Catching Katy

Reads, Eats, & Everything Else


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Saltine Cracker Toffee

I love sweet and salty. One thing I have always remembered my grandmama making was saltine cracker toffee. It’s like a faux toffee or brittle. And it’s super easy. Recently, I ate something that had the same flavor so I made a mental note to find the recipe and make it, especially after learning that my husband’s family had never had this incredible concoction before. Then, like a mind reader, my mom made some for our family Christmas get-together, except she made hers with graham crackers instead of saltines.

My memory is not always the best, but I know I remember grandmama making this with saltines. And luckily my cousin remembered the same. So I got the recipe from my mom (which did use graham crackers), found something similar online to compare that used saltines, and kind of combined and tweaked the two to make a delicious Saltine Cracker Toffee.

None of the measurements have to be exact and there are a lot of ways to modify this recipe. Apparently a lot of people add chocolate too. I love chocolate but there are SO many chocolate treats that I prefer this one without. You can also use different kinds of nuts or no nuts at all! That is the beauty of this recipe.

Try it out and let me know (a) how you like it and (b) how you modify it! Individual steps/tips and pictures are next or see the recipe below.

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The recipe requires a simple 3 ingredients. Yes, that’s right – only 3. Saltines, butter, and brown sugar. Oh and some cooking spray and aluminum if you want to count those.

Preheat oven to 350°. Line a baking sheet (one that has sides and is not completely flat) with aluminum foil then spray with cooking spray. Line up saltine crackers to fill the cookie sheet. If you are using nuts and need to chop them, go ahead and do that.

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In a medium sized saucepan, melt butter over medium-low heat. I cut the sticks into smaller pieces just to help it melt quicker. Once it’s about halfway melted, add the brown sugar. Once butter is completely melted, bring to boil over medium heat for about 3 minutes or until it thickens and the sugar has dissolved. Stir constantly during this part. You want the butter and sugar to be completely combined and be the color of caramel.

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Once that is done, pour it evenly over the saltine crackers and spread with a knife or spoon or spatula. It does not have to be perfect and it will spread out more in the oven, but try to cover all cracker with sauce as best you can.

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Sprinkle nuts on top. You can use and much or as little as you like and again – perfection is not a thing. Place in oven and bake for about 10 minutes. You want it to be golden brown.

Remove from oven and let cool. It will cool faster if you take the foil (with the toffee) off the cookie sheet. I also let it cool about 10 minutes on the counter then put it in the refrigerator to finish cooling. After it cools, break into pieces and enjoy! These were a HUGE hit at my office holiday party and it’s super easy to make.

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Saltine Cracker Toffee

Ingredients

  • 40-50 saltine crackers
  • 2 sticks of butter
  • 1 C light brown sugar (packed)
  • 1 C chopped pecans

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350°
  2. Line a cookie sheet (with sides) with aluminum foil and spray with cooking spray
  3. Place saltine crackers in single layer covering cookie sheet
  4. Place butter in a medium saucepan over medium-low heat. Stir until butter is about halfway melted then add brown sugar.
  5. Once butter is melted, bring to a boil over medium heat for about 3 minutes. Stir constantly. The goal is for the sugar to be dissolved and combined with butter, the mixture to be thickened, and to be a caramel color.
  6. Pour butter-sugar mixture evenly over saltines. Spread out with a utensil (knife, spoon, spatula, etc.).
  7. Sprinkle pecans on top.
  8. Place in oven and bake for about 10 minutes or until golden brown.
  9. Remove pan from oven and take foil & toffee off of the pan. Let cool then break into pieces. Can also place in refrigerator to cool.

Notes

You can use whatever nuts you want or no nuts at all. Print the recipe here: Saltine Cracker Toffee


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White Sandy Beaches

Since I took a hiatus from the blog, I want to go back and cover some things that happened during that hiatus. Our wedding was a major part of the time which could cover many, many posts. Those posts are TBD. But the honeymoon was definitely the best part of my hiatus (besides the vows of course, honey) and I definitely want to share that.

My husband planned the honeymoon with a little help from Jennifer at Epperly Travel. Regardless, it was one thing I did not have to think about at all and yes, I completely trusted him with this planning. And he actually succeeded in keeping it a surprise! Jennifer was very helpful with the details and it was nice to know there was someone there to handle any last minute details or unforeseen disasters. He had some parameters we discussed together – beach, all-inclusive, and not somewhere that took a lot of travel time (have to maximize that vacation time). I definitely recommend going the travel agent route for your honeymoon and Epperly Travel was fantastic.

We ended up at Sandals Emerald Bay Resort in Great Exuma, Bahamas. I won’t lie – when I heard we were going to the Bahamas, I was a little underwhelmed. When I think Bahamas, the only thing I picture is Atlantis and super water slides and tourists. But that image could not have been further from the truth. Great Exuma is further south than Grand Bahama, Nassau, and the better-known parts of the Bahamas. It was a 2 hour non-stop flight from Atlanta (perfect) to the quaint little airport in Georgetown then we were shuttled the mere 20 minutes to the resort.

My next recommendation for an all-inclusive trip is to splurge at least once for the butler service. It just makes your trip feel that more special and personal. Our butlers made our dinner and spa reservations, claimed beach chairs for us every day, brought drinks and snacks to the beach, brought dinner to the room if we wanted to dine in, and just made sure we had everything we needed at all times.

So how was it?! The beach was beautiful and about a mile long, private just to the resort guest. The weather was perfect – not too hot and I think I wore a sweater one evening while we were there. April is a great time to go. Two pools – the party pool and the quiet pool gave good options depending on your mood. The food was delicious. There are 11 restaurants and we ate at 10 of them. One is just coffee and desserts and some are just for lunch. Our favorite was definitely La Parisienne, the French restaurant. It was so nice to not have to worry  about paying for anything.

There are also plenty of activities included if you are not the lay and do nothing on the beach type. We do enjoy laying doing nothing (at the beach at least), especially after the wedding, but we made sure to try out a couple activities. There is a cruise-ship type schedule of activities every day (corn hole tournament, karaoke, etc.) if that’s your thing. There are water sports included. We went out on a hobie cat (like a sailboat) and took a kayak out one day. There are also swings and hammocks along the beach which was a nice change of pace from the lounge chairs. This resort also has golf if that’s your thing!

I realize this post is getting long so I am going to save our excursion for a separate post because there is plenty to say about that as well. It really is like a cruise on land! We also hit up the spa for a couples massage and it was wonderful and relaxing. You have to treat yo’self on your honeymoon!

This was my first all-inclusive and my first Sandals experience and I really have nothing but good things to say about it. Sandals Emerald Bay was perfect for us. We have a list of others we would like to visit because we will definitely be repeat Sandals customers.

I leave you with a little video I made. It was fun to have a Go Pro on the trip to get some extra memories and water pictures and video. Look for the excursion post to come – it was definitely the icing on the cake.


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Pasta Primavera

This was a Home Chef delivery I got recently. It was a simple recipe that seemed to be easily modified, so I gave it a shot. It’s easy to make, very little prep, and has a pretty easy shopping list. All the amounts are estimates, so you can easily add more or less of something. Or you can completely change items (pasta type, specific vegetables, type of cheese). Home Chef recipes are for 2 servings, but pasta recipes usually make more than 2 for me. And my recreation fed me 4 meals.

Full recipe below after an overview of steps and pictures. Enjoy!

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Pretty simple and easy to find ingredients. The original recipe called for cavatappi pasta, which my grocery store did not have. Easy to substitute your favorite pasta though! I used whole grain penne.

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Start water boiling for the pasta and prep your ingredients. Halve the tomatoes, cut zucchini into quarter-slices, trim asparagus and cut into 1 inch pieces, and drain the artichokes. Roughly crush a handful of croutons.

 

 

Sear the vegetables. Start with asparagus and zucchini, then add tomatoes and artichokes.

 

When pasta is cooked, drain, return to pot and toss with some olive oil.

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To make the sauce, heat evaporated milk until slightly thickened. Add Parmesan cheese and breadcrumbs. Remove from heat and add butter. Season with salt and pepper.

 

Add everything to pan with sauce and toss! I added some chicken to mine.

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Serve with a sprinkle of Parmesan cheese and crumbled goat cheese (I totally forgot the goat cheese before I took pictures and dug in – sorry)!

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Pasta Primavera

Ingredients:

  • 5 oz. (half a carton) grape tomatoes
  • 5 oz. (8-10 stalks) asparagus
  • 1 zucchini
  • 6 oz. jar artichoke hearts
  • Handful of seasoned croutons
  • 8 oz. (half a box) pasta (whatever kind you want – I used penne)
  • 2 tsp. + 2 tsp. olive oil
  • 12 oz. canned evaporated whole milk
  • ½ C grated Parmesan cheese (+ extra for serving)
  • 2 Tbsp. butter
  • 2 oz. (half a container) crumbled goat cheese
  • Salt & Pepper
  • optional addition: cooked protein (chicken, shrimp, sausage)

Directions:

Start water to boil in a medium pot for pasta. Cook according to directions on box.

Prep ingredients: halve grapes tomatoes; trim bottoms off asparagus and cut into 1 inch pieces; cut zucchini into half moons; drain artichokes; put croutons in a ziploc bag and crush into coarse breadcrumbs.

Heat 2 tsp. olive oil in a large pan on medium-high heat. Add asparagus and zucchini and cook 4-5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add grape tomatoes and artichokes and cook 2 more minutes. Transfer to a plate or bowl and set aside.

When pasta is finished cooking, drain in colander, return to pot, and toss with 2 tsp. olive oil. Set aside.

Return same large pan to medium heat. Add evaporated milk to hot pan and bring to a simmer. Cook 4-5 minutes or until slightly thickened, stirring often. Stir in Parmesan cheese and breadcrumbs. Cook 2-3 minutes or until sauce is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon, Remove pan from burner and swirl in butter. Season with salt and pepper.

Add pasta and vegetables (and cooked protein if you have it) to pan with the sauce. Toss to coat everything in sauce.

Serve topped with a sprinkle of Parmesan cheese and goat cheese crumbles.

[modified from Home Chef recipe]


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Nicaragua

If you know me personally, you probably know that I have been lucky enough to have done several international service trips in the past 10 years to Guatemala (3 trips) and Haiti (1 trip). Those trips were unforgettable and gave me a chance to not only experience other cultures and grow personally, but to see first-hand both the struggles and strengths of other cultures and people.

Over the past few years, Buckhead Church (a campus of North Point Ministries) has become a very important place to me. I volunteer in the children’s ministry as well as on the Singles Volunteer Team. I have also built wonderful relationships through two different small groups over the years. And this year, I decided to apply for a Global X trip.

June 18-25 this year, I will join 12 others to Nicaragua to serve the people there. I am excited for the relationships that can come out of an experience like this, both within our group and abroad. I am also excited for what we, as a group, can do with the people of Nicaragua, both physically and relationally. We will work with HOI, a nondenominational, nonprofit Christian organization headquartered in Tucker, GA, in Finca el Peten, Nicaragua. Our team will have the opportunity to help with construction projects as well as work with children at VBS.

This trip cannot happen, however, without the support of you, my wonderful and supportive friends and family. I am asked to raise $2,250 and I am asking you for any support you can offer – $5, $20, $100 – no amount is too small or too large, and it’s tax deductible! If you cannot support me financially I totally understand, but do ask for your thoughts and prayers in preparing for this trip.
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Thank you in advance for your support (and for those have already donated) and I can’t wait to share my experience with you later this year!

If you would like to write a check, please contact me for details.

Peace and love,
Katy


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Orange Chicken

There aren’t many recipes I’ve gotten from Home Chef (or Plated or Blue Apron or Hello Fresh) that I keep, much less make again. They are good meals, but many ingredients are odd, specific, or in weird amounts. But I attempted to make one on my own this week and it was delicious!

This one was from Home Chef: Healthy Takeout Orange Chicken. It was pretty easy, though I did have to modify a few ingredients and amounts. I didn’t get every step photographed, but this gives you an idea. And full recipe is below!

ingredients

ingredients

Cook the rice (I use my rice cooker – it will change your life).

Prep the ingredients: zest and juice the orange; mince ginger and garlic; cut chicken and coat; make sauce

prep

prep

Cook the chicken: brown the chicken and chiles (or crushed red pepper); add sauce and let thicken

cook chicken

cook chicken

 

make sauce

make sauce

Make dressing: whisk dressing ingredients together. I tossed it over broccoli (steam-in-bag) but recipe makes a spinach salad

dressing

dressing

And enjoy! And yes, this was my Bachelor finale meal to enjoy. And yes that was my winning prize for a previous season bracket win. What? Oh and it goes great with a cirtus-y white wine (I had Rex Goliath Sauvignon Blanc). Perfection.

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Healthy Orange Chicken

Ingredients

  • 1 C jasmine rice (uncooked)
  • 1 navel orange
  • 1 garlic clove
  • 2 tsp ginger
  • 2 chicken breasts
  • 2 tsp sugar
  • 2 tsp cornstarch
  • 4 Tbsp soy sauce
  • Crushed red pepper* to taste
  • ½ Tbsp sesame seeds
  • Salt & Pepper to taste
  • ¼ C water
  • 4 tsp olive oil
  • 1 bag frozen broccoli

*the original recipe used dried arbol chiles, which were delicious, but I couldn’t any. If you can find them, use 1 for mild heat, 2 for medium, and so on – however much heat you want. I think I used 1-2 tsp. of crushed red pepper instead and it had a kick.

Directions

Cook rice according to package instructions or in rice cooker.

Zest and juice the orange. Mince garlic and ginger.

Cut chicken into 1″ pieces and place in bowl with sugar, half the garlic, half the cornstarch, 1 Tbsp soy sauce, and salt and pepper. Toss to coat.

Mix remaining cornstarch (1 tsp), remaining soy sauce (3 Tbsp) and ¼ cup water with ¾ of the orange juice in a small bowl to make sauce.

Add 2 tsp olive oil to medium pan over high heat. Add chicken and desired amount of chiles or sprinkle with desired amount of crushed red pepper. Cook for 3-4 minutes, stirring frequently, until chicken is browned.

Add remaining garlic, half the ginger (1 tsp), and half the orange zest to the pan with chicken and cook for 30 seconds or until fragrant.

Add soy-orange juice sauce to pan and cook until sauce thickens, about 5 minutes. Season with a pinch of salt and pepper and set aside.

While chicken cooks, mix remaining ginger, half the sesame seeds (¼ Tbsp), remaining orange juice, and 2 tsp olive oil in a small bowl with a pinch of salt and pepper. Whisk together.

Cook broccoli (I use frozen steam-in-bag). When done, pour dressing over broccoli and toss.

Plate it! Arrange rice, broccoli, and orange chicken on plate. Garnish with remaining orange zest and sesame seeds.

Makes 2 servings; ~35 minutes to prepare

[adapted from Home Chef recipe]


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Crock Pot Chicken Pot [Not] Pie

It’s been a while since I’ve tried any new recipes. Life’s been a little crazy – work, 2 classes (and the work for that), alumni events, and trying to make the most of some un-seasonally warm weather. And what better way to cook with a busy schedule than my Crock Pot! I wanted something easy without any strange ingredients. And when I came across this pot pie recipe it sounded like the perfect February comfort meal to follow up some studying.

It seemed a little bland so I tweaked a little with some poultry seasoning. Still could be better so I’ll continue to tweak. If you want to experiment, poultry seasoning is a mix of thyme, sage, marjoram, rosemary, black pepper, and nutmeg. Or maybe you have a better idea – please share!

This is an easy and yummy meal and it’s going to get me through the week. Enjoy!

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Crock Pot Chicken Pot [Not] Pie

Ingredients

  • 4 frozen chicken breasts
  • 2 cans cream of chicken soup
  • 3 large potatoes
  • 12 oz. bag frozen peas and carrots
  • ½ bag frozen chopped onion
  • 1 chicken bullion cube
  • salt & pepper to taste
  • Poultry seasoning to taste
  • Dried parsley to taste (optional)
  • Frozen or canned biscuits (or make your own!)

Directions

Peel and dice the potatoes. Place frozen chicken in bottom of crock pot.

Mix the potatoes, cream of chicken soup, & frozen vegetables. Season with salt, pepper, & poultry seasoning. Pour onto top of chicken in crock pot. Add chicken bullion cube.

Cook on low 8-10 hours. Use a spoon to break up the chicken and mix well with veggies. Season with additional salt, pepper, & poultry seasoning as needed.

Bake/make biscuits (I do 1 per serving).

Place bottom half of biscuit in bowl. Cover with chicken from crock pot. Top with top half of biscuit and sprinkle of dried parsley.

[modified from The Monthly Lineup]


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Tavernpointe

My friend Kate and I had tickets to a concert – my favorite, Marc Broussard – and decided to make a night of it. We both like to try out new restaurants so we searched around Midtown near the concert venue. We came across Tavernpointe and it had decent reviews so we made a reservation. Then my friend came across a Scoutmob dinner for two deal – our lucky day!

If you’re a planner, like my friend and I, or just get really excited for new restaurants, don’t plan ahead for Tavernpointe. Get excited, just don’t plan ahead. They have a few staples that stay on the menu, but for the most part it changes regularly. The chef decides what looks good at that time, what’s in season, etc. and plans the menu. Pretty cool.

Our deal included two cocktails – I got the Herbal Remedy and Kate got the Peaches and Peppers Sangria. The difficulty in choosing a drink from this menu is that they all have at least one interesting ingredient that makes you pause. For example, the Herbal Remedy has a green bell pepper sauce. Don’t pause too long – it was delicious.

photo cred: Kate

photo cred: Kate

Next came the fresh rolls and herb butter, which everyone gets. No better way to describe these than simply amazing. The next part of our deal was a meat & cheese board – one meat, one cheese (I can’t remember what they were), red onion jelly (interesting and delicious), 420 beer mustard, and caramel popcorn.

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meat & cheese board

Lastly was an entree each. I had a risotto with two types of mushrooms, peas, and Parmesan. Kate had linguine with pork. The pasta is made there fresh every day – how often do you get fresh pasta? – but the rest of the menu looks great as well.

risotto

risotto

Tavernpointe is trendy and super cozy, but not too couple-y. Great for date night, girls night, guys night, group outing. The location is a little concerning as it is not exactly in a high traffic part of Midtown – at that weird intersection of Peachtree Street and Spring Street – and is in the bottom of an office building. Hopefully they still get plenty of traffic and good reviews. But definitely give it a chance. I highly doubt you’ll be disappointed.