Friday, February 22, 2013

Chicken Stuffed with Spinach and Feta Wrapped with Prosciutto

I often just throw together something for dinner, not bothering to find a recipe but coming up with something on my own.  Of course, this doesn’t mean I ‘invented’ it LOL.  Here’s one I came up with a couple nights ago and it turned out delicious!  Just 4 ingredients … easy! 

Chicken Stuffed with Spinach and Feta
Wrapped with Prosciutto

2 Boneless Chicken Breasts
Approx 4 Tblsps Crumbled Feta
Large Handful of Fresh Spinach
6 slices Prosciutto

Preheat oven to 350°.

Place Chicken Breasts into a ziplock baggy and pound gently with a meat mallet until the breasts are bout a half inch thick.  I actually wish I’d pounded mine a little bit more but was afraid to over pound them because in the past when I did pound them too thin the chicken fell apart when cooked and all the ingredients inside came out!  Place 3 slices of Prosciutto side by side on a cutting board … it doesn’t matter if they overlap.  Remove a Chicken Breast from the baggy and place on top of the Prosciutto.  Then place half of the Feta and Spinach onto the breast.  Roll up all together.  The Prosciutto will hold it together without having to use kitchen twine.  Repeat process with second Chicken Breast.  Don’t worry about any Feta poking out of the chicken as Feta doesn’t really melt it will only soften up.

Place prepared Chicken Breasts in a prepared shallow baking dish and place in oven.  Bake for about 45 minutes.

Note: You can sprinkle with Freshly Ground Black Pepper if you’d like but DO NOT sprinkle with Salt as the Prosciutto is already salty enough you don’t want to add more!!!
Pound Chicken Breasts

Add Stuffing Ingredients

Place in Prepared Baking Dish

Enjoy!  Oh so yummy!

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

When a Loved One Dies

When a Loved One Dies
(and You’re Appointed Executor of the Estate)

First off let me state and make this perfectly clear … I AM NOT AN ATTORNEY so you cannot take this as legal advice … this is something I have gone through myself and therefore know something about.  Please contact an attorney if you need legal advice.  That being said … most of this information is available on the internet; however, I found it all through various websites NOT all in one place … so I felt I needed to share my knowledge to make it a little easier for anyone reading this.  If you’ve not recently lost a loved one … reading this may help you better organize your Estate for your loved ones in the event of your death.

Just an FYI ~ I DID contact and consult an attorney, in order to get the Estate probated, otherwise, I couldn’t have gotten much of anything done without a document proving I was the Executor BUT he did not give me a list of things to do NOR did he advise me verbally of any of these things listed below … the Estate paid a lot of money for what?  A legal document (the Will alone is NOT enough) to prove I was the Executor of the Estate.  That’s it!!!  BUT let me be clear again … you CANNOT do a lot of these things WITHOUT that document!!!!  Document is called Letters Testamentary in Georgia.

My Mama died suddenly in January 2011 so the shock of it has been hard and difficult but since I was named the Executor and went through so much in settling her Estate, I felt I needed to put something on my blog about HOW to handle an Estate and handle it properly.  There is so much to deal with on a legal level … it’s not easy when you are dealing with your grief.

Now just so ya’ll know … I am a certified (well I was, I haven’t kept it active since I left the work force) Paralegal and had a basic knowledge of Estate Planning from a legal aspect so I kinda knew what I was doing but not really, if you know what I mean … emotions running high and all.  When it happens to you … you are not in the right frame of mind that you would be for someone else.  That being said … I still had to ‘learn’ what to do so that the Estate was handled properly.  It was very important to me, and should be to anyone who is appointed the Executor, to distribute the Estate just as my Mama intended it to be.  I had to have an heir added to the Will because the Will did not include this person and I KNEW my Mama wanted the person added … she had told me this verbally many many times but never got around to changing her Will so I did what I KNEW she wanted … I legally had an heir added to her Will as part of the Probate process.

If you are appointed the Executor of a loved ones Estate here is a basic list of things to do.  Most things are common sense; however, during your grieving process you will not be thinking clearly.  A sort of ‘check list’ as this sure would have made it a lot easier in my situation.  PLEASE NOTE: The first item is the most important of all … all other items are NOT necessarily listed in order of importance:

KEYS:  As Executor you have the legal right to hold in your possession ALL keys to the loved ones home(s) and car(s).  Make sure you have ALL keys in your possession immediately!!!  This way, no one can enter the property(s) without your knowledge or drive off with a vehicle.  As Executor you have the legal duty to make sure all possessions are distributed fairly and in accordance with the loved ones wishes … this cannot be done with other people going in and out of the property at their discretion.  Believe me … it will happen IF you do not control the keys!

DOCUMENTS: It sounds heartless but before you do anything, even planning the funeral or memorial service … gather ALL important documents (those listed below) because waiting til later … with others going through the possessions, things might get misplaced or worse yet … lost!  Some things, like Social Security Numbers, are needed while planning funeral service.  AND this can be very confusing IF for example, in my case, my Mama was drawing my Dad’s SS under his SS number and NOT her’s … so the funeral home messed up the Death Certificate by placing my Daddy’s SS number on it INSTEAD of hers!!!  Another unnecessary thing I had to deal with.

LAST WILL AND TESTAMENT: Find the original or a copy right away and contact an attorney as soon as possible regarding probating  (probating the Will is not necessary in the case of a lost spouse).  Unless beneficiaries are on everything OR the accounts are joint accounts in your name and the name of your loved one (bank accounts, investments, automobiles, home, etc.) you will need the verification document from the Probate Court (Letters Testamentary in Georgia) in order to handle selling or disbursing assets (or even paying bills or discontinuing services such as cell phone, electric, cable, etc.).  NOTE: Beneficiary designation(s) on accounts override anything stated in the Will and CANNOT be changed!!!

SOCIAL SECURITY CARD: Locate and secure.  Make sure the correct Social Security Number is given to Funeral Home … that of the deceased and NOT their spouse (see paragraph DOCUMENTS above).

ASSETS AND LIABILITIES: Gather up the MOST current:

*        Bills (electric, cable, cell phone, gas, water, mortgage, etc)
*        Checkbook(s)
*        Bank Statements (both Checking and Savings)
*        Charge Cards
*        Membership Cards
*        Investment Statements
*        Car Titles
*        Stock Certificates
*        Savings Bonds
*        Deeds
*        Tax Returns
*        And any and all other documentation of Assets and Liabilities. 

All of these things will need to be dealt with. 

BILLS: Continue to pay any bills that come in and all regular monthly bills.  Close any accounts that are not needed (i.e. cell phone, internet service, cable, etc.)

CHECKING/SAVINGS ACCOUNTS (registers): If you are not on the checking and savings account (either as a signer or beneficiary) then you must take care of this ASAP in order to pay any bills.  Otherwise, until it is dealt with you will have to pay from your own funds.  Thankfully, my Mama had put both me and my sister on her checking account.

BANK ACCOUNT STATEMENTS: Come in handy when trying to determine a balance in accounts, account numbers, etc.  NOTE: Remember a checkbook register doesn’t usually list account numbers and/or balances.  And also, you might not be aware of HOW many bank accounts there actually are unless you collect ALL the bank statements.

CHARGE CARDS: Continue to pay any balances due; however, check to see if the charge card carries any insurance that will pay off the balance upon owner’s death.  This will normally be listed on a previous statement.  Cancel all charge cards that have no balance … you will need a copy of the Death Certificate and the Letters Testamentary (document verifying you are the Executor of Estate). 

MAIL: File a Change of Address with the United States Postal Service as soon as possible, unless, of course, someone will be able to pick up mail EVERY day.

CREDIT (VERY IMPORTANT … to prevent identity theft): As soon as possible after receiving copies of the Death Certificate, notify all three Credit Bureaus (Transunion, Equifax and Experian) of death via letter enclosing copy of Death Certificate.  I sent them overnight mail!  Request credit files be noted ‘deceased’ so that no new credit can be obtained.  Once documentation verifying that you are the Executor of the Estate (called Letters Testamentary in Georgia) is received, you will then need to write letters again to all three credit bureaus requesting a copy of the credit reports so that all open accounts can be closed.  Not everyone carries charge cards in their wallets for every open charge account so you will need to close ALL open charge accounts.  I did this by writing a letter to each one, enclosing copies of Letters Testamentary and Death Certificate, and mailed Certified Mail requesting verification that account had been closed by return mail.

MEMBERSHIPS: Send a letter enclosing copy of Death Certificate requesting membership be cancelled.  The Estate may be due a refund for the unused months of membership and again prevents identity theft.  Also, do this for any subscriptions (magazines, newspapers, etc.) OR you can just let the subscription run its course since you will be receiving all forwarded mail; however, you WILL receive requests to renew in your loved ones name if you have not contacted them which can go on for years!!!

INSURANCE (auto, home, life and health):  Once the home(s) and automobile(s) have been sold you need to cancel the respective insurance (this will not happen automatically and in most cases a refund is due to the Estate).  Obviously, with health and life, the insurance company needs to be contacted immediately.  IF you do not sell the vehicle(s) right away, make sure whoever will be using or driving the vehicle is listed as a driver on the policy, otherwise, if there is an accident and the driver is NOT listed, the insurance company may not cover the damages.

INVESTMENTS (IRA’s, Stocks, Savings Bonds, etc.): You will need investment statements and stock certificates (or statements, which was all we had) not only for value but for address to contact investment advisor or company in which administers stock holdings.  There is a process to follow and go through when transferring or selling investments/stocks.  These are explained by the respective holder of these accounts but CANNOT be done without Letters Testamentary (proof that you are Executor).  You may not even know some of these investments/stocks/savings bonds exist unless you look through all of your loved ones files.

NOTE: For Savings Bonds … the following website has all the forms and information you will need:

TAXES (to prevent identity theft): Notify Internal Revenue Service and the Department of Treasury for your state via letter enclosing copy of Death Certificate so that no false returns can be filed in your loved ones’ name.  I learned this the hard way and it was too late … someone had already filed a return and received a refund in my Mama’s name!!!!!  AND don’t forget to contact a CPA to find out if tax returns must be filed.

DRIVER’S LICENSE (to prevent identity theft): Notify Department of Transportation via letter enclosing Death Certificate requesting Driver’s License be cancelled and notation be made on driving record of death.

VOTER’S REGISTRATION (to avoid illegal voting): Notify Voter’s Registration in county of registration via letter enclosing copy of Death Certificate so that no one can illegally vote in your loved ones’ name.

CAR TITLE:  If the vehicle(s) is paid off make sure you have the car title.  NOTE: Title cannot be transferred (or vehicle sold) until you have Letters Testamentary.

HOME OR OTHER REAL ESTATE:  Cannot be sold or title transferred without Letters Testamentary.

It all sounds relatively easy when reading it in list form like this but believe me … there is a lot of work involved.  In most cases, multiple telephone calls back and forth to get things done correctly.  Nothing goes smoothly … the government and some companies do not care what you are going through.  Some are even downright RUDE!  My best advice is to handle it as if it is a business dealing … it’s hard to take the emotions out but if you don’t its difficult to handle when emotions get in the way.

Again, this is just a guideline (talk to your attorney for legal advice) … not all of this can be found on one website … at least I couldn’t find it.  The Probate Court gave me a booklet outlining what must be done and not all of this was listed even in that. 

Another note, the Executor is the only person, in most cases, that companies will discuss accounts with. 

IDENTITY THEFT can happen very quickly after the death of a loved one so be sure to handle those items listed above as soon as possible!  I cannot emphasize this enough!  Both my parents had their identity stolen to some degree within a couple weeks of their deaths.  This is NOT something you will want to deal with AFTER the fact … stop it before it happens!

AND of course, this goes without saying, make sure you disburse the Estate as the loved one wished it be done.  Be fair.  Most of Mama’s personal property (the things in her home, furnishings, kitchenware, Rooster collection, Christmas collectibles, photographs … everything) was divided not only between her children but also amongst her 9 grandchildren, who were so appreciative to receive items of their Nana’s.  We had very little leftover and that was given to charity.  It was comforting knowing that the majority of Mama’s ‘things’ were divided amongst her loved ones.  I know it would have pleased her to know this! 

Finally … I cannot stress enough the importance of having the keys to the home and car(s) … otherwise with unlimited access to various family members, things WILL go missing, some important things and some just sentimental.  Sadly, I tried my best to be FAIR but things still went missing and of course no one claimed responsibility.  I found the fairest way to distribute ‘things’, if there were 2 or more ‘wanting’ certain items, was to flip a coin or something of that nature.  Sounds elementary but hey as long as it’s done fairly that’s all that matters.  AND remember, things really don’t mean anything, having it won’t bring your loved one back, and you don’t want to cause friction between yourself and your other relatives … NOTHING is worth fighting over … NOTHING!!!

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Healthier Meatballs

Basic Healthier Meatballs

I don’t really have a proper recipe for Meatballs … I just make them not really measuring anything … but here are some estimates and pics showing some helpful hints. 

1-1/2 lbs Organic Ground Beef or Pork or a Combination of the Two
½ cup Bread Crumbs*
1 Tblsp Italian Seasoning 
¼ cup Freshly Grated Parmesan
¼ cup Dry Parsley
Sea Salt and Freshly Ground Black Pepper

Mix it all together with your hands … I use restaurant disposable gloves.  Then use a melon baller to scoop up the right amount and roll in your hands to get uniform ball shape.  For use in soups, such as Italian Wedding Soup, I make them the size of marbles.  Since this is a process … the rolling … I usually make a double batch and freeze them AFTER they have been precooked.

My hubby came up with a quicker method in making the marble sized meatballs.  We roll out the meat (into a log form) after all ingredients have been added to the diameter of marbles, cut off marble sized sections, then roll.  This sure makes the process go much much faster!!!

There’s several ways to cook your meatballs and I have tried them all … there’s not much difference in the finished result but here’s the how to:

  •      Poach them in boiling water, dropping them in one at a time so they do not stick to each other.
  •    Pan Fry them in a single layer in a bit of EVOO.
  •           Bake them in the oven spaced out on a cookie sheet (as shown in my pics).
I still have not determined HOW to get them to maintain their uniform perfectly round shape after cooking so if any of you have any hints on this, by all means, please share!!!

*The Bread Crumbs I use contain only 5 clean ingredients and are preservative free and free from HFCS.  

The Meatballs on the BACK were baked and
those on the FRONT were poached.  See ... not
much difference, is there?

Saturday, February 16, 2013

To Pinterest or Not to Pinterest

So you’ve found Pinterest huh?  And like the rest of us you’re addicted?  LOL  Yea, well don’t feel bad the rest of us went a little nuts the first few weeks or maybe it was months!  LOL  Just sloooooow down and breathe … that cute little dress, or yummy looking recipe and that ‘must do’ DIY project just may still be there when you’re ready to make it.  Really, it will!!
I, like a lot of people, went a little NUTSO when I first was introduced to Pinterest by my son and daughter-in-law … Anthony texted me right away after he heard about it cause he knows me well =) and boy did I go to town pinning away to my preset ‘Boards’.  Eventually, I learned to create and name my own Boards, otherwise, I was just gonna have a bunch of Pins with no organization to them at all … had to give them names that I could remember and create Boards for my needs!

Yep, I too, AT FIRST, pinned everything I loved, looked good or thought was an awesome idea … BUT seriously, was I really ever going to make those dozens of ‘poke cakes’ or that coffee table made from an old ‘Radio Flyer’ wagon or was I really going to paint my nails that color/design?  Nah!  So … I learned to slooooooooow down and breathe … just kinda stepped back a little and start pinning to Boards truly useful ideas, recipes and projects … you know, stuff that I would realistically attempt to make or do.

Took me a while to learn too that that wonderful picture of some yummy looking and sounding (from the description beneath it – THAT, by the way can be totally personalized, yep … you can totally change its wording to fit your need)  dish might just NOT have a recipe to go with it!  Sooooooo, now I click on the picture which leads to a link (hopefully) where the recipe is located and actually read the recipe to make sure I really might want to make it.  I’ve been disappointed, pretty often, to find … there is no dang recipe!!!!

And Lord have mercy ya’ll … that hundredth “decorator” cupcake you’ve pinned today … are you really gonna be making it?  Take a step back from your computer and breathe.  OR that five thousandth arts and crafts project … now when are you seriously gonna find time to make ALL of them and where are you gonna put them all?  =)  Don’t feel bad though … we’ve all been there … well some have gone a little crazier than others but just the same …we’ve all been there!

Pinterest has been awesome for me … I’ve found dozens of recipes, about a dozen of which I’ve actually tried … I’ve been inspired to actually (instead of dreaming about it) design and make my own Arts & Crafts and Sewing room, I’ve completed numerous ‘projects’ because I’ve gotten the idea or inspiration from Pinterest and I’ve certainly taken advantage of the numerous ‘cleaning’, organization, storage, kitchen hints and decorating tips … whew … tons of stuff really … what did I do without it?  Seriously!  Honey if someone else can do it … I certainly can and so I’ve put my behind to work … baking, cooking, gluing, redecorating, hanging, painting, sewing, hammering and even pulling together some really cute outfits and dressing a little more chic … LOL, I may be showing my age using that word.

Well … on the other side of the coin, some just don’t get Pinterest and THAT, I cannot figure out why?  It’s like … don’t you ever cook, sew, decorate, hang a picture, dress yourself, get a new haircut, dream about your dream house, paint, exercise, find ways to eat healthy, use quotes, decorate for holidays, try to entertain a child, clean, use your iPhone, read a book, reminisce, bake a cake, repaint your walls, plan a party, travel???  Well it’s all there on Pinterest! 

Have fun with it people … but don’t let it get so overwhelming that your Boards are full with hundreds and hundreds of things that you will never ever have time to do … and certainly don’t let yourself get so drawn in that you have no idea what is even going on around you.  Limits!  I ‘try’ to be realistic about what I pin … ask myself “am I really gonna ever make this recipe” or “am I really gonna ever try to find this item or that item to ‘reuse’ and ‘repurpose’ “

Have fun Pinning!!!

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Ham and Bean Soup

This is Scott's own recipe!  He came up with this recipe after trying the "Official Navy Bean Soup" from a cookbook we picked up at Captain Anderson's in Panama City Beach, FL but their recipe wasn't quite what he was looking for  ... plus that one uses Navy Beans and he wanted something using Great Northern Beans, which are a little creamier than the Navy Bean ... this recipe is perfect!!!    He's actually cooking up a pot as I write this and it smells sooooo good I can taste it.  

Ham and Bean Soup

4 cans Great Northern Beans, undrained *
1-1/2 lbs Ham, diced
2  Tblsps each of Butter and Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1/2 lb Carrots, sliced or diced
1/2 lb Celery, sliced
1/2 Lrg Onion, chopped or diced
4 Cloves Garlic,  minced
1 tsp Fresh Cracked Black Pepper
2 cans Vegetable Broth
2 tsps Ham Base

Heat Butter and EVOO in a soup pot.  Add Onions and Garlic and sweat.  Add Carrots and Celery and cook for about 2-3 minutes.  Add remaining ingredients EXCEPT for one can of the Beans.  *Crush the one can of Beans in a separate bowl with a potato masher and then add to soup (this acts as the thickener).

Scott mashing the one can of beans.
Let simmer for 1-2 hours or until the Carrots have cooked thoroughly.

HINT: Scott uses a mandolin to slice the Carrots and Celery.
Close up ... now doesn't that look yummy?

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Cannellini, Leeks and Spinach Soup

Another find from Pinterest and again I changed it up a bit, but just a tiny bit.  It’s a very good, light sorta soup which can easily be made vegetarian or even vegan, if needed.  Hope you enjoy it as much as I do.

Cannellini, Leeks and Spinach Soup

2 teaspoons Extra Virgin Olive Oil
4 Leeks, bulb only, chopped
2 Cloves Garlic, chopped
2 (16 ounce) cans Chicken Broth
2 (16 ounce) cans Cannellini Beans, rinsed and drained
2 Bay Leaves
2 teaspoons ground Cumin
1/4 cup Acini di Pepe Pasta or Whole Wheat Couscous
2 cups packed Fresh Spinach
Sea Salt and Fresh Cracked Pepper to taste

Heat EVOO in a large soup pot over medium heat.  Add the Leeks and Garlic; saute until tender, about 5 minutes.  Stir in the Chicken Broth, Cannellini Beans, Bay Leaves and Cumin.  Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low, and stir in the Pasta Or Couscous.  (I cooked my Pasta separately then added it.)  Cover, and simmer for 5 minutes.  Stir in Spinach and season with Salt and Pepper.  Serve immediately.