Sunday, January 31, 2010

Zest with the Best

It's Jan 31 and I am no where near having an empty freezer. Not even a small dent. We have to be getting rid of something, right? I mean, I didn't have freezer-burnt stir fry the other night for no reason ...

Moving on. For Christmas this year, I got a lot of cooking items. Probably more than a normal person usually receives. Here's a smattering of what I can remember off the top of my head: Silpat mat, microplane zester, The Pioneer Woman Cooks! cookbook, salt and pepper grinders, individual casserole dishes, scoop & chop, and a 1/2 pink plaid apron. Keep in mind, all but two of those items, were on my Christmas list. I've used about half the items so far and this weekend I had the opportunity to use my zester and my Silpat mat. I made Cranberry Orange scones for breakfast today while my parents were in town. The zester made zesting oranges a breeze. I highly recommend it if you ever zest citrus fruits or chocolate. It's a worthwhile tool. I also thought that my Silpat mat did a really nice job of evenly baking my scones and they did not stick at all. Those were the highlights. The lowlights include that I didn't really like my scones. I used fresh cranberries and they were incredibly tart. Pucker-power and slight grimace tart. I also did not think that the orange flavor was very pervasive. And they were a little dry. So I'm not posting a recipe. So there. But I do recommend microplane zesters, so I'll post a picture of one instead. :)

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Cell Phone

At least once a week I forget to take my cell phone out of my lunchbox and it sits in the work fridge all day long. Reception isn't so great in the fridge. And I think it probably is annoying too as I'll come to reclaim my phone at the end of the day only to discover that it's been beeping all day from missed call. Yep, I'm pretty sure that's annoying.

Does anyone else do anything as dumb as this?

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Beef. It's What For Dinner

Do you remember my mondo long freezer list? Yeah ... Lance just informed me that we're getting another quarter side of beef from his parents just after the first of February. I have no idea as to where I'm going to store even more beef in my freezer. Maybe I'll have to start burying steaks in piles of snow in my backyard. I'm sure that won't attract raccoons ...

Monday, January 25, 2010

2010 Reading List

I'm a voracious reader. There's no way around it. I've been that way since the third grade where I was dropped off at a summer daycare where a clique of girls decided to ostracize me and reading was my only opportunity to pass the time. In 2008 I made a goal of reading 100 books. I came really close. I think by the end of the year I was at 87. That's pretty freakin amazing because it means I averaged around two books a week. Well, in 2009 my reading dropped off pretty dramatically with the onset of school and required reading. Amazingly enough, my consumption of non-fiction is much slower than my consumption of fiction. At least the stuff I'm assigned to read for school :)
When Lance and I moved to Des Moines I started going to used book sales. Previously, I had the tendency to only purchase books that I had read previously and loved because who needs to waste money on something I'll never read again was always my philosophy. Too bad I can't apply that philosophy to textbooks ... But book sales. I started picking up things I had heard good things about, but never read. Well, it's been a dangerous practice because for the first time in my life I have a stack of books that I've purchased but have no idea if I like them or not. It is my goal for 2010 to finish that stack. And here is the list:

1. The Emperor of Ocean Park by Stephen Carter
2. Family Tree by Barbara Delinsky
3. The Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell
4. Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking by Malcom Gladwell
5. Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy
6. Cold Mountain by Charles Frazier
7. Reading Lolita in Tehran by Azar Nafisi
8. Bel Canto by Ann Patchett
9. A Thousand Acres by Jane Smiley
10. The Secret Between Us by Barbara Delinsky

As you can see, no rhyme or reason to my list. Just thinks that I've picked up the last couple of years that I thought would enrich my life. And then of course whatever books my book club reads and other random books that strike my fancy. Will I get the list done? What are you reading?

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Late in the Game

I realize that most of America has probably already discovered this, but the Simply Apple juice is phenomenal. For the longest time I've resisted buying any of their brands because a) $4 for a jug of juice is ridiculous b) I didn't want to get hooked. But it happened. Fareway had their Simply Apple juice on "sale" last week and I bought a jug. I just opened it this morning and it's beautiful. It tastes so much like real apple cider. I'm afraid that I can never go back to ordinary again.

I tried their Pink Lemonade too and now I like that too. Crap. It's so hard to go back to concentrate and powdered mixes once you've tasted the good life! Do you buy $4 jugs of juice?

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Things in my life

Christmas is finally over. It's a relief to know that we'll be home bound for the next couple of weekends. That gives me plenty of time to procrastinate working on my thesis project. :)

There hasn't been tons of cooking in my life recently. We've been out of town, Lance made supper on Monday (his "famous" Italian dressing marinade chicken and a Lipton package of rice) and last night we ate at Ban Thai and went to The Lion King. Lance and I had seen the production in 2005 in London, but wanted to relive the magic. I'm glad we went, it was better than I remembered it!

But in lieu of a food post, I thought I'd post a couple of things I'm currently digging in my life right now.

Bare Escentuals - Bare Minerals Matte. Because I'm shiny by lunchtime. And my face seems to get fewer pimples when I'm using Bare Minerals products than for example a traditional Clinique foundation. One of the reasons I'm loyal to Sephora is because they allow me to return opened makeup. Genius and convenient for a girl like me who is never sure until she gets it home and decides "NO!" If anyone wants to know, my shade is medium beige :)

I also am really appreciative of my wireless mouse I got at Target. No, I didn't need it, but darn it, it makes using my laptop so much quicker!

I've been hairspray shopping for awhile. I went in for a trim the other day (BTW: I love my hairdresser - Kristy- Talking Heads Salon; if you make an appointment, tell them I sent you and they'll give you 50% off your first cut and color!) and picked up Aveda Brilliant Medium Hold hairspray. It's the perfect amount of hold and of course it smells fantastic - and it has a gloss in it that makes my hair super shiny. I had previously purchased "Air Spray" by Aveda because it smells absolutely glorious, but really, it did nothing for my hair as far as hold. So it was basically like spraying my hair with perfume ...

And lastly my new Scentsy warmer. My mom had got it as a gift, she didn't want and thought it had been regifted in the first place and gave it to me. It's a little pink ... but I'll take it! I love free.

And those are a few random things in my life right now. Enjoy!

Friday, January 15, 2010

Last Christmas

Lance and I are headed back to NW Iowa for one last Christmas ... I've never said this before, but I'm tired of Christmas. If only I could hire someone to take my Christmas decorations down!

Mexi Stuffed Pasta Shells

I think I should have photographed this on a green or blue plate. Perhaps that would have offset some of the crazy yellow-orangey color palate. Oh well, I was hungry and hindsight (especially in hunger!) is 20/20. When we make this for supper on a weeknight, we always make it ahead of time as this Mexi Pasta Shells can be a little time consuming. Especially when you're starving :) I will warn you, it is good to cover as much of the pasta shell as possible with taco sauce otherwise you have a chance of them getting a little crunchy. Gross. For this same reason, it's hard to reheat this meal effectively for leftovers. But first time around, these are yummy and worth a try. This recipe is courtesy of Betty Crocker.

12 - 15 uncooked jumbo pasta shells
2 teaspoons vegetable oil
1 medium onion, chopped (1/2 cup)
1 lb ground beef
1 1/2 teaspoons chili powder
1 package (3 oz) cream cheese, softened
1 1/2 c taco sauce
1 cup shredded Colby-Monterey Jack cheese blend (4 oz)
1/2 cup crushed corn chips
1/2 cup sour cream
4 medium green onions, sliced (1/4 cup)

1. Heat oven to 350°F. Spray 8-inch square pan with cooking spray. Cook and drain pasta shells as directed on package.
2. Meanwhile, in 2-quart nonstick saucepan, brown ground beef on medium heat. Add onion; cook about 5 minutes, stirring frequently, until crisp-tender. Stir in chili powder, cream cheese and 1/2 cup of the taco sauce. Reduce heat to medium-low; cook 2 to 3 minutes, stirring occasionally, until cheese is melted.
3. Fill cooked shells with meat mixture. Place shells, filled sides up, in pan. Pour remaining taco sauce over shells.
4. Cover and bake 20 minutes. Sprinkle with shredded cheese and corn chips. Bake uncovered about 10 minutes longer or until cheese is melted. Garnish with sour cream and onions

Cover and refrigerate pan of unbaked stuffed pasta shells up to 24 hours. Increase first bake time to 25 minutes.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Spinach Deep Dish Pizza

Perhaps you noticed on my freezer inventory that I have 3 deep dish spinach pizzas listed. There's a reason for this. Lance was sampling a new product at our Hy-Vee in Dec and got to try a sample of this pizza. It's phenomenal. We both love deep dish pizza, but the best place to get it is Chicago. We're not there all that often (in fact it's probably closer to never). But this pizza quenches my hunger for deep dish.

The brand is called "The Dish" and it's made in Missouri.

Yes, it's going to be more expensive than your typical frozen pizza, but it's still cheaper than going to Chicago for it! If you can find it in your grocery store, pick one up. I really like the spinach version. The crust is so perfectly crunchy and pairs perfectly with the ooey gooey cheese. I'm making myself hungry now ....

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Tico-Taco Salad

I always call our taco salads "tico-taco salads." I'm not sure why. It's not something that my mom ever did, I think it's probably because I like the alliteration. Or maybe because I'm a little strange. Anyways, one of my favorite things to eat at the Iowa State Fair is a taco salad from the Cattleman's Tent or the Cattleman's Head Quarters as it is officially called. The taco shells are always fresh and the taco meat is always lean. It's one of my food highlights. Unfortunately, this means that my taco salads are seasonal. Not so anymore! I discovered that the Hy-Vee I shop at makes their own taco shells fresh! They're huge. Big enough that Lance and I split a salad. But for $1.20 I get a nice taco shell at my own convenience. Here's my laundry list of things I throw in:
1/2 lb taco meat
Black beans
Sour cream

Really, put whatever you want in there because the best part is the taco shell!

Monday, January 11, 2010

Freezer Inventory

I have a problem with buying too much food. All the time. We have a chest freezer in the garage and it's full. This Jan many families are participating in an "Eat from the Pantry" challenge. Well, while I do have a full pantry, my freezer is worse. This household will be participating in a tailor-made "Eat from the Freezer" challenge. My goal is to only purchase produce and milk for the rest of the month. We'll see how I do. I like to browse online recipes and experiment. This could be hard. But as witness to the fact that we have waaayyy too much food in our freezer, here is the inventory Lance and I just completed.
  • Pizza: 8
  • Deep dish spinach pizza: 3
  • Garlic bread
  • Bagged chicken breast: 3
  • Catfish: 2
  • Banana bread
  • Parmesan bread
  • Smart Ones frozen dinners- Santa Fe Chicken Rice: 14 (yikes!)
  • Stir Fry rice frozen dinners: 2
  • Almond patties
  • Stuffed peppers: 3
  • Bacon: 7
  • Chocolate Caramel ice cream: 2
  • Chocolate Cherry ice cream
  • Monster Cookie ice cream
  • Chicken breasts: 7
  • Peppermint mocha creamer: 7
  • Parisian almond creamer
  • Vanilla chi creamer
  • Blocks of cheese: 4
  • Orange juice concentrate: 3
  • Grape juice: 2
  • Apple juice
  • Cranberry pink ribbon bagels: 4
  • Sedona ice cream treats boxes (they were free!): 5
  • Aspen ice cream treats boxes (also free!): 4
  • Bomb pops
  • Margarine
  • Mini cheese cakes
  • Cream puffs
  • Sugar cookies
  • Gingersnap cookies
  • PB cookies
  • Rotisserie chicken carcasses (for stock): 3
  • Lasagna
  • Edamame: 3
  • Coffee: 3
  • Green beans: 3 bags
  • Homemade strawberry jelly: 11
  • French vanilla ice cream
  • Cherry nut ice cream
  • Corn: 2
  • Spaghetti pie
  • Dinner rolls
  • Cheese ravioli
  • Hot dogs
  • Heavenly chicken casserole
  • Ham
  • Friendship bread starters: 2
  • Chicken broth: 6
  • Green pepper strips
  • Green peppers containers: 5
  • Hot peppers
  • Smoothie mixes
  • Cube hash browns
  • Shredded hash browns
  • Chopped spinach
  • Stir Fry vegetables: 3
  • California blend vegetables
  • Shrimp
  • Talapia
  • Turkey (a 13 lb. - I need to make that ...)
  • Pork shoulder roast
  • Pizza crust
  • Frozen fruit mix
  • Whipped topping
  • Girl Scout cookies: 3
  • Vegetable cream cheese
  • Cherry Cordial Hershey Kisses
  • Egg noodles
  • Puff Pastry shells
  • Rotisserie chicken
  • Pork chops: 8
  • Beef stew meat: 7
  • Sirloin tip steak: 4
  • Round steak: 18 (I really don't like round steak and haven't found a recipe for it. If you have suggestions, shoot them at me!)
  • Sirloin: 7
  • T-bone steaks: 6
  • Rib eye steaks: 6
  • Beef roasts: 6
  • Hamburger: 19

Yep, that's everything in my outside freezer. We get a side of beef from Lance's family, hence the large amounts of beef. I still need to figure out something to do with round steak. It appears that I also like purchasing ice cream. And this isn't even mentioning the ice cream we have in the house ... But this list is why I'm declaring January "Eat out of your Freezer" month!

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Brief Hiatus

I took a brief hiatus from blogging this past week. I've been done with school since just before Christmas, so it's been nice to take a little break from life all around. But school has officially started again as has life. We have one more Christmas to celebrate next weekend with Lance's family. I really need to take down my Christmas decorations. It's going to be Valentine's Day here and I'm still going to have my tree up! This past weekend will have been the only weekend we've been home from Dec 18 to Jan 17.
Lance and I got a Wii for Christmas and I have to shamefully admit that most of my free time has gone to playing silly games on it. Things like cow racing ... I will say, I did start and finish all of the Twilight series in the matter of six days. Multiple snow storms and long car rides did attribute the short reading duration. But yes, our gift to each other this year was a Wii. We also have Wii Play, Super Mario Brothers, Wii Sports, Mario Kart, and Wii Fit. A plethora of games!

Monday, January 4, 2010

Mark Hausler

Mark Hausler lost his battle to cancer on Jan. 2. I didn't know Mark well, but he was a member of our church. He left behind his four sons and his wife. My heart breaks for the family, but rejoices for Mark because I know he's much happier living cancer free in heaven. A couple of things - Mark was a blessing and cancer made his faith in God only stronger. If you smoke, try and give it up. Mark's cancer started as lung cancer - and he didn't smoke.
I was making soup tonight with tears as I listened to these lyrics by Carrie Underwood's "Temporary Home" song:

"Old man, hospital bed
The room is filled with people he loves
And he whispers don't cry for me
I'll see you all someday
He looks up and says "I can see God's face"

"This is my temporary home
It's not where I belong
Windows and rooms that I'm passin' through
This was just a stop,on the way to where I'm going
I'm not afraid because I know this was
My temporary home."

This is Mark Hausler's Testimonial about his battle with cancer. Read his testimonial on his caring bridge website.