Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Green Monster Smoothie

I regularly take these to work with me in the morning as my breakfast. I think they are yummy, filling and a great on-the-go breakfast for a girl who fails to leave enough time in her morning schedule to sit down to eat. And while the ingredients might be a little bizarre, Lance will drink these as well as the two coworkers I've convinced to try them.

Ingredients(in layering order)

1/4 c slow oats
1/3 c skim milk
1 banana cut up in chunks
1 large T of almond butter or peanut butter
1 handful of fresh spinach
1 large glop of yogurt
3 ice cubes

I assemble everything the night before in my smoothie cup (minus the ice cubes), blend everything, and then add the ice cubes and blend again. You can't taste the spinach and the Green Monster keeps my hunger at bay until lunchtime!

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Thanksgiving/Black Friday/survial present

Lance and I did mange to trek to NE Iowa to visit his grandma this weekend, despite not being able to see the rest of our family. It was fun to see her and we did a little gambling at the casino. Precious little. I lost $2.33 out of $5 and declared myself done. I don't really like losing money. But the fun part of visiting NE Iowa is stopping at the outlet mall in Willamsburg. Because this time I got to purchase a Coach bag! I worked a Black Friday promotional event from 11 pm to 6 am in order to justify buying this. The pain of having to add up receipts by hand is reason enough for this baby.
Here's my Thanksgiving/Black Friday/survial present!

Isn't she pretty? I got her 50% off with an additional 20% off too! Hurray for a good deal!

Thursday, December 24, 2009

And we're back

In central Iowa. The roads were too bad and we turned around. I guess we'll try again on Sat!

Merry Christmas to All!

We are off (again) to NW Iowa, braving the roads and rumors of 12" of snow back home ... Wish us luck! We'll have time with my parents and my Aunt Sharon tonight and then time with Lance's family from Friday - Sunday.
And remember, Jesus is the reason for the season. NOT SANTA!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Peanut Butter Goodness

A little gooey and more than a little messy, but right out of the oven, these cookies cannot be beat. I suppose that's why they won a $1 million in the Pillsbury Bake-off ...
Here's the recipe and to eating my weight in Christmas cookies. It would be so much healthier for me if I couldn't bake or cook.

1/4 cup Dry Roasted Peanuts, finely chopped
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 cup Creamy Peanut Butter
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1 roll (16.5 oz) Pillsbury® refrigerated peanut butter cookies, well chilled

1. Heat oven to 375°F. In small bowl, mix chopped peanuts, granulated sugar and cinnamon; set aside.
2. In another small bowl, stir peanut butter and powdered sugar until completely blended. Shape mixture into 24 (1-inch) balls.
3. Cut roll of cookie dough into 12 slices. Cut each slice in half crosswise to make 24 pieces; flatten slightly. Shape 1 cookie dough piece around 1 peanut butter ball, covering completely. Repeat with remaining dough and balls.
4. Roll each covered ball in peanut mixture; gently pat mixture completely onto balls. (If you want you can flatten them with a glass. I apparently missed the memo on that part. Oh well, doesn't change the taste!) On large cookie sheets, place balls 2 inches apart on parchment paper. 5. Bake 7 to 12 minutes or until edges are golden brown. Cool 1 minute; remove from cookie sheets to cooling rack. Store tightly covered.

Snow. Winter Weather. Again.

For the first time ever, Lance and I might be spending Christmas here in central Iowa rather than with our families in NW Iowa. It might be a wii Christmas with freezer leftovers ...

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Falling ....

This is what happens when you fall down the stairs ... twice. A very sore ankle and foot. And really no explanation for your own clumsiness. Obviously, no heels for me for awhile. Clumsy Kara.

Dead? Nah ...

What do you mean my Christmas Poinsetta is dead? I don't believe you. Miracle Grow will save Poinsetta and it will be a Christmas MIRACLE!

The post-it note from my dear friend and co-worker Erika, reads "Please put me out of my misery. Please." However, what you can't see is my added small print underneath: "Nothing says Merry Christmas like a dead Poinsetta"

Sunday, December 20, 2009


I finished my semester on Friday/Saturday at 1:13 AM. And then I was up at 8 am to hit the road for my parents house for the weekend. I've had about 6 hours in naps in the last 2 days and I'm still exhausted. I'll attribute that to staying up to midnight the last two weeks and then getting up at 6:30 am for work.
Yeah. That'll make you tired. But I'm optimistic - it's Christmas!

Thursday, December 17, 2009


Here is the evidence that Fire thinks Christmas ornaments are his personal play toys. Along with his two stuffed mice (both of which the stuffing is coming out of as Fire holds them in his mouth and bunny kicks them) and his foil ball, lay my wooden "Ho" ornament. Fire is stock piling all the things he thinks are fun. Bad kitty.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Rosemary Focaccia Bread

For the longest time, one of culinary ambitions has been to recreate Macaroni Grill's Focaccia Bread. Their bread is one of my favorite things to eat. It's so yummy! We don't eat at the Macaroni Grill very often because we're poor folk :) So my solution is recreations. This summer I made eggplant Parmesan and now I'm moving onto bread. This is the bread that I attempted to leave the house for in the middle of a snow storm. Olive oil or not, this bread was good. I made the dough in my bread machine and then finished the baking process in the oven. When it came out of the oven I could barely stop myself from eating the entire pan. Yes, it's that good. Or maybe I have little self-restraint.

Add all ingredients in the order they appear.
1 c water 80 degrees F (this is important, you don't want to kill the yeast by having your water too hot)
1/3 c olive oil
2 tsp sugar
1 tsp salt
3 c bread flour
1 tsp quick rise yeast

Bread machine program: dough

Add at beep: 1 tsp dried Italian seasoning

Rosemary Topping:
1/4 olive oil
1 T rosemary
1/4 c garlic, minced
1/3 Parmesan cheese
1/4 salt

1. With oiled hands, evenly press dough into a greased 9x13 pan. Using your fingers, make indentations in the dough
2. Cover & let rise in a warm place for 30 min or until almost double in size. While dough is rising, prepare your topping.
3. In a skillet, heat olive oil, garlic, & dried rosemary. Immediately remove from heat.
4. Use fingers to press dimples into the dough again. Spoon oil topping mixture evenly over dough and sprinkle remaining ingredients.
5. Bake at 400 degrees for 20 minutes or until done.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Favorite Things: Peppermint Mocha Coffee Creamer

One of life's most simple pleasures is coffee. I didn't understand this until I had graduated from college and couldn't depend on mid afternoon naps to keep me on my feet. Like so many others, I turned to most adults' dependency: coffee. I'm still not the point where I can drink coffee black, but I do like coffee and can appreciate the quality difference between gas station coffee and Caribou.

Isn't coffee prettier out of glass mug?

My favorite coffee creamer, Peppermint Mocha, is only out at Christmas. I stockpile it and freeze it for months to come. I am that person in the grocery store buying 4 bottles at a time. But I love it and you have to get it while the gettin's good.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Holiday Wreath

For years I've wanted to make this Martha Stewart-esk Christmas Wreath. And this was the year that I finally did it. My friend Rose inspired me to do this little holiday craft. She is correct in saying you will need a lot of balls. My advice to you is buy plenty of balls and then buy two more containers. Seriously. For more instructions, go to Rose's blog for her 12 Days of Christmas Projects series

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

I concede.

I tried to leave the house. Yes, I know it's an "epic" blizzard. But it's not really snowing all that much outside. I probably would have made it if Lance hadn't taken our only shovel (which, why do we only own one shovel?!? We live in Iowa that's just poor planning) with him to work. Several times I almost got my car stuck, but eventually I conceded. I had visions of my car getting stuck half in the driveway and half in the street and either me trying to dig it out on my own without a shovel or having some driver hit my car. Both are bad.

I needed olive oil. Yes ... probably not a good enough reason to try and venture outside, but my focaccia bread needs olive oil! I think I'm going to try and make due with canola oil instead.

This is the view from my deck. It's a little snowy wouldn't you say?

I'd say that the grilling season is officially over too.

Even Fire is smart enough to know the best place to be right now is home.

Well fine. I concede. Snow you may have won this time, but I'm ready for a rematch!

Monday, December 7, 2009

All I Want For Christmas ...

Is too much.
This lovely dish

These gorgeous earrings

And this lovely glass bowl. Ahh... procrastination via etsy. I've purchased a couple of gifts, I'll post them when the arrive in the mail.

And Fridays off for the rest of my life. Just a couple of small items :) What do you want for Christmas this year?

Friday, December 4, 2009

Homemade Peppermint Marshmallows

These were supposed to be for cooking club, however at the last minute things didn't work out so now I have quite a few homemade peppermint marshmallows. They're lovely :) And coated with powder sugar so healthy too!
At the last minute I remembered that I wanted to swirl red food coloring into them to make them all lovely and marble-esk ... instead they look reminiscent of a vampire trying to suck the blood out of them. Oh well, it was an experience though!

Adapted from Gourmet, December 1998 and Smitten Kitten website
Makes about 96 1-inch cubed marshmallows

About 1 cup confectioners’ sugar
3 1/2 envelopes (2 tablespoons plus 2 1/2 teaspoons) unflavored gelatin
1 cup cold water, divided
2 cups granulated sugar (cane sugar worked just fine)
1/2 cup light corn syrup
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 large egg whites or reconstituted powdered egg whites
1 tablespoon vanilla (alternately: 1/2 of a scraped vanilla bean, 2 teaspoons almond or mint extract or maybe even some food coloring for tinting)

Oil bottom and sides of a 13- by 9- by 2-inch rectangular metal baking pan and dust bottom and sides with some confectioners’ sugar.

In bowl of a standing electric mixer or in a large bowl sprinkle gelatin over 1/2 cup cold cold water, and let stand to soften.

In a 3-quart heavy saucepan cook granulated sugar, corn syrup, second 1/2 cup of cold water, and salt over low heat, stirring with a wooden spoon, until sugar is dissolved. Increase heat to moderate and boil mixture, without stirring, until a candy or digital thermometer registers 240°F, about 12 minutes. Remove pan from heat and pour sugar mixture over gelatin mixture, stirring until gelatin is dissolved.

With standing or a hand-held electric mixer beat mixture on high speed until white, thick, and nearly tripled in volume, about six minutes if using standing mixer or about 10 minutes if using hand-held mixer. (Some reviewers felt this took even longer with a hand mixer, but still eventually whipped up nicely.)

In separate medium bowl with cleaned beaters beat egg whites (or reconstituted powdered whites) until they just hold stiff peaks. Beat whites and vanilla (or your choice of flavoring) into sugar mixture until just combined. Pour mixture into baking pan and don’t fret if you don’t get it all out (learning from my mess of a first round). Sift 1/4 cup confectioners sugar evenly over top. Chill marshmallow, uncovered, until firm, at least three hours, and up to one day.

Run a thin knife around edges of pan and invert pan onto a large cutting board. Lifting up one corner of inverted pan, with fingers loosen marshmallow and ease onto cutting board. With a large knife trim edges of marshmallow and cut marshmallow into roughly one-inch cubes. (An oiled pizza cutter works well here too.) Sift remaining confectioners’ sugar back into your now-empty baking pan, and roll the marshmallows through it, on all six sides, before shaking off the excess and packing them away.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Christmas Baking List

I might be off my rocker to think I'm going to get all of this made, but here's my list of Christmas baking. I made it today during my 401K/Retirement meeting at work. The way I look at it, I've 40 years before I can retire. I've only got 3 weeks to bake, thus trumping my need to pay attention during my retirement meeting. Besides I have my 401K setup for autopilot.
Sugar cookies (which my friend Bill refers to as "crack cookies." They really are that good!)
  • Gingersnap cookies
  • Peanut butter star cookies
  • Swirled almond bark
  • Peanut brittle
  • Caramels
  • Fudge
  • Chocolate dipped pretzel rods

I think I can do it. The list is down from previous years.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Christmas Weekend: Recap

This year wasn't a very successful in terms of a "family" Christmas. We made it to neither of our sets of parents. We had purchased a mutual gift of a Wii and since I was done with classes for a couple of weeks, opened it last week. Early entertainment ... but gift exchange. We went to Christmas Eve service at our home church, a luxury that we rarely get to enjoy due to family obligations. That was very special for us. Christmas Day we watched a movie, grilled steaks on the deck (Lance's idea, not mine) and did a little reading. Since all of our families live in NW Iowa and they got 20+ of snow, going west was not an option. However, Lance's grandma, lives in NE Iowa where the weather was much better. So Sat afternoon we headed off to NE Iowa for our annual holiday trek to see her. We had a lovely time, enjoyed all of my Christmas baking and took a short gambling trip to the casino. I lost a total of $2.33 out of my $5. I'm not much for gambling. I don't like losing my money, even if it is only $2.33. The most exciting thing was my long awaited stop in Willamsburg - the Coach outlet store! I worked a Black Friday promotional event from 11 pm - 6 am so I could buy my first (and only if you ask Lance) Coach purse. Isn't she pretty?
She was on sale with an extra 20% off to boot! Definitely worth the pain of working from 11 pm - 6 am!

Gingersnap Cookies

This one is a winner. An addictive winner. My cousin-in-law, Lora, made this spectacular cranberry trifle salad for Thanksgiving and it called for crumbled gingersnap cookies. Lora went all out on this salad, she couldn't find ground cloves so she brought whole cloves and ground them herself with a glass. Isn't that hardcore? She brought her leftover cookies to supper and one nibble and I was a goner. Good gravy these are soft and beautiful. They're going on my cookie list for Christmas. Here's her recipe.

Gingersnap Cookies

1 cup Brown Sugar
1 Egg
¾ cup Vegetable Oil
¼ cup molasses
2 ¼ cups flour
2 tsp Baking Soda
1 tsp ground cloves
2 tsp Ginger
2 tsp Cinnamon
½ tsp Salt
Sugar for decoration

Mix brown sugar, egg, oil, and molasses. Combine dry ingredients together and add to wet mixture. Roll into 1-1/4 inch balls and roll in sugar. Bake at 375 degrees for 10-12 min on parchment paper.

Really, if you make these cookies you will not be disappointed. I love cookies, but this one was especially good. Lance's exact words were "Why haven't you gotten a job at Meredith yet?"

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Favorite Things: Christmas Music

I can't lie. Christmas music is my favorite. In college for a communications project, I put together a communications plan for an all Christmas music station - all the time. I called it JOY 98.3. I got 100% on the project and my professor said that I was crazy enough that the station might just work. Not exactly a compliment, but since I did get 100% on the project I decided he meant it as a compliment :)

I love the following three albums in their entirety: Josh Groban's "Noel" album. I really love his version of "It Came Upon a Midnight Clear." It's a little gospel, maybe a little bit country and takes a twist from the traditional version. It's freaking wonderful.

Then there is Celine Dion's "These Are Special Times" Christmas album. I agree - Christmas is a special time! My favorite song on this album is "Don't Save it All for Christmas Day." I love singing shrilly with Celine. It drives Lance and Fire nuts.

Ahh ... and my go to happy album - Mercy Me's "The Christmas Sessions." I love rockin out in my cubicle (and trust me, I do!) to "Gloria" and I think "Joseph's Lullaby" is gorgeous. This cd, without fail, always puts me in a better mood.

And that folks, is my Christmas music edition of "My Favorite Things."