Life in the Real World

Real life experiences after college

When to throw out last week’s casserole… September 3, 2008

Filed under: Blogging,Food,Fun stuff — jenncollins @ 3:47 pm


I love Real Simple Magazine. I don’t subscribe or anything, I just like to buy one every now and then when I have a few extra bucks. I was so happy today when I found out that Real Simple blogs! I subscribed to all of them and I am so excited to get little tidbits of advice, tips and common sense answers to my unorganization.

I was reading the “food” blog earlier and found a link to a great chart that tells you how long you can keep food in your fridge and your freezer. This is priceless to me because I never know what is right (hence, the bugs in my potatoes a few weeks back!). I’m always calling my Mom and asking “If I bought this ground turkey on Monday, is it OK to eat it today (Thursday)?” The answer is no.

I usually find myself bending down in my fridge with the garbage can next to me throwing food (and $$) away because of my carelessness. I hate it about myself, but maybe the chart will help me! I want to print out a copy and stick on my fridge so I always know what is safe to eat.

Do you have any horror stories of leftover food in your fridge? Tell me about it!


A bit of family history August 26, 2008

Filed under: Family,Food,Random — jenncollins @ 9:40 am

I don’t know a ton about my ancestors but I do know that my great grandmother arrived at Ellis Island at 14 years old. She didn’t know any English and was put in a kindergarten class. She met my great grandfather later, who had also arrived at Ellis Island from Sweden (not sure of dates).

On another side of the family, my great grandfather came to the U.S. from Sicily (hence my maiden name, Rizzo) and met my great grandmother later who had come over from Lithouania.

Other family members came from England, France and there’s even some Cherokee Indian in me somewhere. Most of my family either settled in Chicago, Miami and Alabama. I’m a melting pot in and of myself.

All of these wonderful people were in the U.S. at the time of the Great Depression. I’ve heard many stories about the way they lived. They were all broke. It’s funny to see now how their kids (my grandparents) are still affected by the Depression. For the most part, they are very conservative. They wash plastic plates and utensils. No food goes to waste; even if it’s one piece of bread left over. Food never gets thrown away. They had to be creative. It’s admirable.

I almost feel like I could be like them sometimes with the economy the way it is. I often wonder if history will repeat itself in our generation or the next.

What do you know about your great grandparents? I love hearing family histories and how people survived the Depression. Share it in a comment!


My creation… August 20, 2008

Filed under: Food,Food Network,Fun stuff,pregnancy — jenncollins @ 7:35 pm

Well dinner tonight was interesting. Because half my brain isn’t functioning (thank you, pregnancy), I thought I had laid out a pork loin for dinner. I was planning on pork with roasted potatoes and onions. When I got home, I saw chicken in the sink. Somehow I thought pork and laid out chicken instead…weird! So, I had to change my plans. I still wanted to use the potatoes but when I opened the bag, there were bugs in it!! Ugh it was disgusting. I guess the potatoes were a little too old.

I looked on for a little inspiration and saw a recipe for lemon chicken w/ pasta. It sounded good to me but I didn’t have all the ingredients and thought I would try to make it on my own. So I made a recipe from scratch with stuff in my pantry and fridge that I wanted to get rid of. The result? Deliciousness. It was actually very good!! The recipe is below. Some of the measurements are approximate because I ended up not measuring anything but just threw stuff in. If you know me at all, you know that I like to follow a recipe to the “T”, so this is very unlike me, but I am proud of me! 🙂 Let me know if you make it!


Lemon Pepper Chicken in a Sherry Vinegar Sauce with Roasted Onions

1 medium onion
Olive oil
3-4 chicken breasts pounded thin
1 egg
1 T water
1 T Dijon mustard
Flour to dredge chicken
3 T lemon pepper seasoning
1 C chicken stock
1 C sherry vinegar
3 cloves garlic minced
1 T honey
¼ C lemon juice
1 tsp thyme
1 tsp parsley

Cut onion up into half moons. Place on baking sheet. Season with salt & pepper and drizzle w/ olive oil. Roast in a 450 degree oven until translucent and browned.

Heat a pan over medium-high heat with olive oil to coat the pan. Pound chicken breasts very thin. In a small dish, combine 1 egg, a little water and the mustard. In another dish, combine flour with lemon pepper seasoning. Dip chicken in egg mixture, then flour mixture. Sauté each chicken breast…just brown it on both sides, you don’t have to cook all the way through. Set aside and keep warm.

After sautéing, pour chicken stock in the same pan and use a wooden spoon to get all the bits off the bottom of the pan. Add sherry vinegar, garlic, honey, lemon juice, thyme, and parsley. Heat to boiling. Add chicken back in and cook on low covered for about 10 minutes or so.

Serve with couscous, pasta, or rice and whatever else. Put chicken on a serving dish and pour sauce over it. Top it with the roasted onions. Serve and enjoy!


Rizzo chicken parm and spaghetti sauce July 28, 2008

Filed under: Family,Food,Fun stuff — jenncollins @ 11:42 am

I feel like the recipe needs a better name…oh well. Let me give you a few disclaimers before I share the recipe:

  • the sauce is an all-day thing. you can either let it simmer all day on the stove top if you are home or make it in your crock pot. both ways will have the same result: DELICIOUS!
  • the sauce is very thick and a little sweet. it’s not always everyone’s favorite. i prefer thicker, less chunky sauce as opposed to thin and chunky. to each his/her own!
  • you will see that i don’t have any measurements for the spices. that’s because it’s really hard to make measure what i put in. you want a lot of oregano and basil for flavor but don’t go overboard. pepper also helps. if, after stirring, you can see the flakes of the spices, that’s usually a good sign that you have enough. just keep stirring, tasting and adding to your liking!
  • you must promise to think of family and friends when making this sauce. it is one of my comfort foods, therefore, a lot of love goes into this recipe. i only make it for special people…:)
  • tell me what you think after you make it…the good, the bad and the ugly…I can take it!

Spaghetti sauce:

1/4 C extra virgin olive oil
1 onion (as large or small as you want…I like a lot of onion) chopped or finely minced
3-4 garlic cloves minced
2 14 oz cans of tomato puree (any brand will do…even Publix)
2 cartons of Pomi Strained tomatoes (you can find this in Publix on the spaghetti sauce aisle…usually toward the bottom…make sure you get strained, not chopped…unless you want chopped)
Lots of oregano
Lots of basil
Salt & pepper to taste
Red pepper flakes to taste (I like my sauce with a little kick)
1 T sugar (you may need to add more…taste it later in the day and see if it’s too acidic…if so, add more sugar)

Saute onions & garlic in olive oil in a small pan until soft and translucent. Meanwhile, pour containers of sauce into a dutch oven or crockpot. Add onions, garlic and the oil you cooked it in. Add all seasonings and stir until combined. Bring to a light boil then simmer for at least 5-6 hours. Taste about halfway through to see if it’s too acidic. If so, add some more sugar until it tastes good to you.

This recipe makes a lot of sauce…could feed up to 6 people. If you’re making it for a small crowd, this freezes wonderfully and tastes even better when you thaw it out and use it again!

Chicken Parmiagiana

4 chicken breasts (butterflied or pounded very thin)
1 box of Progresso Panko bread crumbs (this is a new product I found in Publix and I love it for the crust on the chicken)
1 egg
Flour (for dusting the chicken)
Spaghetti sauce (see above recipe)
Mozzarella cheese

This is pretty basic chicken parm. Pre-heat the oven to 350 (if you don’t want to bake it, then use a large pan to pan fry it…either way is delicious). Lightly grease a 9 x 13 dish. Lay 3 dishes out; flour, egg (with a splash of water) and bread crumbs. Place chicken in flour and lightly coat, shaking off any excess. Then dip into egg & water on both sides. Place into bread crumbs and make sure it is liberally coated; press it into the chicken. Lay the chicken in the dish and place in the oven for about 30-35 minutes. Check it to make sure it is cooked through. Take out of the oven and spoon some sauce over the top of each chicken breast (don’t overdo it or the chicken coating will be soggy!). Sprinkle mozzarella cheese over each chicken breast. Place back in oven until cheese is melted.

Serves 4. Serve with any type of pasta, the spaghetti sauce, your favorite garlic bread and a Caesar salad! Enjoy!


Coca-Cola Cake: you NEED to make this July 21, 2008

Filed under: Food,Fun stuff,Random — jenncollins @ 12:16 pm

I’m feeling generous…and apparently quite HUNGRY so I’m sharing a free recipe with you all. Unfortunately I did not create this unbelievably scrumptous cake (it combines two of my favorite things: a cake with Coke in it=revolutionary!). I got it from a quaint tea house in Louisville, KY from one of their cookbooks (I wish I could remember the name of said quaint tea house, but like I said earlier, I can’t remember squat).

Anyway, here it is: The Revolutionary Cake aka Coca-Cola Cake (wish I had pictures…but I NEED A CAMERA!)

Chocolate cake

  • 18.25 oz pkg white cake mix
  • 4 T unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 8 T (1 stick) butter, melted
  • 1 C Coca-Cola (the recipe says any “cola” will do…but I must disagree…it has to be Coca-Cola brand or nothing…none of that Pepsi stuff or off-brands)
  • 1/2 C buttermilk
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 t pure vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 C miniature marshmallows

Chocolate frosting

  • 8 T (1 stick) butter
  • 4 T unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/3 C Coca-Cola (same note as above…)
  • 4 C powdered sugar
  • 1 C pecans, chopped (optional – I’m not a big fan of nuts in my cake, but if you are, go for it!)
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease 9-by-13 inch baking pan.
  2. In a large mixing bowl, mix all of the cake ingredients together save the marshmallows. Beat well, until no lumps remain. Fold the marshmallows into the batter.
  3. Pour the batter into greased baking pan. Bake 40-42 minutes. The cake will begin to pull away from the sides of the pan. Allow the cake to cool for about 15 minutes before frosting.
  4. Meanwhile, make the frosting. Place the butter in a large saucepan over medium heat. As butter melts, stir in the cocoa powder and Coca-Cola. Continue stirring until the edges begin to boil; remove the frosting from heat at this point.
  5. If the saucepan is big enough, stir the powdered sugar into the frosting. If necessary, transfer the frosting to a large mixing bowl and then add the powdered sugar. The final mixture should appear glossy and smooth. Fold the pecans into the frosting.
  6. Pour the frosting over the partially cooled cake. Allow the cake and frosting to cool entirely before serving, about 30 minutes.

Serves 12-16

Keep at room temperature for up to 1 week.

I know you’ll love this. Let me know when/if you make it!


What’s up with me

Filed under: Blogging,Family,Food,Life,pregnancy,Random — jenncollins @ 9:47 am

It’s been a while since I posted so I though I’d do a list of stuff that’s happening with me to catch you all up!

  • I’m 22 weeks preggo now (5 1/2 months!!) and Sadie is kicking much harder and more frequently now. Anyone can feel her kick now!!
  • We painted our nursery (pics to come…don’t have a camera right now) mint green and light pink. It’s super cute!
  • I’m showing a little more (again, pics to come).
  • My brother and his wife are moving in 2 weeks to GA where my bro will get his doctorate at UGA. I’m gonna miss them…like, A LOT.
  • My Mom’s turning 50 this week!
  • Joel surprised me on Friday with new maternity jeans and a pink maternity tank top that says “Kicking 24/7”. It was so sweet of him…my pants are beginning to feel tight around my waistline now!
  • I’ve been finding 2 for $5 Coldstone coupons in the paper recently. We’ve been twice already and it’s a great little date! The baby LOVES ice cream…especially Coldstone…she told me.
  • I forget everything now…EVERYTHING. It seems to be accurate that pregnant woman are more clumsy and forgetful than their former non-preggo selves.
  • I ordered this book on last night. I want to buy this, this and this, but I’ve gotta wait for the $$$.
  • We are getting FREE furniture for Sadie’s room from our dear friends…words can’t even express our gratitude!! Along with their generoisty, many other family and friends have given us clothes, bottles, socks! and much more. My cup runneth over (I’ve never said that in my life but that’s how I feel!).

Later in the week I’m going to post my family’s secret spaghetti sauce recipe with Chicken Parmigiana. Consider yourselves lucky…very lucky.


Free recipe June 1, 2008

Filed under: Family,Food,Fun stuff — jenncollins @ 4:46 pm

Many of you may not know that my husband was an MK (missionary kid) growing up. He and his family spent 10 years in Suriname, South America. Nope, they don’t speak Spanish there (I know, weird!), they speak Dutch…totally useless! 🙂 It’s cute to hear him speak Dutch once in a while though!

Anyway, Joel’s Mom makes this meal called Suriname Chicken. It’s one of Joel’s favorite meals and I really liked it too (she made it a few times while we were dating). Well Joel’s birthday was in April and I was deathly ill (dramatic? :)) so I didn’t get to really celebrate his birthday with him. So we finally celebrated it today. I got the recipe from my sister-in-law and made it with an Asian salad (the mix from Publix). It’s very easy and delicious! Recipe follows:

Suriname Chicken
(feeds 4-5)

1 T vegetable oil
1/4 medium onion (i bought the pre-sliced onions from Publix that they sell in the produce dept…already cut into rings and used them all)
1 garlic clove (crushed or minced)
1.5 lb chicken cut into small strips
2-3 T dark soy sauce (you can use regular soy sauce but i happened to have some Tamari, which is a dark soy sauce)
1/3 C water
White rice

Saute onion and garlic in oil until slightly softened. Add chicken and cook until no longer pink. Add soy and water. Cover and let simmer 10-15 minutes…sauce will cook down. Serve over white rice.

It helps to cook it in a wok (i bought one cheap at Ikea) but of course you don’t have to. I don’t know exactly what makes the chicken “Suriname” but it’s delicious and super easy…a great 30 minute meal! Enjoy and let me know if you make it!!