Monday, November 30, 2009

Preview: Recipes for the week

Here's a quick picture preview for the week:

Get excited people, there are a couple of winner recipes and a dud too. Props to you if you can figure out which is the dud. Hopefully I'll also have pictures of our decorated tree - keep your fingers crossed, weeks like this remind me why December is such a hairy month for people like me - people who insist on doing everything. At least this year I haven't insisted on making all of my Christmas gifts - the first year it was homemade candy cane soap, two years ago it was decorated boxes full of baked goods, last year it was forced paperwhite lilies for everyone. This is the first year I'm not going the extra mile. Everyone on my list is getting giftcards this year. And our Thanksgiving cards have officially become Christmas cards. (Okay stop - word vomit)
Good night folks. Soon I'll even have a post about my adventures in Black Friday shopping and a story about Lance's own adventures. That is of course counting that two of my friends' babies aren't born this week ... because of course that means more food I need to make.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Kreativ Blogger Award

My friend Rose, at A Record of Rose, tagged me for a Kreativ Blogger Award. Rose is a friend of mine and Lance from days of Woodbury County 4-H. She was actually Woodbury County Fair queen the year after I was and was Fair Queen with Lance, who was Woodbury County's first ever Fair King. She lives in the next town over and is a new mom!

Anyway, the point of this award is to post about things you value and things that you do not.

Things I Value
  • People who remember that Christmas is about the birth of CHRIST
  • Naps :)
  • My Kitchen Aid mixer
  • My community of friends and support
  • Being employed

Things I Do Not Value

  • People who are inconsiderate to other people's time
  • Christmas presents that aren't thoughtful and are just "stuff"
  • People who embody beliefs because that's what's "popular"
  • Passive-aggressiveness

And those are few things about me!

Friday, November 27, 2009

New Toy ...

Since Lance killed my laptop this past summer (although if you ask Lance he'll say otherwise - he was using it when it sighed it's last breath), we made the decision to get a replacement once I qualified for 25% reimbursement from work. And as of Nov 18, I had been employed by my new employer for 6 months so off we went to purchase my new baby. And I love my new HP laptop (I know nothing about it ... other than it's fast, black, and pretty. Lance was responsible for the research aspect). I've named her Isabel. We're friends. But if you are taking to Lance it's OUR computer (but really, it's mine).

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Homemade Chicken Stock

One time saving method that Lance and I employ is rotisserie chicken. Every couple of weeks or so I'll pick up a $4.99 chicken from Costco. We'll shred the chicken and throw it in the freezer to use in casseroles, chicken salad, soups, etc. I'd been saving all the chicken bones and skin (nasty, I know) to make some homemade chicken broth. Except I really didn't know how to go about the process, so I called by friend Sarah and she directed me to this website.

Basically, making your own chicken stock is really easy. We threw in all the chicken leftovers into the crockpot, added two carrots, some celery, some onion and some garlic, filled the rest of the crockpot up with filtered water and threw in 2 T of apple cider vinegar - let it sit for an hour without turning on the crockpot, and then we turned the crockpot to low and let the whole thing simmer for 22 hours. I don't think there's an exact science to it, but you get this jist.
We ended up with some really quality (at least it looks like quality - see how dark it is?) stock - approximately 7.5 cups, equating to a savings of $2.5. (Gads, Lance just figured that we used about 13 cents worth of electricity - who have I married?!)

I know it's the small things in life. But this stock is going to be better tasting and (hopefully!) better for us too. Now if we could just find room in the freezer ...

I have three more containers of chicken bits, so I foresee a lot more stock making in our future. And my mom has agreed to let me have all of her turkey bones and innards, so we'll have turkey stock soon too! I asked my mom if she had any plans for making turkey stock from her leftover Thanksgiving bird and she laughed at me. Apparently, I am more ambitious that she'll ever be :)

Recipe source: Nourishing Days
Happy Early Thanksgiving everyone! We are off to my parents and Lance's parents for Wednesday and Thursday so there will be no blogging as my parents have dial-up (gasp, the horrors) and Lance's parents have zilch (*falling over dead*) for internet capabilities!

Monday, November 23, 2009

Brussel Sprouts

Yeah, yeah, yeah I know what you are thinking ... brussel sprouts are something that your mom would punish you by making me eat (side note: in my case this is not true. My mom never made brussel sprouts, I asked her about this the other day and she said she's never had them before. So I guess they aren't really a punishment in my opinion). However, I thought my roasted brussel sprouts weren't bad. You need your green vegetable intake! Mr. Lance would disagree, he thought they were weird and said I should have made only a half batch. But for a $1.28 for a container, it's a good source of vitamins. And relatively easy to prepare too.

Turn your oven to 425 degrees
Wash, cut off the stems and remove any funny looking leaves
Place in a casserole dish, throw a little olive oil on them and sprinkle with garlic powder and sea salt.
Put them in the oven, roast for 20 minutes, stir and then pop the dish back into the oven for another 20 minutes.
Voila - you are done! Enjoy your green veggies!

Sunday, November 22, 2009


I've been plagued by a bad cold this week. So instead of whipping up fab culinary works of art ... I made chicken noodle soup and ate soup leftovers the ENTIRE week. And did the bare minimum. Which means that my house is a natural disaster. For example ... this is the view from my kitchen table. It appears that my husband abandoning clean up mid-cycle.
Let's play a little "I Spy."
  • Can you see the bottle of cough medicine that I've taken a teaspoon before I go to bed so I can sleep? (Yes, I realize the shaky morals of taking cough medicine so I can sleep)
  • How about the empty glass canning jars? (I must give those back to my MIL)
  • The cooling containers of homemade chicken broth? (More on that another day)
  • The 30 year old crockpot Lance refuses to give up in order for me to upgrade to something a little less ... harvest gold.
  • Water glasses that somehow never seem to find their way into the dishwasher
  • Or can you see that my husband has a very bad habit of leaving absolutely EVERY kitchen cabinet open after he gets something out?
Good golly Miss Molly, I must leave my post here to clean up the mess I call my home!

Saturday, November 21, 2009


Lance is upstairs making bread while I am "writing" my paper for my servant leadership class. Granted it's bread machine bread, but how many husbands out there would really make bread of any sort? He's such a good hubbie.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Wrong? Maybe a little ...

Ya know how you can wrack up all sorts of freebies on your birthday? Free desserts, free coffee, free food, the works. Well, I think it's impossible to enjoy all of this in 24 hours and me, being me, hate to pass up something free. So I spread my birthday date to all of these different places throughout the year. For example, I just got my free Starbucks coffee coupon in the mail last week. Yes, my birthday is in March. Is this wrong ... perhaps a little. But it's not like I'm signing up with multiple birthdays, I just happen to enjoy spreading them out a little! Do you do this?

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Kitty Visitors

Lance and I have discovered that there are approximately four cats eating out of the catfood bag in the garage: Fire, an orange and white kitty, a grey and black tiger kitty, and a ginormous black kitty. Apparently our garage is now a buffet for the neighborhood cats! Fire likes to sit at the window in the basement and meow at them when they eat at our buffet - in this picture he's worn out from visiting with all of his friends. Lance is putting the kibosh on the food frenzy - the food bag has been secured and there are no openings. Fie Fie is sad.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Favorite Thing: Greyness

These are my newest loves: my grey boots from Kohls and my grey OPI "You Don't Know Jacques!" fingernail polish. I love grey clothing and accessories. It's all very fall and winter appropriate. In fact I think grey is my latest obsession.

I'd also like to own these boots and these ones. Not in the budget.

Friday, November 13, 2009

We're not going to pay ... last year's RENT

Lance and I had date night and went to RENT at the DM Civic Center. Be jealous - I would be. We started off the evening with guacamole and prickly pear margaritas at Dos Rios, very delish. The made-at-your-table guac is my favorite thing about Dos Rios. I love eating out.

And then we had tickets to RENT! Because it wasn't a sold-out show, we bumped ourselves down a few rows. I love RENT, this is the second time I've seen the musical and definitely the best performance because Adam Pascal and Anthony Rapp were performing as Mark and Roger. It was fantastic and even Lance feigned enthusiasm. I love musicals, I think life should be full of choreographed dances and songs.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Ring of Truth

(Side note: Do you know how hard it is to take a picture of your hand? It's hard! Who likes my cool grey fingernail polish?! More about that in the future ...)

Funny story about my wedding ring. When Lance and I initially got engaged we went to Iowa Diamond and I picked out several different settings that I liked. Lance selected a setting and a center stone and proposed. I accepted, but decided that I wasn't sure about the ring. I made him take me back to Iowa Diamond, I looked through all the settings again and decided on a different setting other than what Lance had picked out. It was somewhat high maintenance of me, but I do love my wedding ring. However, an interesting question was posed the other day on a blog. If given the opportunity to get another ring (assume in this situation you've lost your current wedding ring and need a replacement), would you

A) pick out an exact replicate of your current ring
B) keep the center stone, but change the setting
C) pick out an entirely new ring

My response is C. I love my wedding ring, but I'm fickle and I like change ... please note I am perfectly happy to keep my current ring - I'm in no way ring shopping honey!

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Caribou Coffee

Hands down, my favorite place to get coffee is Caribou Coffee. I love their coffee and I think the baristas there are happier than Starbucks baristas (especially in you compare the WDM Caribou on University to the WDM Hy-vee Starbucks). Here's something interesting I found out after a couple minutes of googling tonight: on Nov 12 Caribou will begin making all of their mochas, chocolate lattes, hot chocolates, specialty beverages and cold beverages made with either white, milk or dark Guittard chocolate at all Caribou Coffee locations nationwide. Instead of using reconstituted syrups, they'll be using all-natural, kosher and gluten-free chocolate, none made from more than 6 ingredients! Click here for the 411

If given the choice, are you a Caribou or a Starbucks person?

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Lasagna Roll-ups

We had this yummy dish today. I probably should have had people over to eat with us as this was a huge pan of Italian goodness just for the two of us. It was the perfect meal - especially since we had assembled it the night before and all that was left was baking! Fun twist on lasagna and definitely a something you can make ahead of time.


1 egg, beaten
1 container (15 oz.) Ricotta Cheese
2 cups Shredded Italian Three Cheese Blend
4 green onions, chopped
1 Tbsp. Italian seasoning
1 jar (26 oz.) spaghetti sauce, divided
16 lasagna noodles, cooked
1/4 cup Parmesan Cheese

HEAT oven to 375ºF.
MIX first 5 ingredients until well blended.
SPREAD 1/2 cup spaghetti sauce onto bottom of 13x9-inch baking dish. Spread each noodle with 3 Tbsp. cheese mixture; roll up. Place, seam-sides down, in dish. Top with remaining sauce and Parmesan; cover.
BAKE 40 to 50 min. or until heated through, uncovering the last 10 min

Recipe: Kraft Foods' Food & Family Magazine Holiday 2009

Monday, November 9, 2009


Two great deals:
1. Cooking Light Magazine for $5 for a 12 month subscription - holla!

2. Shu Uemura's famous eyelash curler on sale at for $10. You will need to sign up for an account - you can use me as the referral email - and I can referral points. This eyelash curler is normally $19. I've been wanting to get one for quite awhile, I have very long stick straight lashes. This should help.

Yippie skippie for two great deals today!

Fab Friend

My friend Sarah and her two boys dropped off flowers for Erika and I at work. How lovely are the flowers and how lovely is my friend?! At first we thought they must be from our husbands - haha, the joke is on us. :)

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Saturday Fun in Ames

This Saturday started out in Ames at one of our favorite college restaurants ... Hickory Park! Ohhh ... I love that place. It brings back fond memories of college and friends. I love everything about Hickory Park (well, I don't love their bathrooms. The lighting above the stalls is weird. If you've been there, you know what I'm talking about). I love their burgers, their bbq, their mashed potatoes and gravy, their pickles and their ICE CREAM creations. It makes me wish that we lived closer or there was one in Des Moines.

During this past year's United Way fundraising drive at work, I won two SUITE tickets to the Iowa State versus Oklahoma State University football game. Do you see our excited faces? It's because we have FANTASTIC seats. Indoor, with tv's, good bathrooms, complimentary food and beverages, and to Lance's delight - Coors Light bottles. You can't normally have beer at games, unless you have seats in a suite! I was thrilled about ISU Dining Services' triple chocolate chip cookies - not so much on the beverage side of things.

I think this is the first time we haven't been in the student section. It's not quite as raucous or spirited, something we both lamented.

It was a beautiful day. I really wouldn't have minded having normal tickets - not that I'm complaining or anything.

Here comes the team out of the famous fog tunnel - Lance said that he's never actually seen this before. I don't know where he's been, I've seen it at all the rest of the games we've been to.

Sadly ... Iowa State got pummeled by OSU. We're still hoping for another win to become bowl eligible! All in all, Iowa State has done better this year than anyone expected. I'll be happy enough with that.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Cooking Club: Pumpkin Cheesecake

My friend and former co-worker, Jessica, invited me last month to her house for her monthly cooking club. It's really quite fun and an easy concept. Typically they get together the last Wed. of the month. Each month has a theme, last month it was fall favorites, this month's theme was pumpkin. Everyone brings a related dish to share and then we get to feast on all sorts of yummy goodness and get new recipes. I made a pumpkin cheesecake. I'm not overly impressed because it very strongly reminded me of pumpkin pie, which I'm not overly crazy about to begin with. So with the added challenge and difficulty of making a cheesecake, this recipe will not be reappearing because I'd simply just make pumpkin pie instead. But here's the recipe. Some really enjoyed it, I had the leftovers disappear in a matter of minutes at work

Pumpkin Cheesecake

1 1/2 cups graham crumbs
5 Tbsp. butter, melted
1 Tbsp. sugar
3- 8oz.pkgs. cream cheese, softened
1 cup sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
1 cup canned pumpkin
3 eggs
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. nutmeg
1/4 tsp. allspice
Whipped Cream
Mix crust ingredients together, just till coated and crumbly. Press onto the bottom and 2/3 up the sides of an 8" springform pan. Bake for 5 min. at 350. Set aside.
Combine cheese, sugar and vanilla in large bowl, mix until smooth with an electric mixer. add pumpkin eggs, and spices, beat till smooth and creamy. Pour into the crust. Bake for 60-70 min. or till the top turns a bit darker. Remove from oven and allow to come to room temperature, then refrigerate. After it has thoroughly chilled, remove the pan sides and cut. Serve with whipped cream.

Oh, PS - I did not win this month's cooking club popular vote - Pumpking Whoopie Pies and Stuffed Pumpkin Shells were the big winners.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Favorite Things: Enamel Cast Iron Dutch Oven

I have this chive green dutch oven. It's a great color and a much used item in my kitchen. I use it primarily for making soups on the stove and roasts in the oven. The lid has a dimpled top to help redistribute moisture to food as it cooks. I won't lie, this thing weighs a ton. Especially when it's full of chicken, potatoes, carrots, celery. It does a really nice job of cooking things at an even temperature. It retails on for $90.99 but I got mine at Bed Bath and Beyond for under $70 with a 20% off coupon (did you know they won't accept expired 20% coupons anymore? Let me tell you, that was a blow to my checkbook when I discovered this past spring). It's still a somewhat pricey piece, but much cheaper than the Le Cruset dutch oven I've been pining for for two years. That puppy retails for $249. Ha! It's going to be a few more years before I've got dollars to buy a Le Cruset.
Side note: If you live in an area with a Marshalls, TJ Maxx, or Tuesday Morning, often times Le Cruset pieces will end up there for less. Still over $100, but less than typical retail amounts.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Grad School

I registered for graduation on Friday. Totally bizarre, but a good reminder that the end is in sight. I'm pushing through the hardest part of my coursework right now. I'm on an eight week stretch of double classes: Servant Leadership and Strategic Corporate Communications. I just finished Research Methods which by no means joyful, but in the end, manageable. Here's a little secret: I only do enough reading to be able to do my weekly posts and compose my papers. I do nothing beyond that. With Research Methods I could complete my project assignments with minimal reading, however Servant Leadership is turning into an entirely different beast - a reading monopolizing beast. I am working on refining the art of doing just enough to get an A.
I will say this about grad school: it's busy work. Sometimes I think getting into grad school was harder than my actual program. I'm sure it's different if you are an Engineer, but for a Communications gal, it's just papers and reading. I'm not even sure if this is the right path for me, but hopefully at some point in my life there is financial gain. Otherwise I'm going to be over-educated with a lot of private school debt.