Running the fine line between too hard and too easy
Tuesday, October 21, 2008
Monday, October 13, 2008
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
Monday, September 8, 2008
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! ;)
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
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
Just have fun experimenting. That's what life is all about :)
Oh, and why is this the 2nd best investment and not the first? Stay Tuned...
Tuesday, June 10, 2008
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.
Friday, June 6, 2008
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.
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!
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!
Wednesday, May 7, 2008
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
Sunday, April 27, 2008
I stumbled upon this fixture on jcpenney.com (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
Thursday, April 17, 2008
Makes about 2 1/2 dozen
FOR THE CUPCAKES
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
FOR THE FROSTING
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.
Peanut Butter cupcakes fresh out of the oven
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.
Here are the cupcakes about to go into the oven
Served with a side of steaming hot mashed potatoes
Thursday, March 20, 2008
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: Care.org Send a phone to the field staff of a poverty-fighting mission.
- dressforsuccess.org Give interview and work clothing to disadvantaged women.
- Booksforafrica.org Give everything from storybooks to encyclopedias.
- Nikereuseashoe.com 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 pans buttered, floured and then mix is ready to bakeWhile 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 two layers together on the cake stand with the middle frosting layer applied
--1 lb. semi-sweet chocolate, finely chopped
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
Wednesday, February 6, 2008
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
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.
Wednesday, January 23, 2008
The 20 pound lasagna
Tuesday, January 22, 2008
--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
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.http://www.verybestbaking.com/ 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.
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
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.
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:
HASH BROWN POTATO 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.
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.