the pork or beef to the bag.  Make sure the meat is evenly coated.  Set aside or in the refrigerator for 10 or 15 minutes.  Grill or bake for 15 - 20 minutes.  It's just that easy.

    Quick fix ideas are very helpful on days when dinner is a last minute thought.  Do what ever you can to avoid running out to the local fast food restaurant or ordering a pizza.  Although, I am plenty guilty of doing this too.

    Jon and I are blessed to have an ice chest freezer in our basement.  I usually watch for meat sales at the local grocery store and stock up when we can.  Typically, I will have a lot of fish, chicken and pork in stock.

    Hopefully these quick fix tips are helpful to you and your family.  Take care, readers.  Have an excellent week. 

    Coming soon: Flashback Friday - Chili

    We could all use a hint of more time.
    Copyright 2011 A Hint of Thyme.  All Rights Reserved.

    Thursday, October 13, 2011

    A Taste of Fall - Butternut Squash

    Welcome to the Fall season!  This is my favorite time of year.  Apples, pumpkins, cider, squash, cranberries!  I cannot get enough apple cider or tastes of fall on my dinner plate.

    Last night, I attempted to make something new.  My husband is big fan of butternut squash. 


    Butternut Squash - 1
    Mara - 0

    I must admit that butternut squash has officially defeated me in the kitchen.  My Mom gave me an extra squash and it was the first time that I prepared it myself.  I've watched my Mom cut and prepare it.  How hard could it be?  I think I realized why she was so eager to give it away.

    It seemed as though I had lost all culinary abilities as I stared blankly at the squash.  Where do I even start?  I grabbed a parring knife.  Too small.  I opted for the larger butcher knife.  Too large.  It was the most amateur display of knife cuts that I've ever done. 

    Despite my lack of squash cutting talent, the recipe turned out fairly well.  I have also tried this recipe with sweet potatoes.  I hope you enjoy it... and that the squash cooperates with you.

    Autumn Spiced Butternut Squash
    - 1 butternut squash (or 4 medium sized sweet potatoes, if you prefer)
    - 1 TBSP of extra virgin olive oil (EVOO)
    - 1 TBSP of honey
    - 1/4 TBSP of cinnamon
    - Freshly grated nutmeg (just a few times up and down the microplane - a little goes a long way)
    - Course black pepper and salt

    Cut the squash into cubes (if you're making sweet potatoes... cut them into long french-fry-like strips).  Spread evenly over a baking sheet.  Cover with the remaining ingredients.  The easiest way to mix all ingredients thoroughly is to use your hands.  Make sure that all pieces are evenly coated.  Bake at 425 for 15 minutes.  It's quick and easy ... if you know how to cut it! 

    I also prepared boneless pork chops to go with the squash.  Simply apply an even distributition of dried thyme, Worcestershire sauce, EVOO, granulated garlic, salt and pepper over the pork.  Bake at 425 for 25 to 30 minutes.  It was quite tasty!

    I wish you all a delightful Fall season! 

    We could all use a hint of more time!
    Copyright 2011 A Hint of Thyme.  All rights reserved.

    Thursday, October 6, 2011

    El Beso - A Tribute to Friends and Birthday's

    Ah, September.  The month of 8 million births! Admit it... you know at least 15 people born in the month of September.

    I am very happy to share the same birthday with my good friend, Valerie.  To celebrate another year of life and friendship, we had dinner and margarita's at a new restaurant in Milwaukee. 

    El Beso, in Greenfield, is a new Mexican restaurant in the Milwaukee area.  This place wins "A Hint of Thyme Award" for the best renovation of a building.  El Beso took over the abandoned Champps Americana and has transformed it into a Mexican hacienda and bar.  Unlike some other building-takeovers that have failed to reinvent the venue, these owners have completely redesigned the building to be unrecognizable as the former Champps restaurant.  It's incredible.

    There are hand painted murals on almost every wall.  Every intricate detail of a Mexican paradise is creatively woven into the floor, ceiling, desert bar, and band.  I was in awe of the beautiful paintings and, I must admit, feeling a bit ADD as I looked around to take it all in.

    The only negative comment about El Beso is that the high ceilings do create some extra noise.  It's very hard to hear all the people at your table without yelling.  If the band is near your section it's even more difficult to hear.  Word of advice... do not use this venue for an important meeting or talk.  However, lunch time might be different and not as crowded.

    El Beso's menu is much like any other Mexican restaurant in the area.  It has the average selection with a few exciting options.  They have a great bar menu and the Bahama Mama's were fantastic!  I elected to try the Sopes for an entree.  Unfortunately, I had filled up with the free chips and salsa prior to the entree. 

    I have read a few reviews about the restaurant will say that the food isn't very "authentic".  Honestly, I don't feel it necessary to whine about it's "lack of authenticity".  We very much enjoyed the food and it won't get much more authentic this far north of the Mexico border.

    Valerie and I were subjected to 2 birthday songs.  The band, Trio Expucta de Oro, first sang a Spanish song that was unknown to us.  Then they sang happy birthday in Spanish - which was a real treat.  The band was fantastic and their harmonies were perfect.  The other servers came by after dinner with 2 pieces of chocolate cake and sombrero's for me and Val.  They all sang "Happy Birthday Cha-Cha-Cha".  It was probably the first time in my life that I didn't mind someone singing happy birthday to me because it was so fun!  

    September birthday's indeed, the servers were busy singing "Happy Birthday" about every 3 minutes to a different person.  It was definitely a night of celebrations.

    El Beso was a great place to celebrate our birthday's together.  Great pick, Val!

    Valerie and I with chocolate cake and sombrero's

    Sopes at El Beso

    Copyright 2011 Hint of Thyme.  All rights reserved.

    Sunday, September 11, 2011

    A Jolly Good Time - Caribbean Style

    My husband and I had the opportunity to attend a marriage seminar in Madison, Wisconsin during the month of August.  The event was sponsored by Jon's military branch and it gave us the opportunity for a weekend getaway.  There were several military couples at the event... some married many years and some recently married.

    The second night of the seminar afforded all couples the opportunity to have a date night.  And yes, it was mandatory.  As you may have noticed from many of the posts on Hint of Thyme, Jon and I enjoy trying different restaurants and typically avoid the big name chains.  Since we are not from the Madison area it was difficult to find a place to have dinner.

    Word of mouth is always the best advertisement.  A fellow seminar attender is from Madison and suggested that we check out a Caribbean restaurant.  Jon and I thought the idea is brilliant - especially since we were married on the beautiful islands of the Bahamas. 

    We started our date night at a place called "Jolly Bob's" on Madison's east side.  The restaurant was small but perfectly decorated in Caribbean style.  They were only serving on the patio for dinner and we were seated outside.  The back patio had a large mural of the ocean and the only thing it was missing was palm trees and a reggae band. 

    The menu had a great selection of drinks and food.  I opted to try a Raspberry Blast and Jon went with a traditional Bahama Mama.  Although the menu did not mention that my drink was blended... I still gave it a try.  I am not the biggest fan of blended drinks and ended up switching with Jon shortly after.  He's such a good husband!

    For an appetizer we ordered one of our favorite snacks from the Bahama's ... Conch Fritters!  If you have not tried one before, we highly recommend it.  I have to admit that they tasted better while on the beach but Jolly Bob's fritters were still delicious.  It brought back some happy memories from our wedding. 

    Conch Fritters

    The entrees were served with a salad and Caribbean dressing.  It was served very elegantly on white plate with a bundle of lettuce in the middle and fruit surrounding.  The blend was fantastic together.

    Dinner Salad with Papaya Dressing

    My entree was the "Chicken Well Curry".  The menu states that it is spicy Jamaican chicken served over rice.  I was surprised to see how many other ingredients were included; such as papaya, peanuts, onion, carrots, egg, potatoes, and raisins.  Although the combination seems odd.. it was surprisingly delicious.  My only criticisms would be that the dish would have been a little better with some kind of sauce or gravy.

    Jolly Bob's - Chicken Well Curry

    Overall it was a very pleasant experience and the food was fantastic.  The servers were very accommodating. 

    A few tips if you are interested in trying this restaurant - bring cash and bring a lot!  Although the meal was great... it was definitely over priced.  There were also no visible signs about being "cash only". 

    Regardless, we had a very memorable meal and happy to share the experience with you! 

    We could all use a hint of more time!
    Copyright 2011 Hint of Thyme.  All rights reserved.

    Sunday, August 28, 2011

    Meatless Monday - Thai Curry Rice

    Meatless Monday

    If you are anything like me, Monday's are one of the most hectic days of week.  Usually I will forget to thaw some kind of meat, the phone doesn't stop ringing and dinner is the last thing on my mind.  This is how Meatless Monday's got started in my house.

    This post will share an easy recipe for Meatless Monday and some quick fix tips to make your dinner time a little easier.  If you are not a fan of yellow curry recipes please read on... I have substitute suggestions below.

    Easy Dinner Tip 1:  Wal-Mart grocery has pre-packaged stir fry vegetables in the produce section.  The bag is mixed with carrots, peapods, broccoli and bean sprouts.  Other grocery stores may carry something similar.  It saves me from the hassle of cutting individual vegetables and having too many left over.  Just rinse and combine with the dish.  It cuts your prep time in half.

    Easy Dinner Tip 2:  If you prefer to use vegetables that have not been pre-packaged that's okay.  Wash and cut the vegetables ahead of time.  I've found the best time for me to do that is right after I get home from the grocery store or market.

    Prep time = 10 minutes
    Cook time = 15 minutes

    Thai Curry Rice
    - 2 cups of Jasmine rice
    - 3 1/2 cups of water
    - 1 bag of fresh stir-fry veggies (or what ever you prefer)
    - 1/2 medium onion, sliced
    - 1/2 TBSP cumin
    - 1/2 TBSP turmeric
    - 1 3/4 TBSP yellow curry
    - 2 TBSP sesame oil
    - 1/2 TBSP honey
    - (Optional) Crushed red pepper OR Hot sesame oil
    - Salt and pepper

    In a medium sauce pan, bring the rice and water to a rolling boil.  Reduce heat to low and cover.  Set aside after all the water is absorbed and the rice is no longer crunchy.  In a wok or large skillet, add the sesame oil over a medium-high heat and let it warm for 1 or 2 minutes.  Add the onion with salt and pepper.  Add the stir-fry veggies and honey.  Heat thoroughly and add the rice.  Combine the ingredients.  Then add the additional spices; cumin, turmeric, curry and optional spices.  Heat through for 3 minutes.  Remove from heat and serve.

    I also added half a bag of frozen peas for extra texture and flavor.  It was probably one of the easiest dishes that I made all week.  Plus, my husband was very pleased with his dinner.  An easy side dish could be a salad or store bought egg rolls.

    If you are not a fan of yellow curry you can substitute it with a Chinese Five Spice instead. 

    Have a great Meatless Monday!

    We could all use a hint of more time!
    Copyright 2011 Hint of Thyme.  All rights reserved.

    Friday, August 26, 2011

    Flashback Friday - Spaghetti and Meatballs

    Flashback Friday

    There are so many different ways to make spaghetti and meatballs.  I've worked on different recipes over the years and make several versions.  I will post another spaghetti recipe this fall. 

    In this post you will find recipes for a meal that is perfect for a date night at home.  Pop in a new movie and snuggle up with a plate of spaghetti.  Classic romance.

    Last year, I shared this recipe titled "Kicking Up The Classics"; which is one of the top reads on Hint of Thyme.  As the nights get cooler and fall begins to roll in... I look forward to impressing my hubby with this recipe again.

    Check out the link above.  Have a great weekend!

    We could all use a hint of more time!
    Copyright 2011 Hint of Thyme.  All rights reserved.

    Thursday, August 25, 2011

    Green Beans - Three Quick Fix Recipes

    Green beans and tomatoes are very easy to find during the month of August.  Between the downtown Appleton farmers market and my neighbors garden, I seem to have an endless supply of green beans.  So how do you cook and eat the same thing without getting bored?  Dress it up with different ingredients.

    If you're looking for something outside the steamed-green-bean-box... these recipes are perfect for you.  Here are three quick fix recipes that are guaranteed to capture your attention and please the taste buds. 

    #1 - Fried Rosemary Green Beans
    - 1/2 to 1 pound fresh green beans (cut in half or leave whole)
    - 2 cups cherry or grape tomatoes (cut in half or leave whole)
    - 1/2 cup sweet onion, roughly chopped
    - 2 TBSP sesame oil
    - 1/2 TBSP dried rosemary
    - 1/2 cup shredded Parmesan cheese (optional)
    - Salt and pepper

    Add the oil and onion to a skillet over medium-high heat.  When the onion becomes translucent, add the green beans, rosemary, salt and pepper.  The beans will appear bright green and have a little char on them - approximately 5 minutes.  Add the tomatoes and cheese at that time.  Serve and enjoy.

    #2 - Steamed Mustard Beans
    - 1/2 to 1 pound of fresh green beans
    - Salt and pepper
    - 1 TBSP yellow mustard
    - 1 TBSP plain mayonnaise
    - 1/2 TBSP honey

    Place the green beans in a steamer over water on medium heat.  Once the beans become bright green in color... shock them in ice water to cool and keep the color.  In a separate bowl, combine the mustard, mayo and honey.  If you make more than half pound of beans, adjust the sauce accordingly.  When the beans have cooled, combine with the mustard sauce.  Add salt and pepper.  This is great for a simple summer side dish!  Serve chilled or at room temperature.

    #3 - Mediterranean Green Beans
    - 1 pound fresh green beans
    - 2 cups cherry or grape tomatoes
    - 1 1/2 TBSP Extra Virgin Olive Oil
    - 1 TBSP red wine vinegar
    - 1 TBSP fresh basil, chopped
    - 1 cup feta cheese
    - Salt and pepper

    Add the green beans and EVOO to a skillet over medium-high heat.  Season accordingly.  After 5 to 7 minutes... add the tomatoes.  Add the vinegar, feta and basil at the end.  Remove from heat and cover for 2 minutes.  Serve and enjoy.

    We could all use a hint of more time!

    Copyright 2011 Hint Of Thyme.  All rights reserved.

    Friday, August 19, 2011

    American Classic Knock-Off

    Rough day?  Too many errands?  Having the typical what-to-do-for-dinner blues?  Been there!

    Prior to our wedding day, my husband's eating habits consisted of chips, Ramen noodles, frozen pizza and... Hamburger Helper.  Although I love a nice big bowl of Hamburger Helper every once and a while, I cannot eat it as often as my former bachelor.

    Anything with pasta is an easy "go-to meal" for me.  One night, I had thawed some ground beef and intended to make spaghetti.  But... SURPRISE, no spaghetti noodles in the pantry.  So I began throwing vegetables and spices into a sauce pan until it resembled a Hamburger Helper knock-off.

    Prep time = 10 minutes
    Cook time = 15 to 20 minutes

    Mara's Ultimate Cheesy Macaroni
    - 3 cups of elbow pasta
    - 1 lb ground meat
    - 2 medium tomatoes, diced
    - 1/2 cup onion, diced
    - 2 TBSP extra virgin olive oil
    - 1/2 TBSP red wine vinegar
    - 2 TBSP Pasta Sprinkle (or something similar)
    - 1 1/2 cups low-fat Colby jack cheese
    - 1 TBSP low-fat milk
    - Salt and pepper to taste

    Boil pasta in a large sauce pan.  Drain and set aside.  While the pasta is boiling, brown the meat in a separate fry pan or skillet.  As the meat begins to brown, add the onions until the meat is completely brown and onions are soft.  Combine the meat, pasta, spices, EVOO and tomatoes into the large sauce pan.  Simmer for 3 or 4 minutes over medium heat.  Sprinkle with vinegar for extra flavor - you won't need much.  Add salt and pepper constantly... adjust seasoning as needed.  Add the cheese and milk at the end.  Combine thoroughly.  Cover over low heat for 3 or 4 minutes.  Remove from heat and serve.

    My husband said that it was better than the store-bought hamburger helper.  I definitely recommend this dish for an easy dinner night.  Add a simple salad for a side.  It's easy but still delicious.

    Have a great weekend, readers!

    We could all use a hint of more time!
    Copyright 2011 Hint of Thyme.  All rights reserved.

    Thursday, August 11, 2011

    Shout out to Penzey's

    I LOVE this store! 

    Penzey's Spices is a "foodies" best friend.  The store is stocked full of spices, baking ingredients, and recipe cards.  You can also sign up to receive their product and recipe magazine in the mail (which I definitely recommend). 

    Bonus:  Penzey's will also mail out coupons for new products regularly.  (Yes, I said COUPONS!)

    This store has become a staple in my kitchen.  You are likely to find many recipes on my blog mentioning one of their spices.  I have quite a few favorites that I use and, therefore, need to replace frequently.

    Must Have Spices:
    - Arizona Dreaming (Salt Free) - excellent in chili or Mexican dishes

    - Pasta Sprinkle - perfect for dressing up an easy side dish

    - Galena Street - a great rub for pork or chicken

    - Mural of Flavor (Salt Free) - try it on eggs.. yum!

    Penzey's supplies a large variety of dry herbs - if you happen to be missing a green thumb.  Some of my favorite herbs to buy from them are Rosemary and Basil.

    You can read more about Penzey's products and locations on their website.  Check out a store in your area!

    We could all use a hint of more time.
    Copyright 2011 Hint of Thyme.  All rights reserved.

    Friday, August 5, 2011

    Wrap It Up With Fresh Summer Salsa

    Have a lot of vegetables and no idea what to do with them?  The end of summer is notorious for this type of problem.  We had at least 5 green peppers and tomatoes in our refrigerator.  Our neighbors have a garden and frequently offer vegetables to share with us; which is very kind of them.

    I had all these vegetable and no idea what to do with them.  After brain storming, I took 3 boneless chicken breasts and baked them at 425 for 40 minutes.  I sprinkled lemon pepper and salt over the chicken.  While they were baking, I took the liberty of getting other household chores done.  It was nice to be baking while also working on my every day tasks.  It allowed me the time I needed.

    While I was washing dishes, an idea came to me! .... Chicken with Basil Salsa.

    Bake time = 30 - 40 minutes (depending on size of chicken)
    Prep time = 15 minutes

    Chicken Ranch Wrap with Basil Salsa
    - 2 or 3 large chicken breast
    - 2 or 3 tomatoes, diced
    - 1 or 2 green peppers, diced
    - 1/4 cup sweet onion, diced
    - 2 TBSP fresh basil, roughly chopped
    - 1/2 TBSP of Extra Virgin Olive Oil
    - 1/2 TBSP lemon juice
    - Salt and pepper
    - 1/4 TBSP smoked paprika
    - (Optional) Chipotle or Chili seasoning, only a couple sprinkles or depending on your personal spicy scale

    Additional Items:
    - Whole wheat tortillas
    - Ranch salad dressing (what ever brand you prefer)

    Place the chicken on a baking pan and bake 425 for 35 to 40 minutes - depending on the size of the chicken.  While the chicken is baking, dice and mix the vegetables together with EVOO and lemon juice in a separate bowl.  Add the seasoning.  Combine thoroughly.  Taste and add more seasoning as needed.

    When the chicken is done baking, let it cool for 5 or 10 minutes.  Dice the chicken into bite size pieces or long, thin strips.  Add the chicken and salsa to the wrap.  Drizzle with ranch dressing (which is also optional).  Fold in both ends, tuck and roll the wrap closed.  Cut in half and serve.

    An easy side dish:
    Rinse and cut fresh green beans.  Add sesame oil to a skillet over medium-high heat.  Saute the green beans with rosemary, salt and pepper.  The combination is outstanding.  You can also combine the green beans with some of your favorite vegetables; such as onions, mushrooms, or even peppers.

    Left overs? 
    No problem.  The next day I still had a ton of left over chicken meat and salsa, but no tortillas.  If you run into this problem... don't panic.  I boiled 2 1/2 cups of rotelle pasta.  After draining the pasta, I combined the left over chicken and salsa with the pasta, low-fat cheese, salt and pepper.  It was incredibly easy.  So this meal can actually provide a 2-night dinner!  What's not to love about that?

    I hope you enjoy this dish for lunch or dinner!  Have a great week.

    We could all use a hint of more time.
    Copyright 2011 Hint of Thyme.  All rights reserved.

    Friday, July 29, 2011

    Taste of Thai - A Local Favorite

    Have you ever avoided a restaurant just because the exterior was not appealing to the eye?  When I worked downtown Appleton, I passed a restaurant every day on my morning and afternoon commute.  I absolutely love Thai food but this particular building did not appear to be inviting.

    Several friends and colleagues have praised this restaurant and their delicious entrees.  One evening we decided to give it a try. 

    Taste of Thai is located downtown Appleton, near the Lawrence University campus.  After experiencing incredible Thai food while visiting Plover (read that review here), my standards were set fairly high. 

    The interior reminded me of the restaurant scene from the movie "The Sweetest Thing".  It is your typical Asian restaurant with a full-service bar.  You can also place orders for pick up.  My only criticism would be the awkward chairs that restrict your arm motions; which is kind of important while dining.

    We started the meal with "Fresh Salad Rolls" served with a peanut dipping sauce.  It was amazing.  The crunchy texture paired very well with the sweet and salty sauce. 

    Our server was extremely prompt, reactive and aware.  I asked her for an entree recommendation.  She suggested the "Volcano Chicken" which is the most popular item on the menu.  The server also explained that orders can be created on a spicy scale; 1 is not very spicy and 5 is the spiciest possible.  I took her suggestion and ordered a level 3.  Next time, I will order at level 4.

    I would give Taste of Thai an overall score of 8 (out of 10) on my scale.  If you are looking for authentic ethnic food... check out Taste of Thai.  The service is outstanding and the food is exceptional in flavor. 

    We could all use a hint of more time!
    Copyright 2011 Hint of Thyme.  All rights reserved.

    Tuesday, July 26, 2011

    Antojito's Mexicanos Restaurant - Authentic Cuisine

    I have been living in the Fox Valley area of Wisconsin for over a year now.  As a Milwaukee native, I was most familiar with some of the great restaurants in that area.  After relocating, I've had trouble finding a favorite Mexican restaurant to replace the ones I've been missing from my home town.

    Jon and I were downtown one evening at a local establishment and asked the bartender if she knew of a good Mexican restaurant in the area.  She immediately shouted in excitement, "You HAVE to try Antojito's. They have the most delicious bean dip and food."  We always appreciate a great suggestion and decided to try Antojito's.

    The decor and atmosphere is outstanding.  It is the kind of place that makes you completely forget that you are only in Wisconsin.  It felt like we were being served at a local restaurant in Mexico.  The only downside was parking; which is a little tricky in that particular strip mall.

    The meal starts with a free serving of chips and salsa.  Antojito's kicks it up and adds a spicy, thin bean dip.  Everything was delicious.

    I ordered a roasted poblano pepper dish that was breaded and filled with squeaky cheese. It was topped with an incredible buttery but thin sauce.  I cannot remember the name of the dish but it was probably one of the most delicious dishes that I've eaten at a Mexican restaurant.  I added the pepper, cheese and sauce to a flour tortilla along with Spanish rice, lettuce and salsa.  Yum!  Very unique and authentic food.

    Jon and I both enjoyed a decently sized and priced margarita with spicy salt on the rim.  We both definitely recommend checking out Antojito's.

    If you do not live in the Fox Valley, I suggest browsing or adding the app to your smart phone.  It will give you great food recommendation for your local area and is especially helpful when traveling.  Enjoy!

    We could all use a hint of more time.
    Copyright 2011 Hint of Thyme.  All rights reserved.

    Thursday, July 21, 2011

    Cool Summer Kids Lunch/Dinner Ideas

    Ah yes, summer time. The weather is hot, the festivals are in full swing, the veggies are fresh and ... the kids are out of school.  If you are a parent of any school-aged children the phrases "I'm hungry" or "I'm bored" are probably daily vocabulary at your home. 

    During the summers when I was a kid, my parents were working full time and came up with fun lunch and activity ideas to keep us entertained.  I have memories of my Mom leaving English Muffin Pizza fixings for us to fix for lunch.  It was one of my all-time favorite lunches as a kid.

    Creating healthy and fun meals with your child is great for learning to cook and to be independent.  Pizza doesn't have to be messy or a lot of work.  Plus, what kid doesn't love to eat pizza?

    Our "English Muffin Pizza's" included smearing a tablespoon of tomato sauce over the top of the muffin, then adding any toppings that Mom cut up for us; such as green pepper, black olive, cheese, pepperoni, and more.  We would bake or microwave the mini-pizza's until the cheese melted and bubbled.

    Here are some other kid-friendly lunch or dinner ideas that they can help you make:

    Pita Pocket Pizza
    - Stuff the sauce, cheese and toppings into the pita. Bake at 400 for 10 minutes.  You can also microwave for 2 minutes or until cheese is melted.

    PB&J Stuffed Pita
    - Toast the pita before or after applying the peanut butter and favorite flavor of jelly. Stuff it with your kids favorite fruit. Some great choices would be apples, bananas or even strawberries.

    Pizza Melt Sandwich
    - Much like a tuna melt. One piece of bread.. apply thin layer of sauce, toppings and cheese. Broil for 3 to 4 minutes or until cheese is melted and crust is brown.

    Happy cooking!  Have a great weekend.

    We could all use a hint of more time!
    Copyright 2011 Hint of Thyme.  All rights reserved.

    Monday, June 27, 2011

    Appetizer Made Easy - Pinwheels

    I have thought about making something like this for quite a while.  The opportunity finally arose to create a special appetizer when I had a bunch of my girl friends over for a jewelry party.  This recipe is great if you are in a rush and need something quick to throw together.

    I debuted my very first "pinwheel" recipe over the weekend at the party.  There are many more pinwheel recipes to come.  Pizza dough is a blank canvas - you can put almost anything on a pizza crust and turn it into a work of art.

    Give this a try along with your typical cheese and cracker plate.  The appetizer is meant to be light but packed with flavor.  It was a major hit with my ladies.

    Prep time = 10 minutes
    Cook time = 15 or 20 minutes

    Sun-dried Tomato and Basil Pinwheels
    - 1 cup sun dried tomato, diced
    - 1/3 cup fresh basil
    - 1 roll of thin crust pizza dough (not baked)
    - 1 TBSP of extra virgin olive oil
    - 1/4 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
    - Garlic salt
    - Pepper

    Spread the dough over a greased baking sheet.  Leave an inch open on each long side of the dough... this will help with rolling.  Spread the EVOO over the dough and season.  Apply the rest of the ingredients evenly to the the dough.  Roll tightly and seal both ends.  Bake at 375 for 15 to 20 minutes.  Cut and serve.

    Tip 1:  Freeze the dough first.  I completely lost track of time with this and did it the opposite way.  My suggestion is to freeze the pizza dough, build the the pinwheel and THEN cut it before baking.  It is difficult to cut dough that is not firm; which is why I cut it after baking.  It's up to you and your preference though.  Keep in mind that cutting before baking will decrease the cooking time to about 10 minutes.

    Tip 2:  Look for sun-dried tomatoes in a jar of oil and use some of that oil on the dough instead.  The flavor will be even more bold. 

    Wallet Alert:  Sun-dried tomatoes can be a little pricey.  An 8 oz. jar of these delicious treasures will run you about $4.99 depending on where you shop and where you live.  But you can also use this on sandwiches or in a pasta dish.  A little goes a long way.

    I hope that your friends and guests enjoy this as much as mine did.  Keep reading... there is more where that came from!  Thanks for reading... have a fantastic week.

    We could all use a hint of more time!
    Copyright 2011 Hint of Thyme.  All rights reserved.

    Friday, June 24, 2011

    Grilling Desired, Family Inspired

    Can you smell that?  You know that it's summer when you catch the fragrance of charcoal grills and burgers in the air.  It's a scent that is associated with relaxing and enjoying warm weather. 

    Over the Father's Day weekend, I took a trip back to my home town of Milwaukee to visit and get some much needed family time.  I was even more excited to do one of my most favorite activities.... cook with my Mom. 

    We started planning the menu only a couple days before the "Father's Day Party" at my parents house.  I was craving something grilled but wanted anything other than the typical burger or brat.  We decided to make vegetable skewers, BBQ chicken and salads for the sides.

    Here are a few recipes that would be great for a 4th of July party.  It's quick, easy and probably more "figure-friendly" than burgers.  We hope you enjoy these recipes as much as we did.

    Mara and Denni's Sweet Broccoli Slaw
    - 2 packages of broccoli slaw, rinsed and drained (usually found by the pre-packaged lettuce)
    - 1 cup of dried cranberries
    - 1 cup of scallions, sliced
    - 1/2 cup of sliced almonds, toasted
    - 1/2 TBSP celery seed
    - 1/2 cup EVOO (Extra virgin olive oil)
    - 1/4 cup sugar
    - 1/2 cup white wine vinegar
    - Salt and pepper

    In a separate bowl... whisk the sugar, EVOO and vinegar.  Season with salt and pepper.  Pour the dressing and almonds over the broccoli slaw right before serving (otherwise you will have a soggy slaw).  In a large serving bowl, mix the broccoli slaw, cranberries, scallions and celery seed.  Serve and enjoy.

    Balsamic BBQ Chicken Skewer (courtesy of Cuisine At Home)
    - 1/2 cup onion, diced
    - 1 cup balsamic vinegar (regular... not aged)
    - 3/4 cup ketchup
    - 1/3 cup brown sugar
    - 2 TBSP Worcestershire sauce
    - 2 TBSP Dijon mustard (not yellow.. trust me on this one)
    - Salt and pepper

    It has been a while since I've followed a full recipe, but this one looked too good to change.  I found the recipe for "Balsamic Sauce" in the Cuisine At Home magazine - "Cuisine Tonight: Grilling".  It will impress the heck out of your guests.  Plus, you're allowed bragging rights to say, "I made the BBQ sauce myself". 

    It was very easy.  Mix the ingredients together and stir.  Brush the chicken after it has grilled about 10 or 15 minutes and is no longer raw.  If you put the chicken on a skewer... be sure to leave space between the chunks of chicken so that they grill evenly.

    My sister, Megan, helped to skewer the chicken.
    She was a good helper.

    We also made vegetable skewers; which included red onion, zucchini, green and red bell pepper, cherry tomatoes, mini Yukon gold potatoes, and mushrooms.  My Mom suggests brushing a mixture of balsamic vinegar and olive oil on to the vegetables after they have been grilled.  Delicious!

    On the side, we served a bean and veggie salad made by my aunt.  I also found an amazing loaf of cheese bread at the bakery in Wal-Mart.  We all loved it, so it's highly recommended. 

    Mom and I grilling together on Father's Day.

    It was a fantastic day filled with quality family time and delicious summer food from the grill.  I hope that these recipes will be included in your summer memories too.  Have a great weekend, readers.

    We could all use a hint of more time.
    Copyright 2011 Hint of Thyme.  All rights reserved.