Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Absentmindness versus Baby Brain


I've done a few foolish things in the last couple of weeks. I blame it on being rushed, distracted, and general disorder. It can't possibly be due to pregnancy loss of brain cells :)

1. The other day I went to get my normal Friday morning, end of week, reward coffee. As I ordered my coffee and breezed through the drive through, I came to the horrible realization that I had NO MONEY with me. I had left my purse, with every dollar I had, hanging on the doorknob of our coat closet. I shouted into the barista that I would be back in a flash, I had left my purse at my house. That's the first time I've ever done that. I blame it on last minute morning rushes out the door. Not baby brain.

2. Last week I was leaving a message at work for someone to call me back to follow-up on some information they sent in. At the end of the message, I thanked them for their time and then proceeded to say "Amen." After one horrified moment when I realized what had just come out of my mouth, I rambled a bit more with "Uh ...Imeanthankyou.bye." That one can be blamed on distraction. I was typing at the same time.

3. To save my life, I can't ever find anything I'm ever looking for in my house or refrigerator. I'm pretty sure this has more to do with the chaotic state of remodeling my house is currently in. My couch has been in my garage and our dining room table in our bedroom for a month.

4. Today I spilled ham & bean soup all over my desk. I mean ALL OVER. Can you even imagine the complete and total mess that spilled ham & bean soup causes? Call in the National Guard and Red Cross because we're going to need backup troops to get this cleaned up! I'm still finding soup crusties in the most unlikely places. And everything smells faintly ... bean-y. Ugh. Worse than my silver shoes I'm convinced smell like pepper. This can be attributed to sheer clumsiness. I don't think that anyone could blame baby brain on that one :)

Here's a webmd article published earlier this year that Baby Brain could in fact be real. Ask me in June and I'll give you my honest to goodness opinion if this myth is indeed fact or fiction.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

HOLIDAY EATING TIPS

I think these are great. I got this email forwarded to me at work, where I am on the Wellness Committee. Definitely wellness tips :)

1. Avoid carrot sticks. Anyone who puts carrots on a holiday buffet table knows nothing of the Holiday spirit. In fact, if you see carrots, leave immediately.. Go next door, where they're serving rum balls.

2. Drink as much eggnog as you can. And quickly. It's rare.. You cannot find it any other time of year but now. So drink up! Who cares that it has 10,000 calories in every sip? It's not as if you're going to turn into an eggnog-alcoholic or something. It's a treat.. Enjoy it. Have one for me. Have two. It's later than you think. It's Christmas!

3. If something comes with gravy, use it. That's the whole point of gravy. Gravy does not stand alone. Pour it on. Make a volcano out of your mashed potatoes. Fill it with gravy. Eat the volcano. Repeat.

4. As for mashed potatoes, always ask if they're made with skim milk or whole milk. If it's skim, pass. Why bother? It's like buying a sports car with an automatic transmission.

5. Do not have a snack before going to a party in an effort to control your eating. The whole point of going to a Holiday party is to eat other people's food for free. Lots of it. Hello?

6. Under no circumstances should you exercise between now and New Year's. You can do that in January when you have nothing else to do. This is the time for long naps, which you'll need after circling the buffet table while carrying a 10-pound plate of food and that vat of eggnog.

7. If you come across something really good at a buffet table, like frosted Christmas cookies in the shape and size of Santa, position yourself near them and don't budge. Have as many as you can before becoming the center of attention. They're like a beautiful pair of shoes, or that box of Cuban cigars. If you leave them behind, you're never going to see them again.

8. Same for pies. Apple, Pumpkin, Mincemeat. Have a slice of each. Or if you don't like mincemeat, have two apples and one pumpkin. Always have three. When else do you get to have more than one dessert? Labor Day? 9. Did someone mention fruitcake? Granted, it's loaded with the mandatory celebratory calories, but avoid it at all cost. I mean, have some standards. 10.

One final tip: If you don't feel terrible when you leave the party or get up from the table, you haven't been paying attention. Re-read tips; start over, but hurry, January is just around the corner. Remember this motto to live by: "Life should NOT be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in an attractive and well preserved body, but rather to skid in sideways, chocolate and wine in one hand, body thoroughly used up, totally worn out and screaming "WOO HOO what a ride!" Have a great holiday season!!

Monday, December 20, 2010

These are a few of my Favorite Things

Christmas has some of the best holiday treats and in no particular order, these are a few of my favorite things!

Peppermint Mocha creamer. I think that Coffeemate may have heard consumer pleas because this has become a yearlong shelf staple. No longer do I have to be the person who purchases 6 full-size creamers every time I go to the grocery store. You think I kid, but I kid not. You should see my hoarder-esk chest freezer. What can I say, they freeze well!

Be still my beating heart. Trader Joe's Dark Chocolate Covered Peppermint Joe Joe's. I like to buy cookies from Trader Joe's. In fact I have yet to meet a cookie I didn't like from Trader Joe's. These are the best. Reminiscent of an Oreo with peppermint candy creme filling and peppermint candy cane shavings on top. (Are you hungry yet? Because I am!)



I brought these home after sampling them at cooking club (yes, I know, no one "made" these per say. We don't always cook at cooking club. We sometimes just eat). Lance really likes these too. My favorite are the cherry flavored ones, they taste exactly like an original hard candy Lifesaver, which is one of my favorite imitation cherry flavored candy.

Speaking of imitation cherry ... does anyone remember my past post about the Wildly Cherry M&Ms? I love me some Cherry M&Ms! Mars (or God) must have heard my not-so-silent wishes for a comeback tour because here are my beloved Cherry M&Ms!


One of my favorite Christmas desserts growing up was Schwann's Grasshopper Pie. Sadly enough, they don't make them anymore. In fact, it's really hard, as a whole, to find a pre-made Grasshopper Pie. Lance searched 4 different grocery stores for me the other day and came up empty handed. His poor, pregnancy-craving induced wife. She'll just have to make her own Grasshopper Pie this year :)
I picked this up on a whim at the grocery store the other day. This is Canada Dry Ginger Ale with Cranberry. It's fantastic. Especially if you are pregnant and seem to crave fizzy drinks much of the time. Canada Dry is made with real ginger, so it's good for nausea. And it's caffeine free.
Christmas speciality products give me the warm fuzzies :)

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Minimalist

At various times of the year and after reading different blogs and books, I think about how convenient and head-clearing it would be to be a minimalist. Just think, a simple, small home with a cozy reading nook, one small closet filled with mix and match clothing, a few pairs of choice shoes and a few well-loved books. I could almost be Parisian with that mindset :) However, I'm an American consumer who loves her freedom of choice and living by a Target within a 10 minute drive. Even when I was a college student and had to squeeze my life into a 12x12 cell, I struggled to pare down my existence. But it's always at Christmas when I'm up to my ears in Christmas cards, wrapping gifts, and baking that I think "maybe minimalistic is the way to go." And then I shake my head no and proceed to spend a vacation day being attacked by other shoppers at the mall, my evenings trapped in the kitchen with my rolling pin and a lunch break standing in line to purchase $50 worth of stamps for my Christmas cards. Nope, maybe next year I'll tell our families no to Christmas and yes to a minimalist Christmas we'll all just go on a vacation to Aruba and celebrate the birth of baby Jesus in the sunshine :)

Who's with me?

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

My Aveda Christmas List

My husband thinks because he's putting in hardwood floors, that he is automatically exempt from giving me a Christmas gift this year. Ha! We've been together for how long now ... oh yes, 8 years. Has there ever been a year when I haven't wanted a Christmas gift?

One of the things that I love are Aveda products. My heart goes pitter-patter for Aveda. Sadly, my wallet chimes "empty, empty" for Aveda. But(!) the Aveda Institute is having 20% off this Friday and Saturday on all their products, which as far as discounts go, that's as good as it gets.

Here are the items that are on my Aveda wish list:

Smooth Infusion Shampoo and Conditioner plus their other Smooth Infusion Friends

Carribean Therapy Body Cream


Outer Peace Acne Spot Relief


And the Outer Peace Acne Relief Pads



Lance - if you are reading this, good! This post was meant for you. During my last Aveda facial they told me that the Outer Peace line would really help with my pregnancy breakouts. Thanks honey!

Saturday, December 4, 2010

House Remodeling - Floors

Goodbye stained, flawed, ugly burber carpet.
Goodbye cheap looking laminate flooring.
Hello nasty vinyl flooring found beneath the icky laminate in the kitchen.

Welcome stove in the middle of the dining room. I'm sure that your location won't be annoying or at all challenging when it comes to making meals.
Basically, welcome to my world of controlled chaos!

Friday, December 3, 2010

Peace Lily


This is what happens when you allow your co-workers to care for your plant the week you are gone.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Okay. Fine. You guessed it world.

I'm pregnant. I'm due in June. Go us! I've been very fortunate not to have any morning sickness and very minimal nausea. Food smells have been troubling and I never know what is going to sound good for supper. Hence, limited food posts :)

I'm approximately 13 weeks along :) Don't hold your breath for belly pictures, it's not really my thing.

Funny stories about announcing our upcoming child.
1) When we told my parents on Thanksgiving, I tried to steer the conversation towards what my dad and mom wanted for Christmas. Somehow the conversation turned to medical maladies. I tried to steer the conversation back to gift lists for my mom for her birthday and again, the topic went an entirely different direction. Sigh ... so instead of getting to ask one of my parents if they wanted a grandchild for a Christmas gift I ended up just announcing it.
2) Lance had to announce it to his family twice. His mom entirely missed the first announcement and I figured that it was an important enough of an announcement to be repeated :)
3) I took pink and blue frosted sugar cookies to work to announce my pregnancy. Sadly, no one put two and two together that pink and blue was significant. After 2.5 hours of nothing, I ended up sending a second email explaining to everyone that I was pregnant. One of my coworkers just thought I was confused about what colors are appropriate for Christmas.
Needless to say, this wasn't exactly how I pictured informing everyone about our upcoming baby!

I won again!

My friend Rachael, believes that I win everything. Not so friend, not so. That being said, I did win a sweet giveaway from Isabella & Max Rooms. I won a $75 credit from Stella & Dot Jewelry, which I've been in love with for the last 3 years or so. I picked these earrings and these earrings. So much fun! I can't wait for these to arrive in the mail. Happy early Christmas Kara :)

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Special Cookies



Here's a picture of the last two sugar cookies left out of the batch that I took to work. Notice anything special about them?

Monday, November 22, 2010

Snowflake Soap Giveaway

First Time Fancy is doing a cute snowflake soap giveway. Go here to check it out and try to snag a couple for yourself!





Truth be told, these soaps remind me of my first Christmas as a newlywed. I was a little crazy. I made 30 homemade peppermint candy cane soaps, 30 containers of hot chocolate and like 500 Christmas cookies. Second year, I toned it down. A little. Instead of homemade soaps and hot chocolate, I bought 30 packages of Paperwhite Lilies in September and had all of them planted and forced to bloom by the week of Christmas. And I probably made 350 cookies instead. Our guest room looked like a makeshift greenhouse. The year after I toned it down again. I made homemade Chinese take-out boxes and filled them with baked goods. And then year four happened. Grad school killed all expectations of splendor. I managed to get my Christmas cards out the first week of December, but no one received homemade gifts. Well, this year I am up to my old tricks. There's a small part of me that is itching to make some homemade gifts again. Of course this will be done in addition to 200 Christmas cookies, Christmas cards, and meaningful gift giving. I might be certifiably nuts. And of course I can't tell you what I'm thinking about making - I'd hate to ruin the surprise if you happen to be on the receiving end of all my craziness :)

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Favorite Places to Eat in Des Moines

I love food. I love eating out. If given the opportunity, I'd eat out every chance I get. But I can't. Because we'd be poor.

Here are my list of favorites (some glamorous, some not):

  • Centro - be still my beating heart, their Chocolate Creme Brulee
  • Flying Mango - Cajun Shrimp & Dirty Rice
  • Ban Thai - Cashew Nut Chicken
  • El Rodeo - Chicken Chimichanga
  • Noodle Zoo - love all their soups
  • Z'Mariks - Pesto bowl and their Teriyaki bowl
  • Hickory Park - sometimes with their mashed potatoes I feel like I've died and gone to heaven (yes, not DM, but still fab)
  • Dublin Bay - best and most wonderful Cottage Pie I've ever had (also not DM, I know)

Where is your favorite place to eat?

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Work appropriate

This shouldn't come as a huge surprise, but I've caused two separate emails from our human resources department about clothing. Keep in mind, nothing I wear to work (rather, nothing I wear as a whole) is skanky. On the first occasion, they addressed the issue of wearing shorts to work. This was just after I started. None of the shorts that I wear to work are inappropriate - they are all bermuda short length and in dressier fabrics. No denim cutoffs or daisy dukes. Really, I'm smarter than that. I would never wear that to work.

However, I didn't even consider my latest dress code issue to be a problem at all. As many women know, the leggings+tunic combo is all the rage. 1) Leggings are comfortable 2) Leggings are a nice alternative to tights or jeans or pants 3) Leggings, when paired with a tunic or other longer top that covers your derriere, is a cute combo. Unbeknownst to me, leggings are not workplace appropriate. At least not for my workplace. It makes me chuckle to think that I push the dress code to the extreme that HR has to send out scolding emails every time the season changes. Our dress code is pretty lax and I don't ever think that what I wear is inappropriate, however HR must disagree with me! Alas, if only our HR department had a fashion consultant to clue them into what's cute for the season :)

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Happy Anniversary!

My parents are celebrating their 40th wedding anniversary on Nov 14. They were babies when the got married - my mom was only 18! It was fun to help them celebrate their 40th - I put an ad in their local town paper and also in the bigger city paper. I also sent out postcards to everyone in my mom's address book. I talked to her the other night and she had said that they had been getting lots of cards in the mail. It was a fun surprise for them. Much more fun than a party - which my parents are not party people, so a card shower was a much better idea.
Over the years they've experienced a lot and been many places. My parents are currently on a trip to South Carolina to celebrate their anniversary. The recent picture below is taken in 2009 in Hawaii. Congrats Mom & Dad on 40 years together - how time flies! Here's to many more anniversaries - I love you guys!

Friday, November 12, 2010

Baked Potato Soup



Mmm... nothing says comfort food like baked potato soup. Especially with fresh bread. This baked potato soup was different from my normal baked potato soup. Typically I make a Betty Crocker version that starts off with a chicken broth base - no roux. And it's good, but it's not thick or creamy. If you are looking for a potato soup version that is rich and hearty - this is your recipe. A couple of additional thoughts - you can save yourself time by doing your baked potatoes ahead of time or by using leftover baked potato innards. Also, we did not have any bacon at the time and I do think that potato soup needs bacon. Then again, I'm a firm believer in most things bacon. Therefore, I could be a little biased :)

Baked Potato Soup Ingredients
4 large baking potatoes
2/3 cup butter
2/3 cup flour
6 cups milk
3/4 teaspoon salt
freshly ground pepper to taste
4 green onions, chopped
12 slices bacon, crisp-fried and crumbled
1 1/4 cups shredded cheddar cheese
1 cup sour cream

Directions
Bake potatoes until tender; cool. Scoop out pulp into a small bowl.
Melt butter in a heavy saucepan over low heat; stir in flour. Cook for 1 minute, stirring constantly. Add the milk gradually. Cook over medium heat until thickened and bubbly, stirring regularly. Season with salt and pepper.
Add the potato pulp, 2 tablespoons green onions, 1/2 cup of the bacon, and 1 cup of the cheese. Cook till heated through.
Stir in sour cream (do not boil after this point otherwise soup will separate and generally be gross). Sprinkle each serving with reserved green onions, bacon, and cheese.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

"If it smells like Funk it must be us"

Ah, the wisdom of Fergie and her Black Eyed Pea friends. So wise, so deep :) Sometimes in life we fall into a rut and need a little pick me up. Generally sleep deprivation or a crappy day at work can attribute to my funk-iness. Here are my personal pick me up suggestions:

1. Christmas music.
2. Non-fat, no whip, White Chocolate Mocha
3. A cookie.
4. 30 minutes of some sort of mindless tv.
5. Throwing piles of accumulated junk into the trash.
6. Fuzzy therapy ala Fire
7. 10 minutes of perusing old Calvin & Hobbes comic strips.
8. Skirt twirling.
9. 15 minute walk combined with Glee soundtrack singing.
10. "Be at rest once more, o my soul, for the Lord has been good to you" Psalm 116:7

What are your mood boosters?

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Amazon

I like to think that I'm eclectic in my music tastes, but recent amazon downloads would indicate differently. In fact, amazon has been my new BFF recently with the purchase of Lance's Christmas present (which is going to be AWESOME!), a used Lindsey Lohan "Freaky Friday" dvd, a $10 renewal to Real Simple and 3 new country albums. It's just hard when amazon has some really fantastic online deals!

Here are my latest additions to my music collection:







But with Taylor Swift & Sugarland at $3.99 and Little Big Town at $5, it's cheaper than itunes and cheaper than buying the physical cd. Love it! The moral of the story is this: amazon is the place to be.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Deal of the Day

Get a $40 gift card to The Body Shop today for only $20 via Groupon. Click here! It would be a sweet Christmas present for someone or if you are like me, a great gift that you bought for someone else and couldn't bear to part with in the end :)



Also, if you are anything like me, you are slightly obsessed with puffy vests. I've been eying this one at Old Navy for a good month and today it is on sale for $20 online. You can combine that price with the coupon code ONTREAT to take 15% off and if you spend over $50 you can use the coupon code ONSUPER50 to get free shipping (because you'll probably need multiple vests in multiple colors :)
Those are my deals of the day.
Halloween candy is also super cheap at Target at $2.49/bag. Again, if you are me, you purchased Halloween candy earlier in the month and then proceeded to eat the entire bag BEFORE the trick or treaters made it to your house.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

I won!

See here for the fun new pumpkin soaps I won!

Tidbit

In honor of Halloween, here's a little rando-random tidbit about me. My favorite kind of Skittle Originals are the lime ones. My favorite combo is a yellow-green/lemon-lime mix. My last two fun paks have been devoid of grape Skittles - FINE BY ME! I am not a fan of grape Skittles. I really enjoy the Wild Berry Skittles too and have been known to fancy a Chocolate Skittle or too.

At any rate, what is your favorite kind of Skittles?

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

House Remodel

Lance and I are starting our house remodeling adventures. Lance is less than excited and when asked, is still unsure of what I have proposed. At this moment, here is what I am thinking:
  • New hardwood floors throughout the main level, minus the bedrooms and bathroom
  • New carpeting in all the bedrooms and it the downstairs den and office
  • New EZ granite mini slabs for the kitchen counters
  • Paint throughout
  • New light fixture over the kitchen sink and in the bathroom
  • New bathroom counter top
  • Reframe bathroom mirror

So far Lance has agreed to the first two items - unwillingly. Last weekend we purchased the engineered hardwood flooring from Home Depot. It should be in next week. Lance still isn't 100% on board, but I am completely convinced that this will up the resale value of our home and make it look fab. I had my heart set on hand scraped oak flooring, but even on sale at $3.99 a square foot, it was still a little over budget. I'm sure that the flooring we went with will be just as lovely. Carpeting will be hired out and will probably happen around the first of 2011 (bearing no unforeseen changes). I'm excited about that too. I think that I can probably sneak in a new light fixture before the end of 2010 in the kitchen.

I think my challenging project will be to convince my slow-to-accept- change husband will be the new kitchen counter tops. I think the key will be to go to the local showroom and get a price estimate. I think he needs a little adjustment period :)

Lance apparently thinks that I only get one "do-over" for repainting. ONE! I think he's in for a little adjustment with that too :) Especially since I am really digging grey. Grey everywhere. With a splash of lime. Like with this.

Lance thinks I'm crazy because I want to change things. My mom does this every year or so, so I think it's completely normal. He just needs to adjust!

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Salted Nut Roll Bars



These are delicious. And an occasion where more marshmallow does not equal more gooey goodness. Who would have thought. I've always been under the assumption that more marshmallows is ALWAYS a good thing! But if you add, I don't know, 3x the amount you are supposed to, the marshmallow just gets everywhere and on everything. It's not good. So take my proven advice, and don't triple the marshmallows :)

Salted Peanut Chews

Base:
1 Yellow Cake mix
1/3 cup margarine
1 egg

3 cups miniature marshmallows

Topping:
2/3 cup white corn syrup
1/4 cup margarine
2 tsp. vanilla
12 oz. bag peanut butter chips
2 cups rice krispies
2 cups salted peanuts (no skins)

Heat oven to 350 degrees. In large bowl, combine all base ingredients until crumbly. Press in bottom of ungreased 9 x 13 pan. Bake 12-18 min.
Remove from oven, sprinkle on marshmallows and bake 2-3 min., until marshmallows start to puff. Remove from oven.
In large saucepan, heat corn syrup, marg., vanilla, and chips until melted and smooth.
Remove from heat and stir in cereal and peanuts.
Spread over marshmallows.
Chill. Store covered.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Homemade Larabars

I've been blog slacking. Blog slacking can be attributed to two things: 1) tiredness 2) extreme hunger. Meaning, I'm so hungry by the time I make supper I eat it before I remember to snap a picture. I did this the other night with the Eggplant Parmesan. It was fantastic. And I was starving and gobbled it right up. Hence, no picture. But I'll still post the recipe.

But here is my adventures in Lara Bars. I "inconvenienced" Sarah's food processor while making these (I say "inconvenience" because it used to have a pulse option and an off option. Now it has no options - just a go speed.) And Lance tried to fix it (Sarah I don't think I told you that ...). But Lance didn't fix it. In fact he made me so nervous that he was going to break it more that I ended up shouting at him to stop. I didn't want to have to purchase a new $100 food processor for their family. Lance's comment "well ... I didn't know they cost so much. Sorry ..." Moral of the story: Lance can sometimes fix things. And sometimes he breaks things further. I had to stop him before we reached that point.

Larabars are a nice on-the-go snack. But good gracious, are they expensive! At $2/bar, they were a luxury item. Precious Sarah purchased some bulk dates for me at $5 and then I purchased some lightly salted peanuts and orange cranberries. Overall, my version is much much cheaper. And they aren't hard to make. Unless you break the food processor you borrowed :)

Larabar ingredients for PB Jelly Larabars
22 dates
1/3 cup of peanuts
1/3 cup cranberries or other dried fruit


Pulse everything, starting with the dates, in the food processor. Amounts are more or less, based on your texture preference.


From the moisture of the dates everything will start clumping together nicely.


Spread a couple of tablespoons out onto a piece of plastic wrap and mush it into a bar shape.



Then wrap tightly and store in the refrigerator for freshness.

Enjoy as a healthy, fiber-filled snack. Kids and adults will all enjoy!

Monday, September 27, 2010

What to make for Cooking Club?

Cooking club is next Wednesday and the theme is "Something New." That just leaves me wide open for all sorts of funness. Here are a few ideas that I'm tossing around

Corn Fritters. They look scrumptious.



Chicken Pot Pie. This might be a little labor intensive for food club. But this looks mouth watering!


Caramel Apple Cheesecake. I vowed that I wouldn't have any more interaction with apples after making applesauce. I may have to renege.



S'mores Cupcakes. What's not to love.


Peach Crumb Bars. My heart goes pitter patter.

Sigh ... too many treats, not enough time to taste them all!

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Down on the Farm

Here are a couple of pictures lurking from Labor Day weekend, out and about on Lance's family's farm.


I like the leading lines and the overall composition of the photo.


I like old barns. Lance - do we have room in our backyard for one of these?


Fields.


Chopping silage.


I was a little obsessed with the clouds. And the algae pond. Who doesn't like a refreshing bath of ... algae.

My brother-in-law's unnamed, untamed cat. He was very cooperative in the photoshoot.
Nothing like some nice country shots!




Friday, September 24, 2010

Canning Applesauce


Canning applesauce is not for those who travel on weekends and hold down full-time jobs. I also don't think that canning applesauce is for those who have wee ones (not I). Therefore, I'm not exactly sure who that leaves. I suppose retirees and those who don't have children at home. Well, give me another 40 years and maybe I'll fall into that category. Oh, funny side note about about retiring. Costco slightly messed up my graduation cake by putting "Happy Retirement Kara." When Lance went to pick it up he thought that I might have put that on the cake as a joke. But then he ready my order sheet that clearly stated "Happy Graduation Kara." I guess someone at Costco knew my secret wish - retirement at the age of 27. Who knew they would announce it in chocolate buttercream? :)
Anyway, much like my thought process, I digress. Applesauce. If I didn't love the homemade version so much, I don't think that I would have devoted the time to make it myself. Lance and I have determined that by the time you factor in your initial start-up costs (canning jars, flats, rings, a canner, canning equipment), the cost of the raw product and then factor in your time, homemade applesauce is just not a good investment. Granted we were fortunate enough to have been gifted a canner and canning equipment from my mom and were also gifted jars, flats, and rings from my mother-in-law. We had zero equipment costs and were given apples from Lance's aunt and uncle. I guess what I'm leading up to is that even though we virtually zero cost invested, making applesauce is a ton of work and canning applesauce is just as much work. All in all, a single batch would produce roughly 7 pints and take us 2 hours from start to finish. TWO HOURS. That's a lot of labor for a measly 7 pints. I'm going to include a few takeaways, it's going to take me a solid two years before I forget how labor intensive applesauce is and attempt it again.
1. Use a heavy-bottomed pan. No, I am not referencing a pan with "junk in it's trunk." A heavy-bottomed pan will reduce the likelihood of scorching.
2. My MIL does not peel her apples. She allows the apples to cook down to mush and then runs it through her blender. For us this was about a 30-45 minute process. I took a page out of her book and didn't peel my apples either. I did however blend them with my immersion blender (yay for the handy-dandy immersion blender) and then run them through my new meat grinder. Note to self: remember to remove one of the meat grinder screens prior to beginning. It will take ages if you forget this ...
3. Regardless of Lance stating that he does not want cinnamon in his applesauce and that he DOES NOT LIKE cinnamon, add it anyways. It tastes better and Lance will eventually admit this too.
4. Fruit flies will inevitably be attracted. They gross me out. One all-natural way to catch fruit flies is to pour a little apple cider vinegar into an empty beer bottle and drop in a little dish soap. They like it and then they die in the liquid.
5. I've read on several websites that the quality of your applesauce is dependent on the quality of your fruit. This, in my opinion, is a little bit of crap. Lance and I used farm apples. I used ones that had bad spots in them. Granted, you must cut the spots out, but there's nothing wrong with "seconds." There's a reason why you are grinding the apples down and cooking them into mush. You will not notice that your applesauce was produced from seconds unless you fail to cut out the bad spots. Then you are just straight up lazy.
6. When canning, make sure that after you bring your water to a boil, that it remains at a slow boil. I thought that I ruined our last batch when none of the cans from that batch popped before we went to bed. By the next morning they had all popped, but I was concerned by my lack of attentiveness.
That about summarizes my tips. Needless to say, I do not anticipate anymore applesauce in my immediate future. But knowing me, I'll have a hard time saying no to cheap/free fruit and find myself in another applesauce canning bind :)

Monday, September 20, 2010

What's for Dinner?

I have the day off. The house is a mess. We got back last night from a weekend in the Twin Citites with a baseball game, shopping, and more shopping at IKEA and ... the Container Store. My heart goes pitter patter for the Container Store, but that's a story for another day. Lance and I canned 5 lbs of apples into applesauce last night. We have roughly 35 lbs of apples left to can. I've never canned before. Yep, that's a story for another day too. I'm planning on making homemade Larabars later today - recipe for another day. I'm also planning on grinding some round steak into hamburger - another tale for another day (BTW: isn't a meat grinder a completely normal impulse purchase?) The best you are going to get from me is my Monday Menu Plan.

Monday: Chicken Corn Tortilla soup (my latest obsession is the same soup from the Gateway Market. Hopefully this recipe is a close duplicate)
Tuesday: Dinner at Felix & Oscars (I've got photography class at 7 pm, so it's supper on-the-go)
Wednesday: BLATS, sweet corn, and sweet potato fries
Thursday: Grilled chicken breasts with a tequila lime marinade and couscous and some broccoli
Friday: Butterfly pork chops, sweet corn, fried apples and mashed potatoes
Saturday lunch: Asian chicken salads
Saturday supper: :ISU versus UNI game!
Sunday lunch: Cheese stuffed beer burgers
Sunday supper: Chicken pot pie

Sunday, September 19, 2010

You say po-tat-o, I say po-tah-to



Growing up in NW Iowa, my family spent a lot of time in Omaha, NE. Both of my aunts live in the Omaha area and any special shopping my mom would do with me would be in Omaha. Because of this, our family had a couple of favorite restaurants in Omaha. One of those restaurants is The Garden Cafe. The Garden Cafe is known for their breakfast menu and their potato casseroles. Dear me, how I love their potato casseroles. The secret is the ranch salad dressing. I know, sounds a little lame and more than a little unhealthy, but I really believe the secret is Ranch salad dressing!


Ingredients:

3 lbs baking potatoes, peeled and thinly sliced
Ranch salad dressing
Colby jack cheese
Diced tomato
Diced green pepper
Diced onion
Dried Oregeno
Crumbled bacon
Salt and Pepper to taste


Like usual, I worked off a very loose recipe. Meaning, I had a mental list of ingredients in my head and then eye-balled it.

I started by prepping all of my potatoes. I then panfried them with a dab of canola oil in a skillet with the onion. While I was doing this I also sprinkled on the S&P and the oregeno. Then I transfered half of the potatoes into a casserole dish and layered all of the veggies and the ranch. I topped it with the remaining potatoes and popped it into the oven for 20 minutes at 375 degrees. During the last five minutes sprinkle a little cheesy love ontop of it!

Friday, September 17, 2010

True story.



Oh Barney Stintson. You are too much.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Coming Home - videographer

Coming Home from Ryan Southwell on Vimeo.

I stumbled onto this videographer's website - he's amazing. This video - also amazing. If I a) lived in Cali b) had a reason for a videographer c) wanted something special made, he would totally be my go-to choice.

Anyway I wanted to share. I thought the video was really beautiful and moving.

Signature Dish


Do you have a signature dish? No? Isn't it normal for every 27 year-old to have a signature dish? :) Anywho, my signature dish is a Pineapple Apricot Pie. I made this as a high schooler for 4-H and took it both as a project and for our county pie auction. According to my MIL this is a n0-no. Opps... I have made this pie for family occasions and I made this for Thanksgiving as an RA too. It's a winner, either as a double crust pie or as a single crust pie with a crumble topping. Usually I make the crumble topping when I've completely botched the second layer of pie crust. Like all pies, this pie is perfect warmed and served with a scoop of vanilla ice cream. YUM!

1½ cup Dried apricots
1½ cup Water
6 tablespoons Sugar
1 can Crushed pineapple (8 oz)
1½ tablespoon Cornstarch
Salt
3 tablespoons Butter

Pastry for 8" double pie crust

Put apricots in saucepan, add water, bring to boil, cover and cook over medium heat 10 minutes. Add sugar and cook 5 minutes more. Drain, reserving 3/4 cup juice. Set apricots aside. Drain crushed pineapple, reserving 1/4 cup juice. Set pineapple aside. In mixing bowl, dissolve cornstarch in reserved pineapple juice. Add reserved apricot juice. Put mixed juices in saucepan, add dash salt and cook over medium heat until mixture thickens, stirring continually. Mix drained apricots and pineapple thoroughly. Mix with thickened juices and pour into unbaked pie shell. Dot with butter. Cover with top crust, crimp edges and pierce with fork. Bake at 400'F. 25 minutes. Makes 6-8 servings

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Iowa State Game!

Hi all! Lance and I had the privilege of going to the ISU versus N. Illinois game on Sept 2. First game of the year and it was a beautiful game! Granted I should have been smarter and not worn shorts to the game, but that was my only issue. We were fortunate to have club seats, which meant catered food. Yum. I'm really starting to enjoy my football tickets :) Here are some pictures from the evening.

We love going to games - I love football season in general. Granted, I prefer football games that include fall weather, crisp leaves, tailgating, and winning scores :)





I ate a Clone Cone. They are loaded with food coloring. I dripped a little on my gray shirt and the damage was totally noticable!

This is where are seats were located. AWESOME!



The food spread. Bliss.


Isn't this a perfect day?




Go ISU!


I really enjoy the marching band shows. I'm a little bit of a nerd. I actually confessed to Lance they were my favorite part of the game. He just rolled his eyes at me and said "Yeah, that figures."






Don't ask me what's going on in these photos. I just figured I should include some action shots.
All in all, this is going to be a bumpy road for Iowa State football, but we're fans for life!