Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Clean Sheet Day

Sunday means clean sheet day in this household. It's our favorite day of the week. Unfortunately, it's also Fire's favorite day of the week too.

He enjoys "chasing wrinkles" and then of course becoming a wrinkle himself.

"What? I'm not supposed to hide underneath the sheets and attack wrinkle predators?"

Cat pictures instead of baby pictures. That's just how this household rolls :)

Monday, August 30, 2010

Cucumber Sandwiches

It appears that only thing our garden can produce are cucumbers, snakes, and weeds. Which obviously thrills me to pieces (sarcasm). Regardless, we've had a bumper crop of cucumbers and will have lots of butternut squash when we harvest them in the fall. Presently I have more cucumbers than I know what to do with. Lance likes his cucumbers two ways: sliced and made into cucumber sandwiches. (Secret: I think that cucumber sandwiches are a little girly. They exude a tea party sort of "prim and proper" attitude. But let's not share my sentiments with Lance who already gets teased at work when he takes big salads for lunch.) Anyway, cucumber sandwiches. They are quite tasty with the correct seasonings. My coworker, Jean, makes her cucumber sandwiches like this and Lance and I love them.
1 pkg of cream cheese, softened
1 pkg of Good Seasons Dry Italian Dressing Mix
Rye cocktail bread
Sliced cucumbers
Dried dill
Mix the cream cheese and the Italian dressing mix together. Spread on rye cocktail bread, top with a sliced cucumber and sprinkle dried dill on top. Enjoy!

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Civil Twilight - Letters From The Sky

I stumbled across this group. I like this song. You should too.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Veggie Pizza Appetizer

One world. Yum. I love, love, love this veggie pizza. I'm not positive that it's super healthy - it does have cream cheese and crescent rolls for a crust, but I love veggie pizza. We have it quite a bit at work - monthly at least - and I always get a couple of pieces. 'Cause ya know ... too many veggies never killed a person! I was able to do a little crisper drawer cleanup and use some leftover veggies for the toppings. Typically it doesn't call for all of the veggies I used, but you can tailor this dish to your taste. If it were up to Lance, he would tailor this dish to include no vegetables and pepperoni. Not really the point ...

Appetizer Veggie Pizza (Pillsbury)
2 cans crescent dinner rolls
1 package (8 oz) cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup sour cream
1/2 a packet of Hidden Valley Ranch dressing mix
shredded cheddar cheese
green onion
green pepper
small fresh broccoli florets
quartered cucumber slices
Roma tomato, seeded, chopped
shredded carrot

1. Heat oven to 375°F.
2. If using crescent rolls: Unroll both cans of dough; separate dough into 4 long rectangles. In ungreased 15x10x1-inch pan, place dough; press in bottom and up sides to form crust. If using dough sheets: Unroll both cans of dough. In ungreased 15x10x1-inch pan, place dough; press in bottom and up sides to form crust.
3. Bake 13 to 17 minutes or until golden brown. Cool completely, about 30 minutes.
4. In small bowl, mix cream cheese, sour cream, and ranch packet until smooth. Spread over crust. Top with vegetables. Serve immediately, or cover and refrigerate 1 to 2 hours before serving. Cut into 8 rows by 4 rows.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Dragon Fly

This dragon fly is massive. I took this picture at the ISF. Lance thought that the dragon fly was dead because it was so still. Then Lance touched his wings a bit and then the dragon fly became agitated and flew into Lance's eye and scratched Lance's eye.

Actually not. I lie. Lance did touch the wings and then the dragon fly flew off. But my original story is much more interesting.

I like the iridescent-ness of the dragon fly's wings.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

The Downfall of America.

I have a confession. I went to the grand opening of the new Walmart in our neighborhood on Aug 18. Lance was horrified. Going to Walmart is equal to betrayal. According to him, these are the things that will cause the ruin of our world:
1. Buying foreign cars (because they outsource jobs)
2. Walmart (because they run small town stores out of business)
3. McDonalds (because they don't buy beef from American farmers)

I told Lance that I didn't buy anything and I wasn't there for long. I just wanted to see if they were giving anything away like a Flatscreen TV (they weren't). True to Walmart, the parking lot was packed and there were tons of people. I didn't like it. I will continue to shop at Fareway and Target. Walmart is also doing strobe lights at night that look like an airport or a casino. Lance said that if they don't turn them off in two weeks he's going to start complaining to the city council about light pollution.
Note: see the police cars in the picture? I wonder if that will be a regular occurrence ...

Friday, August 20, 2010

Our State Fair is the Best State Fair

True fact. The Iowa State Fair is the best State Fair. Have I been to any other state fairs? No. Can I prove this fact? Yes. Because Martha Stewart did an episode on the Iowa State Fair, which proves my fact's legitimacy.
This year we spent three days at the fair - 2 days doing a Got Milk promotional event and one day meandering on our own. This was the first time we've done a promo at the fair. I think that we would both say that it went well. The tour manager was organized and a hard worker and the brand ambassadors worked hard. The temps weren't too extreme either. And because it was the weekend, the hours flew by because there were gobs of people. One piece of advice to the general public: don't ask for juice at a Got Milk? event. It's just annoying. And certainly don't ask for beer. You are just stupid at that point.

Of course one of the main reasons to go to the ISF is the food. My favorite treat is Bauders Peppermint Ice Cream Bar. Peppermint ice cream, hot fudge, and oreo cookie. Delish!

Lance's favorite fair food is Cup 'o Cookies. Warm, gooey, mini chocolate chip cookies piled high in a Styrofoam cup. I can't lie. I love them too.

One of our other favorites is the Cattlemen's Barn. If you have the cash and the stomach space, stop by to eat the Prime Rib dinner. No surprise, but the Cattlemen have excellent Prime Rib. Usually I opt for something a little less ... heavy. I love their Taco salads. They're fantastic. One thing to note, these choices cannot be obtained in the outside sandwich line, you have to go through the longer dinner line to get these menu items.

Lance thought that this pig in front of the Cattlemen's Barn was hilarious and wanted his picture taken with it. Whatever Lance.
I really wanted to take home a baby goat. Baby goats are adorable.

The little white one kept slipping through the bars and getting away. It was rather comical. Everytime the FFA student turned around to see the baby goat making it's escape, the goat would scamper back into it's pen. It knew he was being naughty :)

I also like baby chicks. They are precious.
I love the Iowa State Fair and you should too! And if you are an Iowa resident and you've never been, you should be ashamed of yourself. It's part of your civic duty to attend the ISF.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Reader's Choice

I love reading. I've been doing a lot of make-up reading for the past two years of not being able to read anything that I wanted to read. Fiction, non-fiction, recipes, the side of my Caribou Coffee cup, magazines, blogs, ingredient lists - you get the point. I love to read. Except insurance manuals. Heaven help me. Insurance is not exciting. Here are some of the things I've read this summer:
  • House Rules by Jodi Picoult

  • I loved, I lost, I made spaghetti by Giulia Melucci

  • Same kind of different as me by Ron Hall

  • The Zookeeper's Wife: A War Story by Diane Ackerman

  • The Last Night in Twisted River by John Irving

  • Let the Great World Spin by Colum McCann

  • The Choice by Nicholas Sparks

  • The Piano Teacher: A Novel by Janice Y.K. Lee

  • Return to Sullivans Island by Dorothea Benton Frank

  • The Forgotten Garden by Kate Morton

I'm also currently reading The Outside Boy by Jeanine Cummins and Having a Mary Heart in a Martha World by Joanna Weaver. I'm about 60 pages into The Outside Boy. If it doesn't start picking up soon I'm abandoning it. I also started The Ames Girls earlier in the summer and abandoned it because it was dull. Favorites of the above mentioned books: Same kind of different as me and The Last Night in Twisted River.

I wished that I like running as much as I like reading. Alas. Reading doesn't make me any thinner. I suppose in that respect, neither does cooking.

So ... 10 books. Not too shabby. What are you reading? What recommendations do you have for me?

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

More flower pictures

Here are a couple of other pictures that have been hiding on my camera. Even longer than the peony picture I posted last week ... I think that these pictures have been on my camera since before Memorial Day. Gulp. I'm as bad as the commercial where there are all these people jiving for space and they worry about being deleted ... does anyone else remember that commercial?
Anyway, I took these pictures when a group of us went to the Phil Wickham concert at Simon Estes Amphitheater in DM. Which reminds me ... I haven't posted those concert pictures yet either. Opps.
I signed up for a photography class starting in September. I'm a little nervous, but am more excited than anything. It will be a good learning opportunity. I'm taking this class on my own, I haven't roped any of my friends into coming with me, so it will be a good lesson of Kara individual-ness. I've come a long ways since my college days. I think that I can attribute much of my independence to my study abroad semester when I didn't know anyone before I left the country. I eventually made friends and had a solid group of people to do things with, but I also learned how to be okay with doing things by myself. Now there are a lot of things I don't mind doing by myself - going to movies - going out to lunch - shopping. I suppose that doing all of grad school online without the aid of chattering peers, attributes to much of my independence. Photography class can just be one more thing I add to the list!
What do you like to do on your own?

Monday, August 16, 2010

Yum. Cheesecake.

Oh dear me. If cheesecake wasn't so high in fat and calories, I could eat it every single day. Have you seen the episode of Friends where Chandler and Rachel eat cheesecake off the hallway floor because it's so wonderful? I share those sentiments with Chandler and Rachel. This is one of my favorite episodes!

It's so wonderful. But don't try and fool me into eating one of those crap-no-bake cheesecakes. I know the difference. And it's not good. Every year, around July 30, the Cheesecake Factory celebrates their anniversary with specially priced cheesecake. Last year we were in route to MI when the celebration rolled around. I tried to incorporate a Cheesecake Factory stop into our trip, but it would have been something like 2.5 hours out of our way and Lance wouldn't have it. So last year I had to miss out. But this year I got my cheesecake. Yes, I had a wedding rehearsal that I was helping with until 8 pm, but I would not be deterred. We went at 9 pm instead :) That's dedication.

My favorite kind is White Chocolate Raspberry. Hands down, wonderful. See my delight? What is your favorite? My coworker said she was going to get plain cheesecake. I think that if you are going to Cheesecake Factory, you cannot get plain. That's just wrong.

Lance went with the gooey Snickers cheesecake. I still prefer mine.

Look how pretty that pink swirl is? I could eat tons of this. It is so good.

I wonder if I could recreate ... I probably could. Here's one copycat recipe I found here. I'm not sure if I am ambitious enough to try and replicate perfection.

1 1/2 cups chocolate cookie crumbs or 20 crumbled Oreo cookies (filling removed)
1/3 cup margarine, melted

1/2 cup raspberry preserves
1/4 cup water
4 8-ounce pkgs. cream cheese
1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
1/2 cup sour cream
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
5 eggs
4 ounces white chocolate, chopped into chunks

Optional Garnish
2 ounces shaved white chocolate
whipped cream

1. Preheat oven to 475 degrees. Place a large pan or oven-safe skillet filled with about 1/2-inch of water into the oven while it preheats. This will be your water bath.

2. Combine the raspberry preserves with 1/4 cup water in a medium microwave-safe bowl. Heat for 1 1/2 minutes on high in your microwave. Stir until smooth. Strain to remove the raspberry seeds (toss 'em out), then let the strained preserves sit to cool, then put the bowl in the refrigerator until later.

3. Measure 1 1/2 cups chocolate cookie crumbs (or crush 20 Oreo cookie wafers -- with the filling scraped out -- in a resealable plastic bag) into a medium bowl. Mix in 1/3 cup melted margarine. Press the crumb into a 9-inch spring form pan that has been lined on the bottom and side with parchment paper. Use the bottom of a drinking glass to press the crumb mixture flat into the bottom of the pan and about 2/3 the way up the side. Wrap a large piece of foil around the bottom of the pan to keep the cheesecake in the water bath. Put the crust in your freezer until the filling is done.

4. Use an electric mixer to combine the cream cheese with the sugar, sour cream, and vanilla. Mix for a couple minutes or until the ingredients are smooth and creamy. Be sure to scrape down the sides of the bowl. Whisk the eggs in a medium bowl and then add them to the cream cheese mixture. Blend the mixture just enough to integrate the eggs.

5. Remove the crust from the freezer and sprinkle 4 ounces of white chocolate chunks onto the bottom of the crust. Pour half of the cream cheese filling into the crust. Drizzle the raspberry preserves over the entire surface of the filling. Use a butter knife to swirl the raspberry into the cream cheese. Just a couple passes is fine, you don't want to blend the raspberry and cream cheese together too much. Pour the other half of the filling into the crust.

6. Carefully place the cheesecake into the water bath in the oven. Bake for 12 minutes at 475 degrees, then turn the oven down to 350 degrees and bake for 50 to 60 minutes or until the top of the cheesecake turns a light brown or tan color. Remove the cheesecake from the oven to cool. When the cheesecake is cool, use the foil from the bottom to cover the cheesecake and chill it in the refrigerator for at least 4 hours.

7. Before serving, sprinkle the entire top surface of cheesecake with 2 ounces of shaved white chocolate. To serve, slice the cheesecake into 12 equal portions. Apply a pile of canned whipped cream to the top of each slice and serve.

Makes 12 servings.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Colorado Hash

Kind of breakfast for dinner ... kind of not. It is delish, fast, and yummy.
We've got cubed hashbrowns all nice and fried up. We also have hamburger, diced green pepper, diced onion, a little tomato, and some salt/pepper. It's topped with a fried egg and melted cheese. Then it is served with an english muffin topped with your favorite jam. All in all, lovely! Quick and easy, it's my kind of weeknight - what-do-you-want?- dinner.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Fruit Salsa - how I love thee.

Oh fruit salsa, if I could write you a love letter, I would. It would probably sound something like:

Dear fruit salsa,
You are wonderful. I praise you for your freshness and your fun twist on a traditional salsa. If I could eat you everyday, I would.


So, do you think that I am sufficiently weird? That's okay. Because I am. Weird. But this is good stuff! I made this back in June (yes, I realize that the past 7 weeks I have been MIA) for cooking club and won. Which goes to show that simple is sometimes better and I have to fight against my natural tendency to try and make the most elaborate dish I can manage each month.

Fruit Salsa

Strawberries (these can be frozen or fresh, you can save $$ with frozen)
Raspberries, pureed
Mango, diced
Splash of pineapple orange juice
Squeeze of lemon juice
Squirt of agave nectar for sweetness

Really, there is no exact recipe, you could use just about anything. I've also added chunks of kiwi and nectarines - I think that peaches would be yummy too. I just threw everything up into my hand food processor, gave it a couple of whirls and called it good. The salsa is great with Stacy's Cinnamon and Sugar Pita Chips. If you are super ambitious, you can make your own pita chips. But let's be honest ... simplicity is good.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Pretty peony

So I've had this picture hiding on my camera for awhile (I'm talking around 2.5 months!) and thought I would finally share. This is from a peony bush - not my own. I have a peony bush I planted the first spring we were in Grimes with my mom and it said on the tag that it was this hot pink/fusica color. But instead of fusica, I got white. Still pretty, but not what I wanted. Don't you love the fluffiness? And the scent of a peony is always a nice way to greet spring. I miss spring. Lance will disagree with me, but I'm completely over this hot, hot summer humidity. Bring on the fall leaves!

Monday, August 9, 2010

Wildy Cherry

Goodness. I am one obsessed, single-minded person. Which isn't surprising, when I get an idea in my head it is hard to deter me. Which isn't a bad thing when it comes to important stuff - like finishing grad school, but can be a deterrent for silly things. Like my latest obsession: wildly cherry m&ms.
I've only found them in the stores a couple of times and the last time I had them was last summer. I haven't seen them since. They are a special edition m&m, meaning they are hard to come by! In total Kara-fashion, I really like the imitation cherry flavor. Typically I don't like real cherries, I prefer the imitation - Luden's cough drop - cherry flavor. Very healthy of me :) I've been in search of these babies all summer and now I'm to the point of desperation - almost to the point of special ordering a $20 bag off the Internet. So if you find these somewhere, either let me know or buy them and I will gladly reimburse you!