Running the fine line between too hard and too easy

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Two years.

A neighbor told me once "The days are long and the years are short". She was referencing what it was like to raise her sweet boy when she said it. But the same could be said for a marriage. Today is my 2nd wedding anniversary. And while it feels like that day was a lifetime ago, it also feels like it just happened last week. Happy Anniversary, Mr. W. I look forward to sharing many more years with you.

Monday, October 13, 2008


My friend Heather tagged me for this chain-blog where I am supposed to blog about 6 random things about myself. So, here goes!

1) I have used a boat as a mode of transportation to go to school. When I was a kid, I lived in New Orleans, and the canals would flood every now and again. Well, school was on a higher elevation than our house. And on very rare occasion, we would take our boat and my dad would "drive" us to school. It's the Cajun's equivalent to the Yankee story about "walking uphill both ways in the snow to school"

2) Some describe me a dare-devil. I personally don't. I just have an interesting idea of what fun is. I went skydiving when I was 18, studied abroad in Cuba when I was 19, I've held alligators down in the Everglades, I ski with abandonment (point them and go!), my wake boarding skills are a force to be reckoned with, I practiced cliff-diving one drunken summer...and I did it again this past summer in Mexico, and lastly this past month, my husband and I took a flying trapeze class on the top of a pier overlooking the Hudson River. Oh..and I have eaten Waffle House sober. Now that makes me a dare-devil in itself.

3) While I love to cook and bake, I grew up on pretty much these three dinners; andouille sausage with Kraft Mac and Cheese, Kid Cuisine dinners, and pasta with butter and parmesan. As you can see, I developed my delicate palette early in life.

4) I have a bit of a phobia with being alone in two scenarios; shopping and getting my nails done. I don't know why and I am certainly not going to pay to sit on a couch to find out. But, I just don't enjoy shopping alone. The nail situation...well....I just don't like making smalltalk unless it's with a girlfriend ;)

5) I grew up in the theatre and I secretly miss it still. I often think about auditioning for local plays to release the creativity and have an outlet for it. But I was never fond of serious plays or straits. I much prefer to make people laugh!

6) I had the most perfect engagement I could have ever asked for. My husband bought 20 tickets to Whole World Theatre , had a friend act like she won them, and invited all of our closest friends. At the end of the night, they asked for two volunteers and my husband and I went onstage. He had set it up so that in the middle of the improv skit, he would break character and propose. It was everything I had ever wanted in a proposal; something that we could share with our friends (since they are our family) and recorded on video (I knew I would blackout and not remember anything--sure enough, I was right!)

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Flying through the air with the greatest of ease

I have so much to blog about, I know. But for now, a tease of my next blog post. My day adventure in NYC with Mr. W!

Monday, September 8, 2008

Summer Re-cap

What a summer I have had! I have been cooking, baking, shopping, traveling, etc. And have pictures of everything, but no time to sit down and actually blog about each. So, here is a quick re-cap of what I have been up to!

We have been fortunate enough to be able to travel to not 1, not 2, but 3 destination weddings this summer. We are so happy for all of our friends that have found a partner in life and had a wonderful time at each wedding. And rather than posting pictures from each wedding, I have a photo highlight from each trip.

--First stop: Mexico! We went to Mexico where I was in a friend's wedding. It was hot, hot hot but the drinks helped to keep cool :) We had a great time at the wedding and then spent a few days traveling around the Yucatan, checking out the Mayan Ruins and local arts. The highlight of the wedding (other than the ceremony of course) was definitely the donkey at the cocktail hour. He carried buckets of Corona and gave sweet hugs.

--Second Stop: Minneapolis! We went to Minneapolis for another friend's wedding in early August. Mr. W and I have never traveled for vacation to the Twin Cities, so we decided to make a weekend of it. We went to a Twins game in the Metrodome (very different, but cool to see a baseball game played in a dome), went shopping, and toured the sites. Of course, I had to take a picture with the famed Mary Tyler Moor statue.

Third stop: Los Angeles! Our friends got married over Labor Day weekend in Orange County. Again, Mr. W and I thought it would be a great excuse to make a trip out of it, so we went to the west coast for 6 days to shop, see an Angels game, and visit friends! And while shopping leisurely on a Saturday afternoon, I ran into none other than my friend Heidi Montag from The Hills! ;)
At Home:
Again, Mr. W and I have been incredibly busy this summer when we have been home. We hosted a couple's BBQ for our friends Sandy and Steve who have a baby due in October! Also, my manager moved to Australia with her husband to support our company there, so we had a farewell party in their honor. Other than that, it's been the occasional dinners and Rock Band parties :)

In between trips and parties, we carved out some time to finally purchase a new sofa! It will be here in about two weeks and we are anxiously counting down the days! It was a big departure from sofas we have been dissecting and analyzing over all summer, but it's huge and comfortable and I can't wait to curl up on it with a blanket. We also ordered a custom upholstered, tufted ottoman that will arrive with the sofa. My project now is looking for pillows and a rug for the living room. We are making good progress on the room though!

And finally I got my food processor that I have been lusting over for months now! My birthday was last month and Mr. W surprised me by purchasing the food processor and also a knife skills class at the local Viking culinary school. Sadly, between the parties and travel, I haven't had time to use it. But that is about to change very soon!

Other than that, it's been your average summer :) We have had trips to the lake, Braves games, wonderful dinners with friends, and some great staycations with each other. When I first started this post, I was going to say "wow, where did the summer go?"...I guess I know where it went now!

Friday, July 25, 2008

Furniture Shopping = Unneccessary Stress

It's a sofa. At most 100 inches long and 41 inches deep. But why is it more complicated to shop for such a sofa than say... a house? Mr. W and I have decided it's time to have grown up furniture in our living room. While I am really happy about this decision, I know that this is a long road (one we are already 1/4 of the way down) ahead.

We went to look around a few Sundays ago. We visited four different furniture stores to brainstorm and see what Mr. W likes and dislikes. The verdict:
--It must have a "comfy" arm for him to rest his head
--The length of the couch is crucial for enjoying a movie together
--Even more important is the depth for the same reason
--It should be tailored, but not too stuffy looking
--No skirts. Whatsoever.

So, all in all, it was a productive day to learn what we both liked and where to go from there. But then the idea of price came out. Mr. W is convinced that all furniture is over-priced. I would totally agree with him, but I concede under the "if you can't beat them, join them" ideals. We did find one Club Sofa from Martha Stewart's Bernhardt line that we both liked. But then Mr. W challenged me to find it the same look for less money (honestly, it was very reasonably priced to begin with, but we'll let that be for now).

Well, a couple of weeks went by. We randomly stopped by an Ethan Allen store last Sunday and Mr. W was drawn to a sofa in the store. And it's gorgeous! And, much to my surprise, he wanted to go ahead and discuss sealing the deal on the awesome sofa ("But...honey...this one is twice as much as the other one...oh...nothing...just saying..never mind! We'll take it!")

So, there you have it. That is the 1/4 of the journey down this road we have taken. Mr. W is playing in Vegas this weekend, so hopefully I can get him into the EA store next week before he changes his mind and we can have a huge check off the list! After the sofa, it's all downhill, right? (Dear Blogging Lords, please don't let me regret typing that last part...)

Thursday, July 10, 2008

My favorite salad

This summer I have been loving making my own salad dressing. I just started doing this, so my dressings have been pretty basic vinaigrette. One night though, everything came together perfectly and I created my new favorite salad.

2 chicken breasts
baby spinach
seedless cucumber
green pepper
grated Parmesan cheese

To prepare the chicken:

Brine the chicken for a few hours (you can prepare the brine bath before work and let it soak all day). Remove from the brine bath and grill (no need for seasoning). Once finished on the grill, let sit for 2-5 minutes to rest. Cut the chicken into strips.

To prepare the dressing:

When I started reading about vinaigrette, I read about how french chefs prepare the dressing in the base of the bowl first and then toss the salad in the dressing. It makes great sense because you can control the amount of salad dressing and it gives you a place to emulsify the dressing. So, start off by getting a large glass bowl. Pour one tbsp. of olive oil, 4 shakes of the balsamic vinegar bottle (this is very technical obviously), the juice of a lemon, oregano, parsley, and garlic powder, salt and pepper to taste. I say to taste because really this is just what I like and I threw in my favorite ingredients. Whisk all the ingredients together and you'll notice it takes on an entirely different texture and look!

Once the dressing is prepared, cut up the cucumber, dice the green pepper and throw the spinach and veggies into the bowl with the chicken and toss to coat. Top it off with some Parmesan cheese. It's so simple to make!

Just have fun experimenting. That's what life is all about :)

2nd Best Investment for the Garage

A year ago we were busying buying new gadgets and gizmo's for the yard and house. And the garage was quickly becoming a death trap of random stuff all over the place. We knew we needed to get it into check and quickly. Enter the Rubbermaid Fast Track system. We found it at Home Depot and not only is it incredibly affordable compared to other options in the store, it is so versatile and easy to install! Mr. W installed 4 tracks and we had started to organize the garage within 3 hours. It's a year later and it's still awesome. We've added another Fast Track on the 3rd wall and more stuff is off the floor now. We still have more organizing to do with the garage, but this was most definitely a very large step in the (now clear to walk through) direction.

FYI--The total cost for everything you see here was roughly $400 including the red tool chest and 2 door cabinet for storing paint and supplies.

Oh, and why is this the 2nd best investment and not the first? Stay Tuned...

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Something is holding me back

Please let me preface this post by saying I am fully aware that I am spoiled when it comes to my kitchen tools. When my husband and I were dating, he purchased the sacred KitchenAid mixer as a Christmas gift to me. Most women would be turned off and think it was a sign that he expected me to be a '50's housewife one day. I however knew it was true love and that he really knew what I enjoyed doing.

When it came time for us to select items for our wedding registry, I knew I wanted a food processor. But I came to find that I was incredibly picky about which one I wanted. Granted, all I really need it to do is to make crusts, breadcrumbs, etc faster than I could with my hands and small tools. Still, I found it harder than anticipated to find the right one for me.

Now we have been married almost two years and our house is still missing a food processor. And there have been so many recipes that I look at and say, "wow that is what I am going to make" only to find that I "need" a processor to accomplish the task. So, for now, I will continue to library each recipe I wish to make until the day a food processor comes home to me. At least I finally found the perfect food processor after a lot of searching. The KitchenAid 12-cup features a 12-cup food bowl, 10-cup chef's bowl, and 4-cup mini bowl. Definitely worth the extra money to get the versatility in one product.

Making a list, no need to check twice

I was born to be a list-maker. I always have at least 4 lists going on at one time. A list at work on my computer. A handwritten list next to my computer. A list at home of groceries to buy. A list of home-oriented "to-do's" in the kitchen drawer. Lists. Lists. Lists. There is something actually gratifying about checking off the to-do list. A sense of accomplishment. A satisfaction knowing that you did something productive that day.

However lately, my struggle to maintain multiple, organized lists has been quite the daunting task. Specifically, I needed a way to constantly be in touch with all of my lists at once. And I also needed a way to share tasks with my husband when they apply to both of us. We have tried a series of different ways to make it work. And I finally think we have stumbled on the answer.

RTM (Remember the Milk) is a way to do all of the above things I have mentioned already doing and wanting to do. Except it's even better than I could have imagined. It syncs with my Blackberry Curve. It works offline. You can prioritize tasks, assign due dates for tasks, postpone tasks (God forbid) if you don't complete it by the designated time, etc.

I have a good feeling I have found the solution to all my needs wrapped up into one beautiful website. I can now breathe a large sigh of relief knowing all of my lists will always be at my fingertips waiting for each task to be diligently handled.

Friday, June 6, 2008

A little fun in the yard

We have suffered a loss in the W household. Are we grieving? That would be a NO! HA! We "lost" two trees in our front yard and couldn't be happier about it.
Here is the before picture:

I think it's safe to say the right tree is dead. Considering this picture was taken in April and it has looked like that since last June. But, in the spirit of trying to re-do the front yard landscape, we might as well rip out the tree on the left as well, right? It is pretty boring, the leaves are so heavy that they shade the whole front yard and we can't grow any grass.

We were going to call a company to come out and take care of business. But that's not fun and it would probably cost a lot more to hire out for such a simple job. One of our neighbors mentioned that Home Depot rented stump grinders. Perfect! We planned on taking a day to put the trees out of their misery.

So, with newly purchased chainsaw in hand, we got to work. The dead tree was incredibly light and easy to remove and break down. Once we were left with the stump, it was time to grind it down under the soil.

Mr. W hard at work

Once the stump was into the ground deep enough, we put down some dirt and filled the hole. We'll deal with the shrubs and lack of grass eventually. We had another tree to work on!

Next we got to work on the "live" tree. Mr. W wanted to make sure it was under city permits before cutting it down, so we worked on pruning it for this day. We bought this little nifty tool at Home Depot and tried to take out some of the weight in the tree for now.

Not too shabby for an afternoon's worth of work

The next day Mr. W came home and announced the tree was under city limits and could be uprooted! So, the following Friday we spent about an hour removing the tree. Of course it was much heavier and required a lot more work.
That Friday was a big day for the W's. We painted the dining room and removed the tree.

Dining Room primed and taped Friday morning:

While we waited for the primer to dry, we went outside and took care of the tree. After it was said and done, it was back inside and painting the dining room! Busy bumble bees!

The only time Auburn/Clemson/UF colors will ever be in our house

And here are the After pictures!

Mr. W still hard at work digging up the roots of the tree.

The dining room with our new chandelier and paint!

And here is Polo enjoying some time on the front porch while we work in the yard! Next we will figure out what to do with the shrubs and overall front yard. Definitely some color (other than green!)

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

I'm going to do it.

There is a woman who is featured from time to time on Martha Stewart's show. She has been baking her way through MS' Baking Handbook. When she comes on I always think, "Man, what an awesome idea. You just bake from one page to the next." And it really is a great idea. No discrimination of recipes, no worry about what type of dessert to make, just open and go. So, when Martha Stewart announced the above book would be published, I knew I had a challenge waiting in the wings. I have always had a special love for cookie baking. I love how the dough can be surprising in texture. I enjoy learning the ingredients of cookies and how they incorporate together to make a delicious memory.

I picked up the book this past weekend and will be blogging every recipe, page by page as I tackle them. In a way, I am nervous and scared because there are some things I keep failing or am too scared to try (Madeleines, anyone?) But in another way, I am so excited for the challenge of trying new recipes and discovering new ways to bake.

Monday, May 5, 2008

Happy Cinco de Mayo: let's eat sushi!

Mr. W and I usually eat mexican every Sunday night so of course we embibed in our own tradition last night. I hosted a party on Saturday evening and was supposed to go out for sushi, but we never made it out of the house, ha. So of course I have been craving it all day at work. And I didn't have a chance to meal plan for the week, so all the more reason to enjoy sushi and some egg drop soup on this fine fiesta holiday :)

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Let there be light

Since we have moved into our home (almost a year!) I have been wanting to change the light fixtures in the home. Don't get me wrong; the light fixtures are fine. They aren't hideously dated or anything. But they are a matted silver color, and not really our style. I have been looking for a chandelier that was reasonably priced. And lighting is surprisingly expensive!

I stumbled upon this fixture on (of all places!) and it was such a great deal, I couldn't pass it by. I ordered it today and had a free shipping code. So with 6 linen shades and the fixture the grand total was $112! I cannot wait to see it installed in our newly painted dining room.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Sneak peek: we've been busy!

I wanted to quickly post two sneak peeks at what we've been up to the past two weeks. It's been quite the adventure in Pleasantville!

These two crazy kids have been busy!

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Follow-up: Cake Flour

Earlier this year, I attempted to bake a cake from scratch (see post here). As you may remember, Mr. W and I encountered quite the conundrum. There was no cake flour to be found at Publix. We ended up substituting AP flour for the cake flour and the cake came out fine. But we still search every grocery store we walk into for the mysterious Cake Flour.

Well, after months of grocery store trips and shelf audits in the baking and flour aisle, we finally came across Cake Flour! Who would have thought that this would be such a hard item to come by? And of course since it was there, I had to pick up a box to keep in the pantry for the next time I get the urge to bake a cake.

Mr. W's birthday cupcake

My husband has a love for peanut butter and chocolate. While ordinarily, he is not a "sweet tooth" person, he does find enjoyment in certain desserts and treats. For his birthday, I decided to make a peanut butter cupcake.

Makes about 2 1/2 dozen

1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
1 1/3 cups sugar
2/3 cup natural, creamy peanut butter
3 large eggs
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup sour cream

12 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
1 1/2 cups confectioners' sugar, plus more for decorating
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
1 1/2 cups creamy peanut butter

--Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Line 3 standard 12-cup muffin tins with paper liners.

--Make the cupcakes: Whisk flour, baking powder, salt, and baking soda in a medium bowl. Put butter and sugar into the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment; mix on medium speed until pale and fluffy. Reduce speed
to low. Mix in peanut butter. Mix in eggs, 1 at a time, and vanilla. Add flour
mixture; mix until combined. Mix in sour cream.

--Spoon scant 3 tablespoons batter into each muffin cup. Bake until pale golden and a cake tester inserted into centers comes out clean, about 13 minutes. Transfer to wire racks; let cool completely.

--Make the frosting: Put cream cheese, confectioners' sugar, and butter into the clean bowl of a mixer fitted with the clean paddle attachment; mix on medium- high speed until pale and fluffy. Stir in peanut butter with a rubber spatula.

--Spread 1 1/2 tablespoons frosting onto each cupcake. Refrigerate until frosting is firm, about 10 minutes. Using tines of a fork dipped in confectioners' sugar, score each top in a crosshatch pattern. Cupcakes can be refrigerated in single layers in airtight containers up to 2 days.

I made the cupcakes accordingly and left out the frosting. Mr. W and I are not huge fans of frosting so if I generally will leave the cupcake naked when baking for us. The cupcakes were dense and moist and yummy! The natural peanut butter is very important and the taste comes through in the cupcake. Without the frosting, the cupcakes will last up to a week stored in an airtight container.

Peanut Butter cupcakes fresh out of the oven

Turkey Meatloaf with a side of fun

Meatloaf is an American staple. The Ws like turkey meatloaf and it often makes the meal planning calendar. However, in an effort to try a new twist, I found this recipe from Martha Stewart Kids. I thought it would be 1) a really fun way to try the same old staple and 2) an easier way to store leftovers. Here is the recipe:

Serves 6

3/4 cup ketchup
2 pounds ground turkey
1 cup chopped onion (1 medium onion)
2 slices sandwich bread, torn into small pieces
1 cup grated cheddar cheese
1/2 chopped dill pickle, (1 medium pickle)
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1 large egg, lightly beaten
2 garlic cloves , minced
2 teaspoons dry mustard powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a large bowl, mix 1/2 cup ketchup with the remaining ingredients until well combined. Divide mixture among 6 cups of a 12-cup (4 ounce) muffin tin, spacing them evenly and gently compressing and mounding the tops. Brush tops with remaining 1/4 cup ketchup.
Transfer tin to oven; bake until inside temperature registers 170 degrees on an instant read thermometer, about 45 minutes.

Remove from oven; let rest 5 minutes before removing from tin. Serve hot.

I ended up using extra ketchup because I really like to coat the top of the meatloaf. The meatloaf was awesome though! And one meatloaf cupcake was plenty. We served it with some mashed potatoes and it was heavenly.

Here are the cupcakes about to go into the oven

Served with a side of steaming hot mashed potatoes

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Tis the Season for Spring Cleaning

While I try to keep clutter and chaos to a minimum in the house, I do still look forward to Spring Cleaning. I love swapping out my boots for my sandals and putting away sweaters to make room for flowy skirts and tank tops. I also use this opportunity to take an inventory of what needs to be replenished, thrown away, donated, etc.

I came across this list in Blueprint magazine on 100 Reasons to get rid of something. Some of the my favorite reasons are:

  • People burn 55 minutes a day looking for things.
  • 80 percent of what we own we never use.
  • Donate Cell phones: Send a phone to the field staff of a poverty-fighting mission.
  • Give interview and work clothing to disadvantaged women.
  • Give everything from storybooks to encyclopedias.
  • Recycled footwear materials become sports and playground surfaces.
  • Around 23 percent of people pay late fees on bills they cannot find.
  • Trade in an old iPod and receive a 10 percent discount on a new one.
  • Search for phone numbers online instead of storing bulky Yellow and White Pages volumes.

I hope this list inspires you to do a little spring cleaning and hopefully you can take some weight off your daily to-do or even your home.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Cake: Round Two

So after baking a cake from scratch, I started to wonder. Is homemade cake better than store bought cake? It took me about 4-5 hours to bake a cake and make the frosting, then assemble and frost the cake. If I purchased a box cake and ready-made frosting, it would probably take 1-2 hours at the very most. But does saving time come at the cost of taste? In terms of frosting, I think there is no comparison. Homemade frosting cannot be beat. And this is the opinion from a woman who loves the cake more than the frosting.
So, I had an idea. Bake a store bought cake, but put the emphasis and time on the frosting. I purchased a box of Duncan Hines cake that was yellow cake, with chocolate swirled in (basically a marble loaf cake).

Cake pans buttered, floured and then mix is ready to bake

While the cakes cooled, I made the dark chocolate frosting that I posted earlier. I modified the recipe slightly. Rather than 1 pound of semi-sweet chocolate, I mixed 1/2 pound of semi-sweet with 1/2 pound of milk chocolate. And this time, I let it cool completely before incorporating into the mixer.

Bottom layer has been leveled and is ready to frost (note the parchment paper around the cake for easy clean-up after frosting)

The dark chocolate frosting version 2.0 (looks much thicker, right?)

The two layers together on the cake stand with the middle frosting layer applied

The finished cake!
The cake was very moist and light. The frosting was spot on the 2nd time. I preferred the taste of semi-sweet and milk chocolate blended together. It made the frosting a little lighter in color and richer in taste. The verdict is: you can pull off store bought cake mix as your own as long as you top it with a special homemade frosting :)

Icing on the cake

I posted about the cake I made, but never posted about the chocolate frosting that accompanied the cake. I was in a little bit of a rush to make the frosting, so it did not come out well. It tasted great and eventually thickened. But, I rushed the chocolate process and did not allow the melted chocolate to completely cool. Fatal mistake that will never be made again!

Dark Chocolate Frosting (from Martha Stewart Baking Handbook)

--1 lb. semi-sweet chocolate, finely chopped
--6 tbsp. dutch process cocoa powder
--6 tbsp. boiling water
--3 sticks unsalted butter, room temperature
--1/2 cup confectioners' sugar
--pinch of salt
Place chocolate in a heatproof bowl set over simmering water. Melt chocolate, stirring occasionally, until chocolate has melted completely. Set bowl on countertop and let chocolate cool to room temperature, about 25 - 30 minutes.
Meanwhile, combine cocoa powder and boiling water, stirring until cocoa is dissolved.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat butter, sugar and salt until light and fluffy (3-4 minutes). Add melted chocolate, beating on low speed until combined. Beat in cocoa mixture. Scrape down the sides of the bowl if necessary.

Dark Chocolate Frosting ready to frost the cake

To frost a cake, I used Martha's "Good Thing" to assist. Take 4 pieces of parchment paper and make a "square" around the cake on the cake stand. When frosting the cake, any residual frosting will come off on the parchment paper. After you are finished frosting the cake, you pull away the parchment paper and your cake stand is clean and your left with a perfectly frosted cake.

The first layer of the cake waiting for the middle frosting layer

After the cake was finished, I took a picture of the two-layered cake. It's not my best work. But, for the first time baking a cake, I think I did pretty well. It still tasted very good. But as you can tell in the picture, the frosting is a bit more liquid than intended. The cooling of the chocolate is vital for this recipe. Lesson learned!

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Weeknight Picnic: Chicken and Potato Salad

Weeknights are always tough. With a husband who is only home M, W, F for dinner, it's sometimes difficult to coordinate a meal. I am always looking for quick meals for the weeknights. I saw these two recipes and decided to give it a go.

Everyday Food Honey-Soy Glazed Chicken

I didn't feel like measuring the ingredients, so I just combined the two until it was a good consistency. And by two, I mean Honey and Soy Sauce. I left out the water by mistake, but it still tasted wonderful. I pulled out some chicken from the freezer the day before and used it (a couple of breasts and thighs). While the chicken baked in the oven, I made the recipe below.

Everyday Food Warm Potato-Veggie Salad

Again, I didn't really measure anything :) Just combined the ingredients at the end to taste. I used Idaho potatoes and a can of green beans (drained). When combining everything at the end, I just used a spoon to slightly mash the potatoes and blend all the ingredients. No need to break out the masher, the potatoes are very soft and still warm.

This salad was delicious. The whole meal was! The kitchen smelled so good from dinner, that I put everything on plates and served immediately and forgot to take pictures. There was some salad leftover for me to eat for lunch the next day. I reheated it in the microwave and it was still as delicious as the night before!

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Let's Bake a Cake!

I am more of a cupcake person, but I wanted to try and bake a cake. For no other reason than pure practice. I pulled out my Martha Stewart Baking Handbook for inspiration. I decided to try a traditional yellow cake. I wanted to start with something easy, and eventually work my way up to more complicated cakes.

Yellow Butter Cake (makes one 9-inch layer cake)
--2 sticks unsalted butter, room temperature (plus more for pans)
--1 1/2 cups AP flour, plus more for pans
--1 1/2 cups cake flour*
--1 tablespoon baking powder
--1/2 teaspoon salt
--1 3/4 cups sugar
--4 large eggs
--2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
--1 1/4 cups milk

*I could not find cake flour. With the help of my husband in the middle of the flour aisle at Publix, we googled and found that you can substitute AP flour for cake flour if needed. I used all AP flour for this instance. The cake did taste very good, but it took on the flavor of a pound cake due to the more dense flour.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Butter the cake pans and then line with parchment paper. Butter the parchment paper and then dust the cake pans with AP flour.

Into a medium bowl, sift flours, baking powder, and salt together. Set aside.

Using an electric mixer with a paddle attachment, beat the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy (~3-4 minutes). Beat in the eggs one at a time, then add vanilla. With the mixer on low speed, slowly add in the flour mixture in 3 parts, alternating with the milk and beginning and ending with the flour mixture. Scrape down the sides as needed.

Divide batter in pans and smooth with an offset spatula. Bake, rotating the pans halfway through, until cakes are golden brown and a cake tester put in the center comes out clean (about 30-35 minutes). Transfer to wire cooling racks and let sit for 20 minutes to cool. Invert cakes onto wire racks and peel off parchment then reset the cakes onto the wire racks to cool completely.

The yummy buttery yellow cake

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

OK, so it's not my cooking...

But it's so huge and yummy that I had to share just one picture! We hosted a birthday party for my 3 of my family members this past weekend. We had some of the food catered out from one of my husband's co-workers (she does catering on the side). She made this lasagna which "feeds about 18 people". Wrong! It feeds an army! Look at this thing! It was so heavy and we had more than half leftover. Needless to say, we are enjoying the incredible food days later. She made a lasagna, meatballs, and chicken parmesan. Everything was very good and we would recommend her to anyone!

The 20 pound lasagna

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Tatanka Chicken Pizza

My husband and I share a love of Buffalo Chicken. Wings, sandwich, and even pizza. This is one of my favorite pizzas to make at home.

--2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
--2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
--refrigerated can of pizza dough
--wing sauce (about 2 cups, more if you like it really saucy)

Wing Sauce: We usually make our own concoction and just kind of make it to taste, but a good staple is Texas Pete Wing Sauce.

Cut up the chicken into little bite sized pieces. Saute them with some nonstick spray until fully cooked. Meanwhile, roll out the dough on a sheet and pre-bake it (per directions on the package). After the dough has been pre-baked, put some sauce on the dough, then some cheese. Toss the chicken in the remaining sauce and then scatter them onto the dough. Put some more sauce on if you feel like it :) Then finish by topping with the rest of the mozzarella cheese. Bake per the package's directions.

I was so excited to eat it, that I forgot to take a picture until it was almost gone!

Oh and "Tatanka" means Buffalo. We learned this by watching Dances with Wolves.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Football = time to blow your diet

Let's face it. Football and beer and fried food are in fact synonyms. They just go hand in hand. A football game is not the time to introduce crustless cucumber sandwiches for the crowd to enjoy.
For New Years Eve, we hosted a small get together to watch the Peach Bowl. It was a great excuse to make chili. My husbands' chili is top secret, but I can tell you that it involves using three meats (which three are part of the secret, sorry!). We decided to have chili (over Fritos and/or rice) and a bunch of nasty bar food to nosh on all night.

My husband's chili close-up

I chose to take the easy route and buy ready-made pigs in blankets and mozzarella sticks. And I threw some marinara sauce into a ramekin and called it a day. Sometimes "no muss, no fuss" is the best way to go.

I also made some really easy cookies that went over well at work for a team meeting. I found them from one of my new favorite websites and they are the easiest thing I have ever made. The secret lies in letting the pre-packages cookie dough soften a good bit (about 2 hours) on the counter before molding into the mini-muffin pan. The recipe is one you will not regret trying! I altered the recipe and used chocolate chip cookie dough and then Reese's peanut butter chips for the topping. They are so moist and gooey; it's just delectable.

Don't they look like bite size bites of heaven? YUM :)

So, I understand that you shouldn't use a football game to make "light" versions of anything. However, a few years ago I found a recipe for Spinach and Artichoke Dip on Shape Magazine's website and tried it. And I haven't steered from it since. It's one of the best dips I have ever tasted and who would have thought it would be? With all the light and fat-free ingredients, it's still tastier than most I find in restaurants. After I finished making it on the stove, I transferred it to a mini-crockpot to keep warm and topped with low-fat colby jack cheese. And I didn't stray very far from it all night, ha!

Sunday, January 13, 2008

A new gift becomes a new staple

So, I posted about the Easy Taco Casserole that I made for a friend who just had a baby a few weeks ago. Well, I was intrigued by the recipe and wanted to make it for dinner one night. My husband has sinced coined it "Mexican Lasagna".

The original recipe is supposed to be a mild meal for new moms. However, I adapted the recipe and made a delicious mexican meal. After I browned the meat, I mixed in a generic Taco Seasoning packet for a little flavor. After the meat was finished, I dumped it into a bowl with salsa and corn (I used two cans of kernel corn because I love corn!) and I re-used the pan to saute about 1/2 cup of yellow onion. After the onion had become translucent, I added it to the mixture and began layering.

The Mexican Lasagna was delicious! It was still pretty mild, so my husband added some hot sauce to it. Next time, I intend to add some chiles and peppers to the mixture. It's like yummy hot nachos with all your favorite fixings. Perfect meal for a tired evening where you just want to veg.

What's a breakfast casserole?

You mean....there are casseroles that people eat for breakfast?

Maybe it's time I admit something on this blog. I am a sectional eater. Don't get me wrong; I love food. But, I prefer to enjoy each thing individually and let the flavor of each course come alive in my mouth. During a conversation with friends, I realized a breakfast casserole may not be the genre of food for me. Most of the recipes involved mixing toast, sugar, eggs, etc all together. However, in the spirit of trying new things, I thought I would make one for Christmas morning.

My friend Brittany offered up this recipe for Hash Brown Casserole:


1 (2 lb.) bag frozen hash brown potatoes
2 (8 oz.) cartons sour cream
1/2 c. chopped onions
1 (10 3/4 oz.) can cream of chicken soup
2 c. shredded cheese, cheddar, sharp or other
2 c. corn flake crumbs
1/4 c. butter, melted

Thaw potatoes, combine soup, sour cream, onion and cheese; mix in potatoes. Spray 3 quart casserole with Pam, put in mixture. Mix melted butter and crumbs and sprinkle on top. Have oven preheated to 350 degrees and bake 1 hour.

I made it on Christmas Eve (minus the corn flake crumbs and butter) and placed in the freezer for the evening. On Christmas morning, I made the crumb and butter mixture and put it in the oven. We opened presents, drank coffee, watched A Christmas Story, and then breakfast was ready.

The verdict: My husband very much enjoyed it. I thought it was okay. However, I must be fair and say that I love my hash browns very cripsy, and this recipe isn't what I think of a "traditional has brown" tastes like. But it was very tasty, and I would be happy to make it again.

Run run run as fast as you can...

In an effort to try something new, my husband had mentioned that he liked Gingerbread cookies. I knew I had the most perfect cookie cutter for this occasion.

Meet Mr. Gingerbread

I found a recipe for Basic Gingerbread Cookies on Martha Stewart's website. On Christmas Eve, I made the dough. As I was mixing in the 6 cups of flour, my KitchenAid was showing a little sign of weakness. I couldn't believe it. After 5 years of using my KA mixer, I finally had found a flaw. The bowl was too small for this recipe. Sigh. I have the Artisan mixer, so if you have the Professional Series (maybe Santa will upgrade me one day..) you will do fine. The last two cups or so I had to beat in by hand. And this dough is by no means light! It was definitely a workout for the arms.

Per the recipe's instructions, I divided the dough into thirds and put it in the frig to chill. Well, being Christmas Eve, I had more things to bake and cook, so it sat. For a few days. Once I finally got around to rolling out the dough and making the cookies, my husband had worked up quite the craving for them.

Thankfully for my husband he didn't have to wait much longer. The cookies stayed simple and without icing or sugar, just the way he likes them.

The cookies now hold a special place in my heart. Making them was a joy because it reminded me of when we first started dating and we watched Shrek. We must have watched it a thousand times and we always laugh and still quote the memorable scene with the gingerbread man being tortured. "Not my gumdrop buttons!"

The Scene from Shrek that still makes us giggle.