Friday, April 23, 2010

Hello there friends.  If you reading this - then you are still coming to my blog - and you deserve a round of applause! Wow!  Thanks.  I am been more than a little absent lately.  I don't know what it is about. 

I am doing lots of great projects and making good yummy food- but I just don't feel the same desire need to share it with the world. 

Until that day comes again, I am just going to take a break from blogging.  I will still ready all your lovely blogs and hopefully commenting, but without much to say so I won't be blogging about my life much. 

That is, until something really exciting happens.  Maybe when the house burns down or it rains cats and dogs.  You never know. . . . 

Thanks for making blogging and the internet such an awesome place to be.

Hugs.   

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Home Tour: Makeshift Hutch

As I sit here writing this avoiding packing for our short trip to New Mexico I realized something rather exciting . . . something magical has happened.  


My first posts about our new house were rightly titled "House Tour."


However, my last one, about the pink bench, was different.  Without thinking, I titled it "Home Tour."

I guess our new house has turned into our new home.  how.cool.

Anyway, I have one more thing to share- the last thing my parents brought with them from MN at Thanksgiving was this green dresser.

Pretty sweet, no?  It was at our cabin for many years, but now my childhood dresser is here  to live in Colorado for awhile.

I secretly love the dresser just for the its smell.  When you open the drawers it smells just like my childhood family cabin (weirdly- the cabin has a very distinctive smell- a bit of a musty fragrance- but I love it).

Right now it is in the dining room serving as a makeshift hutch.  We have all the linens (place mats and napkins) in the drawers.  I have thought about repainting, but the color is actually pretty good for the room.  Plus, it is naturally distressed- which I find to have more character than when I try to distress furniture. What do you think?

Thanks Mom and Dad- you guys are the best.

(We are going to NM for a long weekend to see Chris' grandparents.  I won't have my computer- so- see you next week!)

Monday, April 12, 2010

Homemade Pie Crust




This weekend we made the quiche from my menu plan and I thought of homemade pie crust.  I wish I had made some.  Store bought just isn't as good.  However, before I learned the proper way to make pie crusts, I made several disasters.  One literally had the consistency of graham cracker crust.  

Luckily, my good friend offered to help me make a crust so I could see how to do it.  I have not tried to make my own since her help, but her crust was divine. 

Her instructions and advice are found below. 

Homemade Standard Pastry Crust
from family friend

Ingredients
  • 2/3 Cup plus 2 Tbsp shortening or lard (or butter)
  • 2 Cups flour
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 4-5 Tbsp cold water
Directions

1. Mix flour and salt.
2.Cut shortening into flour and salt until particles are pea sized.
3. Sprinkle 1 Tbsp of water on dough and toss the dough with a fork.  Continue adding water until all the flour is moistened and pastry almost cleans sides of bowl.
4. Divide dough into two even pieces.
5. Gather dough into a ball; and shape into pie crust between parchment paper (or nifty pie things) with a rolling pin.  (Try not overwork the dough- then it won't taste as good.)
6. Try to use the crust as soon as possible.  I am not sure what happens if you don't, but Candice says its bad.

Good luck.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Home Tour: Entry (Phase 2)

I did it.  I found a bench that meets all of my criteria!

Remember my mirror?  It has sat on the floor in the entry since we bought it back in January.
I have been looking for a bench or table of some sort to go under the mirror with these criteria:

1. Be sturdy.
2. Be cheap.
3. Be longer than the mirror- over 60 inches.  Do you know how hard it is to find a bench over 5 feet long?  Neither did I until I started to look.

Preferences
4. Be paint-able. (Because chances are if it is #2 it is going to need to be painted.)
5. Have storage capabilities. Such as this one:
 image from Potterybarn.com  

For the past 3 months I was unable to find what I was looking for- despite looking bi-weekly at the various thrift stores around town.  And in the end, thrift stores would have been a rip off anyway. . .   Last week I saw a estate sale sign while driving Chris to work.  On my way home, I drove down the long and winding road until I came to the sale.

Jackpot baby.

Not only did I find an old garbage can for composting in for a buck, but I found this:
The entryway bench of my dreams.

Well, almost.  I am thinking about painting the pink to a nice beige.  And distressing the heck out of it.

Look at how many criteria it meets:
1. It is very sturdy- made of heavy wood. 
3. It is over 60 inches- almost 80 inches in fact!

4. Definitely paint-able. (I was right about needing to be painted, huh?)
5. And it has storage spaces! Although the bench is skinnier (only 9 inches wide) than I would have ideally liked it, it is a keeper.  Besides, as my in-laws pointed out, this one is so skinny it won't stick out from the wall too far and cause a shin bruise hazard.  Nice. 

What about criteria number 2, you ask?  Well, it was cheap.  Real cheap.

Care to take a guess?

No?  You sure?

Oh well, it was a fun game for Chris and I.

The bench was a whopping $2.

I know.  It really set us back.

I am so excited to get it painted and get the mirror hung on the wall!

Monday, April 5, 2010

Menu Plan Monday

I am going to try again- a new approach.  I am struggling to do a weekly or even a bi-weekly list- so instead, I just created a long list of meals that correspond with last week's sales and what we have in our pantry and freezer.

Whenever we come close to finishing this list, I will make another list.  Hopefully it will fall close to a Monday, but if not, oh well.  Menu Planning Thursday will work too- i just isn't nearly as catchy. . .

Meals:

  • Lasagna Primavera (Made and frozen in the freezer for a day when we need something easy) (Everyday Food)
  • Pasta with Chicken, Raisins and Almonds (I will abandon the almonds) (Everyday Food)
  • Vegetable Quesadillas with Corn Relish (Everyday Food)
  • Brown Rice Casserole from Joy in My Kitchen
  • Pizza
  • Quiche
  • Salmon (I have no idea how I will cook it yet . . . any ideas?)

Desserts:



Snacks:

  • Bread
  • Crackers
  • Graham Crackers
I am excited for this. It feels good to have a plan and food in the house.

However,  I was reading that we should go to the grocery store almost everyday to get fresh produce.  But that does not appeal to me at all.  Ick.  So I hope we can survive with this plan- besides, frozen veggies are almost as good as fresh, right?  Especially when the fresh produce is coming from across the world. . . . (although I suppose I shouldn't be buying that food anyway . . .100 miles?)  Hmm.  

What is your take?  Go to the store every few days?  Every month?  

Check out more menu plans here.

Awarded- in November?!

I hope everyone has recovered from the obligatory sugar high that is Easter - I know I enjoyed far to many Cadbury Eggs in one single day.  But that is Easter for ya.  (I guess that Jesus guy coming back for the dead is kinda important too . . . )

Anyway . . . way back in the day (November) Rose from A Record of Rose gave me a Kreativ Blogger award.  Not sure what happened between then and now- but thanks Rose!  I really do appreciate you blog love!


I was also awarded more recently by Kayla at Livin' the Great Life!

She is so sweet- she gave me the Happy 101 Award (Anyone know why it is called that?)

Thanks Kayla and Rose!

Friday, April 2, 2010

Friday Fail: Puppy Chow

Haha- just kidding.  You can't fail at Puppy Chow!

After my previous failures, I decided to go back to an old standby- Puppy Chow.  I have not had it since high school and well, I wanted to make something delicious, that would be very difficult to mess up.  I am pretty sure if you add chocolate, peanut butter and sugar together, you cannot go wrong.   

Puppy Chow!
from the back of the Chex box

Ingredients
  • 9 cups Chex cereal (any variety)
  • 1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
  • 1/2 cup peanut butter
  • 1/4 cup butter or margarine
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 1/2 cups powdered sugar (I only used 1 Cup)

Directions:
1. Into large bowl, measure cereal; set aside.
2. In 1-quart saucepan, heat chocolate chips, peanut butter and butter over low heat,
stirring frequently, until melted. Remove from heat; stir in vanilla.
3. Pour mixture over cereal, stirring until evenly coated.
4. Pour into 2-gallon resealable food-storage plastic bag. Add powdered sugar. Seal
bag; shake until well coated.
5. Spread on waxed paper to cool. Store in airtight container in refrigerator.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Cheesy Biscuits

Unfortunately, my failures don't end with the soup.  The same night I made soup, I also made these beautiful biscuits.

I am not sure what went wrong, usually SnoWhite's dishes are amazing.  But these biscuits taste odd.  Weird.  Not really all that edible.  And that is saying something for a family that loves both bread and cheese.

Cheesy Biscuits
from Finding Joy in My Kitchen

Ingredients
  • 1 C flour
  • 2 1/2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp. salt (I did not add the salt because I didn't think we needed it- but maybe that would have made the difference)
  • 1/2 C extra sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
  • 1/4 + 1/8 C milk
  • half of a 1/3 C olive oil
Directions

1. Mix together flour and baking powder.
2. Add in the shredded cheese and stir to coat.
3. Mix in the oil and milk until batter is moist.
4. Grease a cookie sheet and then drop biscuits by the teaspoonful (makes about 12 biscuits (I got about 18) onto the cookie sheet.
5. Bake at 400 for 20-30 minutes, until biscuits are lightly browned.

Sigh.  Maybe things will come around soon.

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Back on Track: Quickest Mushroom-Barley Soup

As you are aware- I am sucking it up in the blog world- but what you don't know is that I am also sucking in real life.  You would be amazed at how much I am losing at life these days.  For example- this soup:

Failed.  Massive failure.

It sounded like a good idea at the time. 

It smelled good, and all the ingredients seemed good, but Chris and I could hardly get our dinners down, and the leftovers went down the disposal.  I don't know what to tell you- except- please don't make this.

Quickest Mushroom-Barley Soup
adapted from Everyday Food (Oct. 2008)

Ingredients
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 8 ounces white mushrooms, trimmed and sliced (I used button mushrooms)
  • 1 medium red onion, chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
  • Coarse salt and ground pepper
  • 4 1/2 cups canned reduced-sodium chicken or vegetable broth (I used homemade)
  • 1 cup quick-cooking barley (Or regular barley cooked and then added to the soup)
  • 1/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped (optional)
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1 chunk (1 ounce) Parmesan, shaved with a vegetable peeler (we used shredded)

Directions
  1. In a large saucepan, heat oil over medium-high. Add mushrooms, onion, garlic, and thyme. Cook, stirring occasionally, until vegetables have softened, 6 to 8 minutes. 
  2. Add broth and 2 cups water to pan; bring to a boil over high. Reduce heat to a simmer; add barley, and cook until tender, about 10 minutes. (Or add cooked barley from another pot.) Remove soup from heat; stir in parsley and lemon juice. Serve garnished with Parmesan.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Life as we know it . . .

I have been a little absent lately- three reasons:

1. Internet has been weird.  Hard to get on when there isn't any.

2. Life changed a bit last Saturday.  We were driving to the mountains to go skiing and hit some ice, swerved, and rolled in Chris' parents' truck into a freshly tilled cornfield.  (Well, I don't know what kind of crops it will grow- but corn sounds good.)

Obviously, I left my phone and camera at home, so there are no pictures to document the event, but trust me, it happened.

We are both fine- thank the Lord.  Really.  It could have been a million times worse.  But thankfully, Chris and I both walked away from the crash with little more than a few bruises and a bit of a headache.

However, the car did not fare so well.  We still don't know what insurance is going to do with it, and we are waiting to see how on earth we can ever pay his parents back for trashing their truck . . so yeah.  But at least we are alive, right?

And just as my body was ready to take on the world again, I had to go to the dentist.

3. I got two cavities filled yesterday.  Two!  That doubles my lifetime cavity count in one trip to the dentist.  suck.  Cavities bite.  Plus, smiling with half my mouth was a weird and unflattering experience.

So there you have it friends.  Life as we know it is ever changing and always an adventure!  I am slowing catching up on blogs- I can't wait to read up on your lives.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Homemade Zucchini Bread

Hello Friends.  I have not been posting much.  Why?  My hard drive has virtually run out of room.  I think it might have to do with the fact that I have about 15 pictures of every thing I have made in the kitchen for the last year and a half.  So I have begun the tedious and mind numbing task of deleting the extras- but it is taking a long time because. . . well I don't really like doing it.  I don't understand where iPhoto is storing the photos and if I have duplicates or not.  Anyway, while I was going through the pictures I did find some photos I have not posted about so here they are . . .


Have any shredded zucchini frozen in the freezer waiting to get eaten?  No?  Me neither.  I think SnoWhite or Lucy probably have some they could share though . . .

This is good bread.  Very, very moist with the shortening- I might take a only add 1/2 cup of applesauce instead of 2/3 cup.  But we could have had really juicy zucchini though . . . Either way, you won't be disappointed.  Plus, the added cinnamon sugar topping is a sweet surprise to most Zucchini Breads.

Zucchini Bread
from family friend

Ingredients
  • 2 2/3 Cup sugar
  • 2/3 Cup shortening (I never have shortening- so I will use butter or applesauce next time I make this)
  • 3 Cup shredded zucchini
  • 2/3 Cup water
  • 4 eggs
  • 3 1/3 Cup flour (regular or whole wheat if you are feeling healthy)
  • 2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp cloves
  • 2 tsp vanilla
  • optional: 2/3 cup each chopped nuts or raisins
Directions

1. Mix shortening and sugar.
2. Add remaining ingredients.
3. Separate mix into two standard loaf pans.   
4. Bake at 350 fro 60-70 minutes.
5. When done, sprinkle tops of bread with cinnamon and sugar.

Enjoy!

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

House Tour: Fire in the Kitchen

Our cousin Kurt (yep- our cousin . . . long story) is in town for work and he stopped by last night for a little visit.  As we showed him the house, Chris and Kurt lighted several matchbooks on fire in the wood burning stove- because well, that is what you do when Kurt is around.  So Kurt, this one is for you.  Thanks for coming to visit.

Two days after we moved in, Chris accidentally started a fire in the kitchen.

I am not joking.

A real, smoky, burning, dangerous fire.

Luckily, he started it in the toaster oven and the fire politely stayed there until it ran out of air and died.

But it was an exciting 2 minutes while we watched and considered our options  .. . "Do we open the door to put it out with a fire extinguisher?" "Where is the fire extinguisher?"  "Do we have a fire extinguisher?" (Yes- two in the kitchen actually- thank you previous owners!) "What do you put on grease fires?" "Baking soda? Flour?" "Should we unplug the toaster?"

While we were deciding what to do- the fire died down leaving me with this:

A charred toaster oven and a smokey wall.

In our new-to-us house!  Seriously.  How ironic would it be if we moved into a house and then burned it down two days later?

Not good is what it would be.

My mother heard about our fire and got Chris a new Toaster Oven for Christmas (Thanks Mom and Dad!)  I was unable to wash the smoke off the wall so I just covered it with a little paint.  Good as new.
But Chris' toaster oven privileges have been severely restricted.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Best.weekend.ever.

We had one of the best weekends ever.  What makes the best weekend ever?

Start with three great meals (Red Robin, Buca and homemade calzones), add in new experiences (Roller Derby in Denver), continue to knock things off your list of things to do (painting the door and side table) and end with a relaxing night of Oscar watching with friends.

It was the best.

I hope you had a great weekend too.  What did you do?  What did you think of the Oscars?

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Lucy's Chili

I have failed the menu planning.  In order for menu planning to work- you you must go grocery shopping during the weekly sale. I did not.  Our stores switch sales on Wednesdays.  When I made the menu this weekend, I knew I would only be able to go on Tuesday afternoon, but when that didn't happen . . . well, the menu plan was pretty much useless.

Enter- new game plan.  A good opportunity to practice being flexible.  (Which I am not.  I dislike change.)
Instead of making a meal, I had to pull a meal out of the freezer and wait to make a new menu plan with this week's flyer.  I might be able to keep the old menu acutally, some of the same stuff appears to be on sale.  I think.  It has been a crazy two days.

Anyway, the meal I took out of the freezer was Lucy Marie's Famous Chili.  SnoWhite has raved about it.  And now I must concur- this is amazing chili.  And I don't even like chili!

One thing I did differently was add shredded carrots instead of diced carrots.  I had 2 cups of frozen shredded carrots that were begging to be used in something besides Carrot Cake.  The carrots give the chili a mild sweetness throughout.  mmm, consistently sweet.  and a little bit spicy.  Yum.  


Lucy's Chili
adapted from Lucy Marie

Ingredients
  • 1/2 lb ground meat (I used turkey)
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 2-3 medium bell peppers, chopped
  • 2 large carrots, chopped (Or 2 Cups shredded!)
  • 1 C frozen green beans
  • 2 cans beans (any combo - I used black and pinto)
  • 28 oz. can diced tomatoes with juice
  • 1 cup frozen corn
  • 1/4 cup ketchup
  • 2 tbsp brown sugar, packed
  • 1 heaping tbsp chili powder 
  • Dash salt
  • 1/4 tsp pepper
  • 1 tsp cumin
Directions
1. Brown meat with onion and garlic in a large stockpot until meat is no longer pink. Drain, if necessary.
2. Add veggies and simmer for 10-15 minutes.
3. Add beans, tomatoes, corn, ketchup, brown sugar and spices.
4. Simmer on medium-low for as long as you like. Lucy usually make this in the morning and lets it simmer all day.  I let is simmer for a couple of hours.  It is really good.  

Monday, March 1, 2010

Menu Plan Monday

My first trial run with a menu plan was a success.  And by success I mean- we made four of the five meals listed.  However, I have not posted about all of them yet.  We haven't actually finished eating them all yet . . .  I will post about Red Beans with Sausage with Buttermilk Cornbread and Tomato and Shrimp Pasta with Feta tomorrow and Wednesday. 

I did post about Creamy Pasta with Sausage and Broccoli

and the failed Salad with Sweet Potatoes and Feta.

Despite my failure with the salad and my inability to post about the food we eat in a timely manner, I think the menu plan is very helpful.  I think the real success and strength of the menu plan is that I prevented me from going grocery shopping anytime during the last two weeks.  Bingo.  I am sure if I didn't have a menu plan, I would have gone shopping- and spent money on stuff we didn't need.  But since I had the stuff to make meals at home, I didn't need to go shopping.

So I will try again.

Menu Plan
  • Quickest Mushroom Barley Soup
  • Greek Stuffed Peppers
  • Chili Tacos
  • Chicken Cacciatore with Polenta
all recipes come from Everyday Food (October 2008)

Check out more menu plans here.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Shrimp and Scallion Stir-Fry

 I know its not the best picture- but hey- at least I took one, right?  right??

All I can say about this meal is- easy.quick.yum.

Chris doesn't really like shrimp- but he was pleasantly surprised with this dish.  In his book it is even a do-over/make-again dish. Psh- as if I ever make something twice.  What would I have to blog about?

Shrimp and Scallion Stir-Fry
from Everyday Food (Jan 2010)

Ingredients
  • 1 tbsp oil
  • 1 lb large shrimp
  • 2 garlic cloves minced
  • 2 bunches scallions, chopped
  • 2 tbsp lemon juice
  • cooked brown rice for serving
Directions
  1. Heat pan (or wok if you have one) until hotish.
  2. Add oil and swirl around. 
  3. Add shrimp and cook until mostly firm.
  4. Add garlic and cook until fragrant.
  5. Add scallions, lemon juice and 2 tbsp water.  Cook (stirring continuously) until scallions turn bright green. 
  6. Serve over rice immediately. 

Thursday, February 25, 2010

House Tour: Kid Room

When my parents came for Thanksgiving in addition to the table, they brought our childhood bunk beds from the summer cabin.  Now that their children are grown, they are going to put a real bed in that room at the cabin.  And we were happy to take the bed off their hands.  Not that we are hiding any kids from you- or even planning on having kids right now, but as the new "hand-me-down-kids" I will take another bed without much persuasion.  It might come in handy someday . . .

For fun- here is the downstairs bedroom the way the previous owners had it:

Here is the bunk bed all set up:

I have to show you two details that make this bed extra special for me.  First: my sister and I grew up spending summers on this bed.  We played hard on this bed: we did gymnastics on the bars and jumped so often on the bottom bunk it warped.  We went fishing for each other, built forts and even made Barbie go bungee jumping to her death.  Repeatedly.

Second: I spend most of my time on the bottom bunk, and placed this hemp like bracelet on the never-used ladder in my preteens.  I don't know, but it reminds me of those awkward years and makes me smile. 

I am glad that we accepted the bunk bed because it has already gotten used!  We had two people spend the night- one in the guest room and one in the bunks. Sweet.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Amazing Amazon!

PJ at Seens From the Backs of My Eyelids is having another amazing giveaway.  Really.  Remember when she gave away $50 to Amazon?  Well- here is another chance to win bigtime.  Check her out! 

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

You did what without an Apple Peeler?

Last summer/fall I learned how to make my own versions of applesauce, apple-pear sauce and apple butter.  It was a lot of fun, but honestly, a LOT of work.  Mostly because I had to peel every.single.apple by hand.

That is a lot of apples.

And this next year, I hope to do it all over again, only with a little help from this:

An apple peeler, corer, and slicer!  

My father-in-law forwards me his work's internal Craig's List of sorts (remember the table and chairs?) and I jumped at the chance for a slicer for $10.  I can't wait for an opportunity to use it!

Monday, February 22, 2010

Creamy Pasta with Sausage and Broccoli


Bam!  Another one off the menu plan.

Interesting idea to make a cream sauce using cream cheese.  It was a little on the thin side for my taste, which could be fixed by adding less water.  Also, I might add something else to the sauce for more flavor, maybe some diced tomatoes?  Something a little sweet would really go a long way.  Perhaps that is why the oringinal recipe called for ham instead of sausage . . . 

Creamy Pasta with Sausage and Broccoli
adapted from Everyday Food (Nov. 2009)

Ingredients
  • 3/4 pound broccoli, trimmed and cut into florets (or one bag of frozen broccoli)
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 6 ounces wide egg noodles
  • 5 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
  • 2 sausages, cut into pieces and browned
Directions

  1. Cook broccoli accourding to bag, or roast in oven (Preheat oven to 425 degrees. On a rimmed baking sheet, toss broccoli, oil, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/8 teaspoon pepper. Roast until broccoli is tender and lightly browned, 15 to 20 minutes, tossing halfway through.)
  2. Meanwhile, in a large pot of boiling salted water, cook noodles until al dente. Reserve 2 cups pasta water; drain pasta.
  3. Return empty pasta pot to medium-low heat. Add cream cheese and 1 cup pasta water; whisk until smooth. Add broccoli and sausage and cook until hot. Gently fold in noodles. Thin sauce to desired consistency with more pasta water and season pasta with salt and pepper.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Awarded!


 Thanks Adie- you are the best.  (Adie from Almost Perfect gave me this award.) 

Thursday, February 18, 2010

House Tour: The Loft

The loft is the area of that really sold Chris on the house.  He loved the wood burning stove, and they open-ness to below.  He loved everything about it actually . . .
(What the loft looked like when we saw it)

I was not so sure.  I feared the loft would never get used- It can't be used as an office because then the mess could be seen from any room in the house!  It can't be used for pretty much anything- but a sitting room- and isn't that what living rooms and family rooms are for?

But I was wrong.  At least during the winter, the loft in my favorite place.  Chris has been building fires with the mountain of firewood the previous owners left us, making it the warmest place in the house - like 75 degrees warm.

We have nice seating up in the loft.  The love sac is finally free to expand to its fullest potential.  Plus, Chris' brother is allowing us to borrow his futon (and couches)(and coffee table)(thanks again Dave) so we have lots of comfy seating.  (Please disregard the wrinkles on the futon- I bought a full sized sheet set to cover the black futon (white dog hair and black futons don't mix) and didn't iron the sheet before I put it on because I am lazy I wanted to make sure it would fit.

See?

The loft serves another unforeseen purpose- as a dog play area. PeeWee has this toy:
We put his dry crunchies in it and he pushes it around with his nose to get the food out.  He loves loves this thing- but he will only do it on carpet because the hard wood downstairs is too loud.  So the loft is a perfect area for him to push it around and eat to his heart's content. 

We all enjoy this loft more than I had anticipated- I am so glad Chris could see its potential.

dog toy image from here

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Salad with Sweet Potatoes and Feta

My first meal with the menu plan was a bust.  Total fail. 

I knew this was going to be a different meal, I could not imagine what it would taste like, but thought I would give it a try (it did have feta after all).

But I don't know if I would recomend this salad to my worst enemy.  It was nasty. 

But if you like mush and tang and vinegar all wrapped up in each bite- go for it.  We however, will never make this again.

The vinaigrette was way to vinegar-y for my taste, and when paired with the sweet potatoes, it was actually gag inducing.  But I have some issues with texture . . .

(However- the potatoes by themselves were delicious.) 

If you are brave enough to try this, or just want the recipe to know to stay away, here it is:


Salad with Sweet Potatoes and Feta
Everyday Food November 2009

Ingredients:

  • 2 sweet potatoes, cut into 1 1/2-inch pieces
  • 1 tablespoon plus 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • Coarse salt and ground pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon grated orange zest (I used extra juice)
  • 1 tablespoon fresh orange juice
  • 1 teaspoon white-wine vinegar
  • Salad
  • 1/3 cup crumbled feta
Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees. On a large rimmed baking sheet, toss sweet potatoes with 1 tablespoon olive oil; season with coarse salt and ground pepper if desired. Roast until tender and browned, 15 to 20 minutes. Let cool to room temperature.
  2. In a large bowl, whisk together 2 tablespoons oil, grated orange zest, orange juice, and white-wine vinegar; season with salt and pepper. Add sweet potatoes, salad, and feta. Toss to combine and serve immediately.
Note: This was originally a side salad, but with the starch and fiber from the potato and the protein from the cheese, I served it as a main dish. 


Image from here

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Homemade Whole Wheat Bread

Our good friend came back to town for a few days right before we bought our house and while he was here, he showed me how to make a truly 100% whole wheat bread. However, I didn't remember it all so while he was here over the weekend he filled me in so I can now share the nitty-gritty with you! 

We used this flour:
White whole wheat flour is a lot easier to use than regular whole wheat flour.  I am not sure what exactly the differences are, but white whole wheat flour seems to taste more like the enriched stuff.  (However- if you want- you could use whole wheat pastry flour- that stuff is hardly discernible from regular enriched flour.)

The problem with the bread is that we didn't take exact measurements of the flour.  Apparently, even within any certain brand of flour each bag will have different moisture content, so instead of measuring, we must just work the until it fells right.  I am still not sure exactly when the dough "feels right" but I will try my best to express the process to you.

100% Whole Wheat Bread
From Ian

Ingredients
  • about 6 cups whole wheat flour
  • 1 tbsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp yeast
  • 3 cup water
Directions

1. Add all ingredients together.
2. Stir up.
3. Add more flour until the wooden spoon stand up by itself (remember not to use any metal utensils with yeast- the metal will kill the yeast). Or until the dough forms a ball that you can pick up out of the bowl.
4. Wait.  8-12 hours.  Let the yeast do its work.  The next morning ours had escaped out of the bowl!
5. Take the risen dough and work it down back into a ball.  You could roll it out and shape it into a longer loaf if you like.
6. Let the bread rise again while you wait for the oven to preheat to 450 degrees (with the pan in the oven too).  Then bake until the crust is brown and the insides are done (about an hour).
I baked the bread in my green enamel-coated cast-iron dutch oven- however, my lid is only oven safe to 375 degrees so I had to bake without the lid.  If you have a lid that can bake at 450- use it!  A lid would help retain moisture and allow the bread to rise more before the outer crust gets done.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Menu Plan Monday

Hello Friends.  I have a confession:  I suck at menu planning.  I have tried a few times but I always deviate (Majorly- one time I didn't make anything I had planned to- anything.) It is like there is this rebellious part of me that resists making the planned meals just because I had planned to make them.

But now we have moved away out into the farm land and there are fewer grocery options.  So I have been trying to plan my trips out better, so I don't waste gas and resources.

And thus, I have begun to menu plan, again.

I have had one successful menu plan- for the last two weeks I picked out six meals and I have just finished them all.  (We ate out a few times and had to deviate from the plan for some vegan dinner guests, and we ate at his parents' house once or twice.)  But regardless, I planned six meals, and we ate all six meals.  Now I feel confident I can try again.  Hopefully, telling with world will keep me even more accountable.   

Additionally, with my first success, I think I finally figured out the benefit to the menu plan.  I look at the ads, I look through some food magazines, I find what I can make with what is on sale, I buy that stuff.  And then I am done.  I have everything needed to make five meals and no excuses.  And no temptations (Target) 4 minutes away . . .

I am still too rebellious to place food on certain days, so I have just planed out five meals and will pick and choose from those on each day.

So here is my Menu Plan for the week (or maybe two):
  • Salad with Sweet Potatoes and Feta
  • Red Beans with Sausage
  •     Side: Buttermilk Cornbread
  • Tomato and Shrimp Pasta with Feta
  • Creamy Pasta with Sausage and Broccoli
  • Homemade Pizza
 All the above recipes can be found in Everyday Food (Nov. 2009)

Can you tell what was on sale this week?  If you guessed sausage and feta- you would be correct!

Check out more menu plans here.

(P.S. I would like to thank the Presidents for this wonderful day off.)

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Christmas Cookies

After taunting me for over a month, I finally decided to make the Christmas cookies from a jar.  See?

So pretty.

I have no idea what the recipe was, but they were similar to the best cookies ever- Olympic Cookies.  If you have not seen or heard of Olympic Cookies before, please please please try them.  You will not be disappointed.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Happy Birthday Kathryn!

Well, today is my sister's big 22nd birthday. All I have to say is: Happy Birthday Kafrin. xoxo
(Check out her birthday blog last year here.  Pretty sweet if I do say so myself.)

Thursday, February 4, 2010

House Tour: The Guest Bedroom

When we came home from Minnesota with a car full to the brim- we managed to sneak an Ikea dresser into the mix.  After the box sat around for a few weeks, I have finally turned this
into this!
Building the dresser was not the more easy thing I have ever done- I am afraid I am not quite the perfectionist the engineering team was hoping to buy and build said dresser.  Oh well- turned out alright.  It is a little bland, but it will do the job for $34.50.  Plus, with a few drawer pulls, it could look a lot cuter. 

I have even partially lined the drawers with my fancy drawer liners I got for Christmas (thanks Mom).  And please note the bowling trophy with the jumping girl.  I got that this New Year's Eve when we went cosmic bowling.  My dad cleaned up some old family trophies in the garage and used the pieces to create new masterpieces.  Like this one.  (P.S. My dad also bowled a 197 (or maybe 193) that night.  No.Joke.  He got 4 strikes- in a row!  Way to go daddyo!)
By the way, I have no idea where this super girl-y room came from.  When I started trying to fill the guest room for my parents to stay during Thanksgiving I found I had a bright pink quilt, pink pictures and art, another quilt with pink to lay on the bed, a girl-y sweater pillow . . . I guess I was holding some girl decor inside- out of respect for Chris.  Now the guests will just have to deal with the pink.  I do love this room.  (Maybe when I get all the boxes cleaned out I will show you the closet and stuff.  But maybe not, it is just a closet.)

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Curry Chicken and Chickpeas

Fact: Our house is bigger than our apartment.  It makes me lazy.

I made this curry last week- but the night I made it the camera was not in plain view, so I though "I'll take a picture of the left-overs." However, we ate the last of the leftovers last night and guess what I didn't do?  If you guessed take a picture- you win!

I am still working on this whole having-to-take-more-than-3-steps-to-get-anywhere situation.  Sorry friends.

I did find a picture online. If I was a good photographer, our curry looked similar to this:

image from Daley Food

Although, I served it over brown rice and added some shredded chicken for my meat loving husband.  With the addition of the meat, Chris thought that this dish was a do-over dish.  That is saying something because Chris (and I) both tend to stick to standard American and Italian fare.  Big step taking on this  . . . dun dun dun . . .CURRY!

Ha- sorry, I guess it is too early in the morning for a blog post.  Here is the recipe.

Chicken and Chickpeas with Curry
adapted from Everyday Food

Ingredients
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 large yellow onion, diced small
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 tablespoon curry powder 
  • 1 cinnamon stick, 3 inches 
  • 1 pinch of ground cloves
  • 2 cans (15 ounces each) no-salt-added chickpeas, rinsed and drained
  • 3 tablespoons ketchup
  • 1 pinch course salt
  • 2 cups water (I used broth)
  • 2 cups cooked rice
  • 1 handful shredded chicken
  • chopped cilantro and lemon wedges (optional), for serving
Directions
  1. In a large straight-sided skillet, heat oil over medium high. Add onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until dark brown around edges, about 6 minutes.
  2. Add garlic, curry, cinnamon, and pinch of cloves and cook, stirring until fragrant, 30 seconds.
  3. Add chickpeas, ketchup, 1 teaspoon salt, 1/4 teaspoon pepper, and 2 cups of water.
  4. Bring to a boil; reduce to a simmer, cover, and cook 20 minutes.
  5. Uncover and increase heat to medium high; cook until sauce is slightly reduced, 5 minutes.
  6. Serve on rice, topped with cilantro, with lemon wedges along side if desired.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Lemon-Lime Tea Cakes

I love tangy stuff.  As I kid I couldn't get enough of those little Warheads and other sour candy.  Remember Warheads?  I kind of wish I did not . . .
Now that I have grown up, lemon bars are a particularly favorite dessert- especially since they make me think of my good friend Kenzie and our college years. sigh.  Anyway, I was hankering for something with a little zing, so I decided to try these Lemon-Lime cupcakes from Everyday Food. 

Not a great decision actually.  These were an epic FAIL.
1.  They didn't stick together at all- They had the consistency of cornbread- loose cornbread at that.  It could have been because I don't have a mini-muffin pan and just used my regular sized one (indecently from Kenzie and her family). I don't know.
2. Whoa, people- these suckers had some bite.  They were SOUR.  After eating one or two (okay- maybe 3 or 4- I really do love sours) I felt like the enamel on my teeth had been eaten away a bit.  It was not a good feeling. 
3. Instead of adding the topping Everyday Food suggested, I made a frosting from powdered sugar and fresh lime juice.  Which was very good- but probably added to the extra enamel eating power of the dessert.  So yeah- probably don't make that kind of frosting (if you are even brave enough to try these anyway!).

Here is the recipe, just for kicks.

Lemon-Lime Tea Cakes
from Everyday Food

Ingredients
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature, plus more for pan
  • 1 1/3 cups sugar
  • 1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest, plus 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon finely grated lime zest, plus 1 teaspoon fresh lime juice
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour (spooned and leveled)
  • 1/4 teaspoon coarse salt
Directions

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly butter a muffin pan. 
2. Beat butter, 2/3 cup sugar, and lemon and lime zests on medium speed until light and creamy (not fluffy). 
3. Add lemon and lime juices along with eggs and beat to combine, scraping down bowl. 
4. With mixer on low, gradually add flour and salt and beat until blended. 
5. Divide batter among muffin cups. Bake until cakes are golden around edges and a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean, about 15 minutes.
6. Frost with tangy frosting of your choice. 


Warhead image from here
Cupcake image from here

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Big Weekend

It was a big weekend- Pee Wee made it into the evening prayers.  We are now officially thankful for Pee Wee.  Kind of a big deal. 


In all honestly- it is strange how much I love the little stinker in just a few months.  He just fills me with smiles and love.  Cheese alert!

Side note:  I have worked with babies my entire life- and I have loved some of them more than I ever though possible.  And now this dog.  I often wonder how I could possibly love my own real children more than those kids or this dog.  Anyone else feel that way?  Or I am just the crazy?

Well, I am off to corral some kiddos while their mothers get a chance at adult conversation for a few hours.  Cheers.  (Or more likely- Cheerios!)

Monday, January 25, 2010

Homemade Shell



Are you a fan of this stuff?  I had never had it until last year, when a friend suggested we buy some for sundaes.  Ever since, I was hooked.

And being the kook that I am, I decided to try to make some.  Yum.

There are two types of recipes floating around out there for Shell- but both are ridiculously simple- melt chocolate with either butter or coconut oil.

I chose to make mine with coconut oil, so I could keep it in the pantry without the risk of spoiling.

I used some pretty dark chocolate (like 75%) and melted it with coconut oil.  In the end, my Shell worked, it hardened on the ice cream and was chocolaty- but it wasn't quite as good as real Shell.  I think I need to use sweeter chocolate next time.  I would recommend a mix of semisweet and milk or something.  And you can add different stuff to make different flavors- like peppermint and orange.  (Check here for more ideas and fancier names.)

Homemade Shell
recipe loosely adapted from here

Ingredients
  • 1 part coconut oil
  • 1-2 parts chocolate
  • optional: pinch or salt
Directions

1. Melt chocolate and oil together in microwave or on stove.
2. Pour onto ice cream or into another container for later use.

Enjoy.  I do love Shell. 

image from amazon.com

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Awarded!





Oh dear- I am so behind.  I would still like to recognize Meghan from Unintended Housewife for giving me this award.  You are too kind.