Saturday, January 31, 2009

Oat'N'Toffee Grahams

More Food . . . But this one is a delicious dessert- who doesn't want dessert?

And seriously, look at it . . . it is gorgeous.

We had this for dessert the night we had Chicken and Spiced Jam. So good.

Oat'N'Toffee Grahams
Adapted from Better Homes and Gardens
  • 6 graham crackers (rectangles) (I used some leftover homemade ones)
  • 3/4 Cup rolled oats
  • 1/3 Cup sugar
  • 1/3 Cup Brown sugar
  • 1 1/2 Tbsp flour
  • 1/3 Cup butter, melted
  • 1 Egg, lightly beaten
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 6 oz. chocolate chips ( I just sprinkled some on top- use as many as you want)
Directions:
~Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a 1 inch or higher rimmed baking sheet with tin foil, making sure the foil comes above the edge of the baking sheet. (Believe me, you will thank me for this later.)
~Arrange the graham crackers in the pan so they are all close together.
~Mix together dry ingredients, then add wet ingredients and stir until well combined.
~Spoon mixture over crackers, making sure all the crackers get some of the good stuff.
~Bake for 20-25 minutes- until the oat mixture bubbles and it lightly browned. Add some chocolate and put back in the oven for a minute or two.
~Spread melted chocolate around.
~Let cool in pan on a wire rack if you have one. When cool, use foil to take the grahams out of the pan. Remove foil and cut or break into pieces.

Note: The recipe called for you to add coarsely chopped almonds after spreading the melted chocolate. Since I am allergic, I opted to avoid the almonds, but for those of you who can digest almonds without pain- I think it would be a nice addition to the dessert.

Friday, January 30, 2009

Chicken with Spiced Tomato Jam


Sorry we are a little heavy on the food posts lately. I have not been able to do any cleaning or crafting because my "on again- off again" relationship with the thesis is back on. We have been going hot and heavy for the past few days. But we always have to eat, so food it is!

We used our bread crumbs with this chicken, and it turned out quite well. Here is a "action" shot of Chris breading the chicken. Ooooo - I know, very impressive.


Here is the recipe:

Chicken with Spiced Tomato Jam
adapted from Better Homes and Gardens magazine

Note: We adjusted the recipe for 4 chicken legs rather than the 12 the recipe calls for, but we didn't write the conversions down, and I am too lazy to do it now, so I will just give you the recipe as if you were to make 12 legs. Good luck with that.

Chicken:
  • 3/4 Cup dry bread crumbs
  • 1/3 Cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/4 + 1/2 teaspoon salt (we used Super Salt- which I have not blogged about- maybe someday)
  • 1/4 Cup olive oil
  • 2 Tbsp mustard
  • 1 Tbsp lemon juice
  • 12 chicken drumsticks
Spiced Jam:
  • 14.5 oz can undrained diced tomatoes
  • 1/4 Cup Brown sugar
  • 2 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • 1/4 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp ginger
  • 1 Tbsp butter
For chicken:
~Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line baking sheet with parchment paper.
~Combine crumbs, cheese and 1/4 tsp salt together.
~Combine oil, mustard, lemon juice and 1/2 tsp salt.
~Brush oil mixture on chicken, then roll the chicken in the crumbs.
~Place on baking sheet and cook for 45 minutes, or until no longer pink.

For Jam:
~Combine all ingredients in a sauce pan. Bring to a boil.
~Reduce heat and simmer for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Simmer until most of the liquid has evaporated.
~Stir in butter until melted.

Chris really liked the jam; I was only "so-so." If you make it, let me know what you think.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Homemade Bread Crumbs

I have been known to make my own bread, and sometimes it is not the best. So when it doesn't get eaten, I usually freeze it, hoping that it will someday come to some good. Like today! I found a recipe for cooking breaded chicken legs- which requires bread crumbs. Since we didn't have any, I thought I would try to make some from my bread.

So I tried it, and you know what- making bread crumbs is honestly one of the easiest things I have ever done. All you do is take some dry bread (not stale), toast it a bit in the oven, then pulverize it in your food processor and you are done. Seriously. It is that easy.


I can't want to give them a try tonight!

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Rosemary Garlic Chicken with Lemon in my Green pot


Over Christmas, my sister showed us this Chicken recipe. MmmmMmmm. Super Easy. So we shared it with the in-laws a few nights ago. It was a huge hit.

Here are the directions:

~Take some form of chicken (my sister used chicken breasts, we used thighs here) and rub with a few cloves of smashed garlic (I enlisted the husband for this job).
~Sprinkle dutch oven (or any baking casserole) with a little dried rosemary.
~Lay Chicken in baking pan of choice.
~Sprinkle more rosemary and add a few tablespoons of lemon juice.

Bake at 350 until chicken is done.

We served the chicken over rice with some green beans.

So easy and yet so good!

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

The Sewing Has Begun!


My first project since 8th grade is now underway. I wanted to show you some progress as I go, because this is a huge undertaking for me. I am amazed at how tedious, and yet rewarding this cutting process has been. But I have now moved on to sewing the rectangles together- quite fun. I'll keep you posted.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Too Many Minutes Monday

The Hyper Homemaker routinely has "Fifteen Minute Friday" posts where she does some spiffy cleaning or arranging that takes her fifteen minutes. In an attempt to emulate her (the most true form of flattery) I tried to do a fifteen minute Monday. I wanted to change the set up over our fireplace. We have had our engagement photo that was signed at the wedding for the past, well 2 and a half years, so I thought it was time for something a bit more up to date. The whole ordeal should have taken about 15 minutes. Really, how hard is it to take down a frame and hang up a clock and wooden plaque? Alas, I am not a Hyper Homemaker because it took me a good 30 minutes or so to get it all just right and clean up the mess I had made. Thus- Too Many Minutes Monday.


In the end, I think it looks pretty good, what do you think?

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Couch Part Deux

Sorry this is so long in coming. But the new couch is now in its place! tada!


All it needs is someone who can actually put on a slipcover and some throw pillows. It is so nice to be able to shove that large Love Sac into the space between the couch and wall.

Here is a before shot:


Before, the large couch we had was a hand-me-down from Chris' brother (thank you brother (ha! as if you would read this!)). The couch also had to share the living room with a formless blob, known as a Love Sac. Despite our attempts to contain it, the sac had its way with the entire living room area (which is not ideal in our spatially challenged one bedroom apartment). Someday it will be relegated to a basement play-area/ game room or something, but for now the Love Turd remains front and center, slightly more contained.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Redemption is Mine!

Yesterday we had the in-laws over for dinner, and I decided to try my Italian Cream Cake again. After learning from last time, I added some raisins and cinnamon to the batter, and when I beat up the egg whites, I cleaned the bowl and dried it. tada!


Stiff Peaks, baby!

But honestly, I don't think the stiff peaks made a difference in the cake at all. It still has the texture of a muffin rather than a cake. Oh well. Still fantastic cream cheese frosting. = )

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Homemade Lasagna

Yesterday was our 2 and 1/2 year anniversary! Go us!

To celebrate, we decided to have homemade Lasagna. Oh my gosh- it was SOOOO good. I think it may be the best lasagna I have ever had. But I have no pictures. Chris started to dig in as soon as it came out of the oven, and then I forgot to take a picture before we put it away in the fridge and now it looks pretty unappetizing. (However, I just ate some for lunch and it still tastes good!) Please don't let my lack of pictures dissuade you- honestly this is FANTASTIC lasagna.

Two-Sauce Lasagna
adapted from Get Togethers Cookbook
  • 1 lb ground bison
  • 15 oz cottage cheese
  • 8 oz shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 1/4 Cup Parmesan cheese
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 26 oz jar tomato pasta sauce (we used Classico Fire-Roasted Tomato and Garlic)
  • 10 whole wheat lasagna noodles
  • 1 10 oz frozen spinach (thawed and drained)
  • 1 16 oz jar Alfredo sauce (we used Classico Sun-dried Tomato)
Directions:
~Brown the bison. Drain.
~Combine cottage cheese, mozzarella cheese, eggs, and two tablespoons of Parmesan cheese. Mix well.
~Spread 1/3 tomato sauce in bottom of 9 x 13 pan.
~Layer 3.33 noodles (You can do this if your noodles fall apart while cooking like mine did), 1/2 the cheese mixture, 1/2 the spinach, 1/3 tomato sauce, and half the bison.
~Repeat layers.
~Top with remaining noodles. Spread Alfredo over the top and sprinkle with Parmesan cheese.
~Bake, covered, for 40 minutes at 350 degrees. Uncover and bake for 15 more minutes.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Only in Colorado

When I arrived at work today, I found my clients (ages 3 and 5) having a picnic lunch on the deck in their swimming suits. We spent the afternoon playing in the kiddy pool, sipping lemonade, and running barefoot on the still cool lawn.

What is up with that? It is January, people!

Oh yeah, it is going to snow this weekend.

Cheesy Beans and Rice

Last night is the one night a week that Chris and I both come home late (for us) around 6:15. And because we had been eating a lot of our frozen "convenience" meals lately, I decided to make dinner in the afternoon so we would not be tempted with frozen Kiev again (even though it is sooo good!). So I made dinner- we had the meatless fare of rice and beans.


There is a bit more to dinner than just beans and rice- so here is the recipe:

Cheesy Beans and Rice
adapted from Get Togethers cookbook
  • 1 Cup uncooked brown rice
  • 1 15 oz can rinsed black beans
  • 1 tbsp butter
  • 1 Cup chopped onions
  • 1 Cup chopped red and orange peppers
  • 1 14.5 oz can diced tomatoes
  • 1 1/2 Cup shredded cheese
  • 1/2 Cup peas (I added these for good measure- we all need a little green)
  • salt to taste
Directions:
~Cook rice. Combine rice and beans in large bowl.
~Melt butter in skillet and saute onions and bell peppers for about 5 minutes.
~Add undrained tomatoes to skillet and simmer for 5 more minutes.
~Layer 1/2 bean mixture, 1/3 cheese, and 1/2 tomato mixture in a 7 x 11 baking pan. Sprinkle all the peas. Repeat layering.
~Top with remaining cheese.
~Bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes.

Note:
The original recipe calls for 1/2 teaspoon chili powder and 1 4 oz can green chile peppers (drained), but my northern palate does not handle that much oomph so I left it out. If you want to add it back in, it would be added to the tomato mixture right before you start layering.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Cooking Light- Italian Cream Cake

This weekend Chris and I went Lindy Hop dancing at a small studio in Boulder. It was great- they gave us a lesson teaching us a few moves and then let us stick around and dance with some really good swinging fools!

We went with another couple (our good friends) who live in Boulder, and met them for dinner before the dance. I was in charge of dessert- my favorite. In an effort to make something other than cookies, I decided to make cake. Italian Cream Cake to be exact. But unfortunately, this cake will fall under the category of "failure." It tasted much like a bran muffin with cream cheese frosting.


I am pretty sure I failed for three reasons.
Number one: I did not have the coconut extract or pecans the recipe called for, so I left them out and ended up with bran muffin. I should have added something else, like raisins or cinnamon, something to give it flavor.
Number two: My eggs did not whip up to stiff peaks. I know why I failed at this too. After my mixer's motor started to get hot and smell of burning, I decided to look online for tips about whipping egg whites and I discovered that egg whites will not whip up if they have touched fat. I had put my egg whites into the dirty bowl that had just mixed the batter. opps. I added the flat egg whites to the cake anyway.
Number three: It is Cooking Light. Don't get me wrong- I love Cooking Light, I continue to try their stuff, but come on people, when you cut out most of the fat my margin for mistakes disappears.

Despite these failures, the cake did get eaten in its entirety, and I learned that I can make some pretty good cream cheese frosting.

And on that note, here is the recipe that I followed, with the additional ingredients at the bottom. (Also, I halved the recipe so I did not have layers like the directions indicate.)

Italian Cream Cake
From cookinglight.com

Frosting:
  • 1 tablespoon light butter
  • 1 (8-ounce) package Neufch√Ętel cheese
  • 1 (1-pound) package powdered sugar, sifted
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Cake:
  • Vegetable cooking spray
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1/2 cup light butter
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 cup low-fat buttermilk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 6 egg whites (at room temperature)
Extra ingredients for cake:
  • 1/2 cup chopped pecans
  • 1 teaspoon coconut extract
Directions:
Cake:

~Coat bottoms of 3 (9-inch) round cake pans with cooking spray (do not coat sides of pans); line bottoms of pans with wax paper. Coat wax paper with cooking spray, and dust with flour; set aside. (Do this- It makes the cake come out great!)

~Combine sugar and butter in a large bowl; beat at medium speed of a mixer until well-blended.
~Add egg yolks, 1 at a time, beating well after each addition.
~Combine 2 cups flour and baking soda; stir well.
~Add flour mixture to creamed mixture alternately with buttermilk, beginning and ending with flour mixture.
~Stir in pecans and extracts.

Now move the batter to another bowl. Clean the mixing bowl. Dry it completely.

~Beat egg whites at high speed of a mixer until stiff peaks form (do not overbeat).
~Fold egg whites into batter; pour batter into prepared pans.
~Bake at 350° for 23 minutes.
~Let cool in pans 5 minutes on a wire rack. Loosen cake layers from sides of pans using a narrow metal spatula, and turn out onto wire racks. Peel off wax paper, and let cool completely.

For frosting:

~Cream butter and cheese at high speed of a mixer until fluffy.
~Add sugar; beat at low speed until well-blended.
~Add vanilla; beat well.

Place 1 cake layer on a plate, and spread with 2/3 cup Cream Cheese Icing; top with another cake layer. Repeat with 2/3 cup icing and remaining layer, ending with cake. Spread remaining icing over cake.


P.S. It was so nice here that day, I actually opened the window and set the cake in the sill to cool. How crazy is that?

Monday, January 19, 2009

Sewing Machine Matchup

Today I handed my thesis in to both my readers. whew. And now I wait. Hopefully they will not have too much to say about the draft and I can defend it and move on with my life- but I highly doubt it. sigh. However, during the waiting period, I have decided to enjoy myself (not bite all my nails off) and complete some projects I have been dying to try.

Like quilting. In the end I would like to create a t-shirt quilt (or two) from all the t-shirts Chris and I have accumulated. What a great way to keep the shirts and memories while still making room in the closet. But sewing t-shirt material is apparently fairly complicated so I have decided to start with a small green quilt in a simple pattern.

Before starting to quilt I needed a place to sew. Feeling optimistic, I decided I was done with my desk for awhile and made it into my sewing area.

Here is the desk before:


And after:


TaDa!
Room to cut fabric and sew! I moved the white plastic drawers from our bedroom and filled them with my cloth, scraps, thread, pins and such.

All in all, it was a very successful evening.
I threaded the bobbin, threaded the needle and sewed my first stitches. Hurray!

Bargin Hunters Beware


Yesterday I went to order this stellar bridesmaid dress from J.Crew for my sister's wedding in June, and I decided to look around at other stores while I was at the mall. I was pleasantly surprised to find that Victoria's Secret and Old Navy were having AMAZING sales. Ridiculous sales. Both VS and Old Navy have 50% off the clearance stuff. I bought 5 shirts and 4 sweaters/cardigans for $30.00 at Old Navy. I mean, can you beat long sleeved t-shirts for $2.50 a pop? I can't. So I bought a bunch.

But then I get home and I realize that my closet is a bit full. I have been trying to prevent the accumulation of too much stuff by "making room" for new things by getting rid of old. So I analyzed my closet, taking out shirts that are worn out or that I do not wear much. So far, I have 2 sweatshirts and 4 shirts folded up in a sad pile in our bedroom. Only 3 more to go! It feels good to make room for the new stuff, but not at the cost of losing good clothes. So, I will have to be careful about taking the principle of in-n-out too literally- and use my thinker to decide what makes the most sense.

What do you think about the idea of "making room" for new stuff? How do you prevent accumulating too much stuff?

image from jcrew.com

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Clean up, Clean up, Everybody, Everywhere!


Jealous of my clean kitchen?

Around the new year, the spring and perhaps the fall (if you are the Hyper Homemaker), people seem to clean, organize and reorganize. Maybe the new year brings out the new resolutions, or maybe you just need to find room for your new loot from Christmas. Thats what I was doing- I needed to find a place for my new green Le Creuset dutch oven (and our pantry was a disaster as you will see).

I had three goals yesterday: to clear off the top of the fridge, to make room for the green pot, and put all (or most of) the food in the pantry. I accomplished my goals and here are some before and after shots.

Here is the pantry before (note the fridge top):

Here are some gory close-ups:



The pantry after:




The shelves are now organized (from the bottom up) as big appliances, cereal, snacks, canned/ cooking goods, and starches like pasta and rice. I really like that I was able to move most things off the floor, making it easier to get to the mixer and food processor. I know the pantry doesn't look that great; it is still crowded. But I did move a lot more food into the pantry. I think this arrangement will serve us better- we will know what we have without looking in four or five places.

Some food came from the top of the fridge, and more came from this cabinet:


Which now looks like this:


In order to make room for the new food, I moved the cook books from the pantry to above the microwave, which is very helpful. I still need to work out a better system for recipes, but until then, the books will be contained and out of sight. (Any ideas of how to organize recipes from books, magazines and cards would be much appreciated.)


I also moved the ziplocs from the pantry and some of the stuff from the fridge here:


(Shh . . . don't notice my secret stash of Nilla Cakesters and Nut Goodies peeking out from behind the 9 x 13)

And finally, I made room for my pot in here:


Beware drawers: you are next!

Friday, January 16, 2009

I Love Green

I first saw my dream pot on a post Emily made at imperfect. I was instantly attracted to the green, and then the pot itself. I had read of dutch ovens before, but never seen one. I was green with envy for her green pot. (teehee sorry I couldn't resist).

Anyway, I promptly forgot about the pot until my mother and I were shopping at Williams-Sonoma a few months back. I saw the green pots and pointed them out to her. We ogled at them for a few minutes; balked at the price tag, and then left it at that.

But to my surprise, my mom bought me this beauty for Christmas!


We used once while home to cook some delish chicken, and I hope to use it again soon. Like maybe tonight . . . Come back for Lemon-Rosemary-Garlic Chicken!

Thursday, January 15, 2009

The Best Job in the World


No, no- I do not have it . . yet. Have you heard of this? The best job in the world? My husband emailed me this morning and told me to apply.

Apparently, tourism is a little slow in Australia lately, and so the Australia's Queensland state as invented a new job- one where you live on Hamilton Island in the Great Barrier Reef for six months, and all you must do is write a blog about your adventures swimming, snorkeling and tanning. Oh yeah- the best part- you get paid- $100,000 US dollars.

In order to apply, you must upload a one minute video of yourself. I am new to the blogging world, but after watching a dozen application videos on their website, I am feeling more confident that I could actually apply and be considered. = ) Or at least make a well-thought out video.

I can imagine it now . . . listing my qualifications: I have been to Australia once, very nice country, and yes, I blog- I am quite good too, yep, I am a very strong swimmer- butterfly in the ocean would be a treat, and on and on.

Okay so that is not really well thought out- but it is a good start.

What do you think? Would you like this job? Click here for more info. Good luck!

Monday, January 12, 2009

Homemade Popcorn

One of our new favorite snacks is popcorn. Not the microwave popcorn with additives and flavorings- but real, fresh popped popcorn from the stove. While an air-popper would be healthier, everyone can make fresh popcorn from the ingredients in their kitchens. All you need is a 3 quart pot, 1 Tbsp oil, 1/3 Cup popcorn and seasonings. Put them on the stove and you will get this:


Looks fantastic, huh?

Here is how you do it:
~Heat 1-2 Tbsp Canola (or any oil you have on hand) with three kernels of corn on medium-high.
~When the three kernels pop, add 1/3 Cup of popcorn to the pot and swish them around to make sure all the kernals have oil on them.*
~Wait until most of the kernels have popped, then pour into a bowl and add butter and salt to taste. (We have found that only 1/2 Tbsp melted butter is plenty for the whole batch due to the oil.)

Done. Not too hard at all. Someday, I would like to try my hand at kettle corn, but that seems like it could be pretty messy . . . = )


*You can find popcorn at most supermarkets and such, in Colorado a 2lb bag will cost about $1.89 and will give you about 10 servings as seen above. Way cheaper than microwave popcorn.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Homemade Bath Fizzies

Well, yesterday was a complete waste. I spent the whole day lounging in my new pajama pants watching the first season of Mad Men on DVD. I love my new pjs- I got them on clearance while visiting home. I just had to buy them- it was a 8% discount because MN has no tax on clothes. Aren't they cute? With little Dauchsands on them?


Mad Men, on the other hand, is not so cute. All that smoking, secrecy and sex~ I don't know what to think of you Mr. Don Draper. Or 1960 for that matter.

Anyway, back to the point of this blog- homemade Bath Fizzies (I am sure that there is a better name that Bath Fizzies, but you use them in the bath, and they fizz, so Bath Fizzies it is). Despite my bad luck with Martha Stewart ideas before, my mother and I decided to try a new recipe while I was home for New Years. Martha's looked like this:


And in the end, ours look like this:


Not bad, if I do say so myself. They are actually very easy. You can get the recipe here from her website. (I chose to go dye-less, which was nice for a first time try so I could touch the mixture to see how wet it was getting with turning my hand pink.)

The Bath Fizzies actually work, too! I tried one out yesterday during a break from Mr. Draper and it was divine. It smelled of grapefruit and fizzed until it disappeared into the warm water. Mmmm. So nice.

jammies image from gap.com
bath fizzies image from mathrastewart.com

Friday, January 9, 2009

Ick- I'm Sick

Thanks Katie- I think I have your cold. I don't even want to swallow anymore because my throat hurts so much. Sigh. But at least I get to eat all the otter pops and ice cream I want!



Happy Friday!

otter pops image from www.nottro.com
ice cream image from
www.associatedcontent.com

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

New "Free" Couch!!

One of the families I babysit for told me yesterday about the love seat they were going to donate to the Salvation Army. As far as I could see, it was a very nice couch- it has "good bones" as Peggy (the mom of said babysat children) says. So, being the nice (and cheap) nanny that I am, I offered to take the couch off her hands. And within 30 minutes it was settled: the husband, brother-in-law and in-laws truck would be over the next night to pick up the couch. And today- the couch is ours!


It even came with a nice tan/beige slipcover that is in the laundry as we speak. Maybe someday I will be as skilled as Emily over at imperfect; she makes her own slipcovers! But as for now, I think we will stick with the slipcover that was on the couch already. I hope to be able to get rid of the larger couch we are borrowing from the same brother-in-law, and make room for the huge love sac that takes up half our living room. I'll let you know how it goes- hurray for free couches!

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Good 'ole Candy

While 10 days of vacationing with relatives can do nothing good for your figure- it does wonders for memories: both recalling old ones and creating new. While home, my father placed a treat for my sister, my husband and I under our pillows. I had forgotten the instant joy that rushes to my heart when I see a little bit of candy peeking out from under my pillow. Sigh. My dad hid these for us:



I ate one tonight and more childhood memories were recalled: like the feeling of eating paper . . . I checked each dot to make sure I was not just eating paper, and yet still felt like I was eating a disproportionate amount of paper. I remembered that I always eat the strips from pink to blue. I realized I had forgotten that my sister is a pro at eating sugar candies- especially candy cigarettes, orange Tic Tacs and candy buttons. (I love you Katie- I miss you more than you know.) I realized that saliva, paper and dye do not make for a pretty after photo for a blog. And I remembered that the three green ones between blue and yellow are my favorite. Hmm, I wonder why . . . .

image from www.thechocolatestore.com