Category Archives: Holidays

The easiest Easter cupcakes ever!

Hiya, everybody! ๐Ÿ˜€ It’s Easter weekend!! The bunny is coming, and bringing sugar to small children that will make them bounce even further off the walls than normal! Friends are gathering, people are worshiping, and the flowers are blooming.

Thank goodness it’s finally spring…Cross fingers, anyway. It was 34 with a wind chill of 28 just four days ago here…*sigh* Four more weeks and I will be done with my degree! It’s so close I can taste it! And then I can blog all the time again! ๐Ÿ˜€ And have hobbies! And a life!

Anyway, my friend Dawn is having an Easter dinner tomorrow night, and I have volunteered to make dessert! Only because I found the most adorable recipe on Pinterest and *had* to make it, though! And, of course, I will be cheating a little bit just to make things easier. ๐Ÿ™‚ The cupcakes will resemble teeny weeny egg nests, and I am *SOOOOOO* excited! I hope that people will eat them and enjoy them, and think they’re as cute as I do!

So what are we waiting for, let’s get started!

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First, get some cake mix. I grabbed yellow cake because it’s my favorite. ๐Ÿ™‚ Next to carrot cake (but people probably wouldn’t want carrot cake for Easter). Then I cheated and got Easy Frost icing cans in chocolate (to be the brown nest!), and finally, some Robin Eggs.

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Mix the cake mix according to the package directions. Mine called for 3 eggs, 1/2 cup of vegetable oil (I used canola), and 1 cup of water.

IMG_20140419_154958783Put your cute little cupcake liners in your pan and fill them ~1/2 way with the cake mix. As you see above, I didn’t have a ladle small enough so I used a gravy ladle. Heh. My mom used to use ice cream scoops. Use whatever works.

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Bake them for 12-17 minutes, until they are done and a toothpick comes out clean. The mix should make ~24 cupcakes. Cool them for 3 minutes before transferring to a cooling rack. ๐Ÿ™‚

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In the middle of making the cupcakes, I decided that the ladle wasn’t working for me. My mom needed to go to the local mall for something, so I offered to drive her and we swung into Bed, Bath & Beyond for this little gem. EASIEST LADLING EVERRRRRRRR! Seriously, I don’t know why I waited so long for this.

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When the cupcakes had cooled completely, I went ahead and started with the icing. I’ve never used the canned stuff before, but it turns out to be pretty darn easy! ๐Ÿ™‚ Press down, out it comes. Bonus! It has a star tip on it!

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Work the icing around the top of the cupcake like a bird’s nest, and then put two of your whopper Robin Eggs on top. Voila! ๐Ÿ˜€ Easy, quick, cute, affordable, and totally fun for Easter!!

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And there you have it! A nice little set of eggs nests, all ready for your Easter! And since I will be taking them somewhere, I bought this AWESOME cupcake transporter, that has its own separate little cupcake tower that you can use by itself, or keep in the carrier! Genius!!

I hope everyone has a fantastic weekend! Happy Easter!

Happy-Easter-23

 

 

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No Knead Artisan Bread

NOMNOM CARBOHYDRATES NOMNOM.

Let’s be honest, who *doesn’t* love a good loaf of bread? Who doesn’t love the smell of it as it bakes in the oven? Who doesn’t love the sensuous feeling of warm bread dripping with butter melting on your tongue….

Okay, sorry, I got lost in a fantasy world for a second daydreaming about bread.

In case you can’t tell, that’s the topic of today’s blog! ๐Ÿ™‚ Easy bread, to boot! As most of you know, I have possessed a Lodge enameled cast iron dutch oven since last winter. Best. Purchase. Ever…in case you were wondering. Anyway, I am always on the lookout for things to make in my dutch oven. It is AMAAAZING for braising ribs, I recently tried an Irish beef stew in it (it was so delicious!), often make soups with it, you name it, I use the dutch oven for it. So as you can imagine, when I came across this little beauty on Pinterest, I pinned it right away with the intention of trying it VERY SOON!

And then school started up again, I got bogged down with homework, the usual stuff. The bread idea was placed on the figurative back burner and all but forgotten. But a few days ago, my best friend finally got her first dutch oven! She was so excited! I was so excited! OMG YAY DUTCH OVENS ARE EXCITING! She wanted suggestions for things to cook in her new toy, and while linking her various recipes I remembered: THE BREAD! “Ohhh yeaaaaah,” I thought “I want to make this too!” So I did.

As many of you know, the eastern seaboard has yet again been graced by Father Winter, who is cranky and stubborn and justย doesn’t seem to want to leave this year!!ย Last Wednesday, it snowed…didn’t stick, just snowed and looked menacing, and it took me more than two hours to get to school for a 50 minute class. I was very, very upset. So last night, I decided that I wasn’t going anywhere today if the flakes started falling, and then school closed, so I didn’t have to worry about it anyway. Given that this particular bread requires 12-18 hours of rise time, it seemed like a perfect opportunity to make it. Start it yesterday, let it sit overnight, finish it up today, watch the snow, smell the bread, be warm from the oven – perfection!

The only trouble was, I needed more whole wheat flour. UH OH! I went to the store and got some, but not before experiencing the mad house that is Maryland people before a winter storm. For some reason, snow = end of days in this state, and everyone panics and buysย everything from the grocery store the day before. It’s stupid – GUYS, I PROMISE: THE SNOW WILL MELT AND THERE WILL BE NO SHORTAGE OF FOOD. Thankfully, since everyone was at Giant panicking, I was able to get in and out of Target at a relatively good speed. Remember that next time you can’t park at a grocery store the day before snow, folks – Target has a grocery section. They sell flour. ๐Ÿ˜› Nyeh nyeh.

And so the process began:

I don’t have any photos of the ingredients, but know that you will need 6 cups of bread flour, 1/2 tsp of instant or active dry yeast, 2.5 tsp of salt, and 2 & 2/3 cup of cool water. I subbed 3 cups of whole wheat flour for 3 of the cups of bread flour. Mix the dry ingredients together and then add the water.

For not the first time yesterday, I found myself wishing I had a KitchenAid mixer. Doesn’t everyone want one of those at some point? Ugh, Iย needed that bread paddle yesterday (though a much cheaper alternative that I am going to look into is a danish dough whisk. It’s $10 to the KitchenAid’s $400). Let it be known, though, that the puny dough hooks and wimpy motor on my hand mixerย actually worked long enough to incorporate the dough. I didn’t have much faith in it to start, but as long as I nursed it along patiently, it did well. I finished up by wetting my hands (the dough was ever so slightly too dry) and getting the rest of the dough ball mixed up. I had to add one extra tablespoon of water to get the right consistency (I find whole wheat to be a “thirstier” flour).

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Okay, so maybe it’s not the most glamorous thing in the world, but let’s face it, folks…It’s a ball of dough. YIPPEE. I then covered it with plastic wrap and set it on top of my fridge (it’s the warmest spot in my kitchen and also out of the way of fur balls that think it’s okay to walk on the counter tops).

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It is supposed to rise for 12-18 hours….Look at that bad boy go! I was curious, so I peeked while I was making dinner. I couldn’t help myself!

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And then I checked again before bed….JUST TO BE SURE THE YEAST WAS WORKING! (We have had yeast in our freezer for ages. By the way, if you’re going to use yeast that you’ve frozen, let it get to room temperature first, okay? Okay. Also, if you’re unsure as to whether it is still active or not, follow this simple instruction guide to tell if your yeast is still viable.)

IMG_20140303_085815936Good morning, snow day! I like what you’ve done with the place.

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And here is that beauty this morning. Looks gooooooood. You will know your dough is ready when it’s all bubbly and smells super yeasty. To me it smelled like beer, so I knew it was good to go.

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On a well floured surface, and with well floured hands, roll that bad boy out of the bowl and work it into a ball. Flour a piece of parchment paper or a tea towel and put the dough ball seam side down on it. Cover with another towel and let rise for 1-2 hours until it has doubled in size. I have a lot of homework to get done today, so in order to make sure I kept the correct schedule for this bread, I anal retentively set an alarm for an hour and 30 minutes.

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Why an hour and 30 instead of 2 hours, you ask? Because for the last 30 minutes of the rising process, you’re going to want to place a dutch oven (or any heavy oven proof pot that has a lid) in a cold oven and bring it up to 425 degrees. If you’re not sure whether your dutch oven’s handle can…well…handle 425 degrees, wrap it in aluminum foil. I *think* mine is okay, but…just to be sure, I wrapped it anyway. Because I like my dutch oven and I want it to last for a long time.

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Eeyup, I’d say that effectively doubled in size! (After 2 hours)

IMG_20140303_121115090Slide your hand under the parchment paper and flip the dough into the dutch oven. BE CAREFUL, IT’S HOT! DON’T TOUCH THE EDGES!! Now the seam will be up. Put the top back on and stick that bad boy in the oven for 40 minutes. Mmmmmmmm, do you SMELL THAT??? *drool*

IMG_20140303_125204350After the 40 minutes has passed, take the top off and cook for 10 more minutes to make a nice crust. HOT DAMN, LOOK AT THAT! I almost didn’t want to put it back in the oven!

IMG_20140303_130255477ย But I did. And man was it worth it….It’s so beautiful! *tear*

IMG_20140303_130440649It is now going to take every collective ounce of self control and restraint available in this house to let this cool downย all the way before we cut into it. Once the Ryan wanderedย out here and spied it, there might just beย was mutiny (“What? Why do we have to wait? What’s this nonsense? I don’t know what you’re talking about!” *grumbles and walks away pouting*). But I will emphasize again: DO NOT CUT INTO IT UNTIL IT HAS COOLED! Doing so will ruin the bread’s consistency and make it gummy and dense. Nobody wants that, do they? Didn’t think so.

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After hours of being pestered by the Ryan, the bread was finally read to cut. BEHOLD THE DELICIOUSNESS. I spread a little honey on mine. Mmmmm, good. ๐Ÿ˜‰ The Ryan hasn’t spoken in a few minutes, so I will interpret that to mean he enjoys it.

Well, what are you waiting for? GO BAKE SOME BREAD!!!

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Holy Yum Chicken (And Happy New Year!)

The title speaks for itself. It’s not my recipe, though. Chances are if you’re on Pinterest, you’ve seen this gem floating around being pinned hither and yon. It’s totally worth pinning. Fifty times. Yeah, I said fifty times. I wish I could make it fifty times a week, but then we’d probably get tired of it, and that would be a shame. Also there aren’t really that many meal opportunities in a week, so…:(

The Ryan and I decided to stay in and have a quiet evening tonight. Our friends are off with their families, other groups of friends, whatever. We weren’t invited anywhere, and that is fine with us. With all the things going on recently, it’s nice to just be able to lay on our couch and do nothing. This evening has consisted of watching Star Trek: Voyager and Stargate: Atlantis. Yeah, SG-1 is better, but Netflix got rid of it. ๐Ÿ˜ฆ CURSE YOU, NETFLIX! Though we got Atlantis on Amazon Prime, so. Meh. Oh, and now a documentary called Secrets of the Sun about how the sun is going to destroy life as we know it by smacking us with a solar flare and killing our electronics (the Ryan always finds the good documentaries). Science!!

Anyway, since it’s a “special occasion,” (though to be fair, 2013 was kind of badass. I got engaged to and then married the Ryan, I met Mommy and Daddy S’s baby Cambria when she was just brand new and a day old and have watched her grow alongside them, I made some amazing new friends, got closer to existing friends, took one more step toward my degree, and got to sit on a tropical beach paradise in Jamaica for a week. I mean, come on! That’s awesome!) I decided to make this recipe. I tried it a while back when we first moved here, and the Ryan liked it so much he actually put it as his favorite food (out of all the things I’ve ever made him! Lol!) on the questionnaire game we did for my bridal shower. Clearly, he digs it. And I don’t blame him, I love it too. It’s called “Holy Yum Chicken,” and oh man, does the title totally do it justice. But enough of me raving about it, you should make it yourself. And here’s how:

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I was a little bit tired, and had mixed the ingredients before I decided, hey, I should blog this! It has been a looooooong day. Actually it has been a long week, y’all. Santa was good and all, but I’m tired! Anyway, for the sauce you’ll need 1/2 cup dijon mustard (Emeril’s is my favorite: I can actually read all of the ingredients on the label, and I think it tastes better. Especially in this recipe. No, Emeril isn’t paying me to say that. But wouldn’t it be badass if he did? Hellooooo, money! But I digress). You will also need 1/4 cup of pure maple syrup.ย REAL. MAPLE. SYRUP. Not Log Cabin (as much as I love it) or sugar free nonsense, the real deal. And then 1-2 tbls of rice vinegar. I like to use 2 tbls because I find one leaves the sauce a bit too sweet for my liking. But it’s up to your taste. I like the tang. Add that deliciousness to a bowl and whisk it till it’s nice and smooth and ya can’t whisk no more!

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The original recipe calls for 1.5-2 lbs** boneless, skinless chicken thighs. I made the super fabulous mistake of only thawing out one chicken thigh that was folded in on itself and looked like two. WHOOPS! I frantically ran out to the grocery store to get more (as my oven was heating to a whopping 450 degrees, yep, you read that right), and elbowed my way through the New Years Eve crowd to find: bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs. Well, crap. But that’s all there was that was organic, so I bought it and just dealt with it. I cut off all the skin and fat, and voila (having the bone there didn’t make a difference that we could tell anyway).

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Line an 8×8 pan with a double layer of tin foil (trust me, do it. Two layers), and stick your beautiful chicken thighs on in there. Salt and pepper each side, and then pour your mix right in. Move them around to get them nice and coated with the sauce on both sides. Mmmmm, look at that. Stuff those bad boys in the oven, uncovered, for 40 minutes.

Meanwhile, I cut up some potatoes and tossed them in olive oil, seasoned salt, garlic powder, pepper, and a dash of paprika and stuck them in my new (YAY WEDDING STUFF!!!) Le Creuset 9×9 bake pan. ๐Ÿ˜€ Lined with foil, of course, but I love that thing! Best. Cleanup. Ever. Anyway, I baked those for 30 minutes (so 10 minutes after the chicken went in – it’s real easy to prep when you’re lazy and chop them with the skin on :D).

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Mmmmm, out of the oven. Look at those bad boys. While it bakes, you will be drooling, it smells soooooooooo amazing. Let them sit for about 5 minutes, and then remove them to a plate and cover (or don’t, because you know, 450 degrees is frickin’ hot!). Return the pan to the stove, and add 1 tablespoon of cornstarch to 1-2 tablespoons water (this is the only part of the recipe I diverge from, because adding cornstarch directly to the leftover sauce has only ever left me with lumpy grossness, and you’re not really supposed to do that anyway), and whisk to incorporate until the sauce thickens. I’m too lazy for all that, so I just whisk it in and then turn the heat up a smidgen and let it come to a slight boil to thicken (don’t worry about safety, the sauce boils for a long time at 450 in the oven), and then whisk it more and remove it from the heat.

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Pour your sauce over your chicken, and voila! Dinner. ๐Ÿ˜€ And it’s soooooooooooooooooo good!!!! ย Holy Yum!!! Go make it NOW!

**Normally, I only make 2 thighs and I halve the recipe, but today since I had to go to the store, I ended up making the whole thing. And now the Ryan and I have lunch for tomorrow! ๐Ÿ˜€

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HAPPY NEW YEARS INDEED!!!!

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Thanksgiving! And stuff.

Well ‘ello there, all! ๐Ÿ™‚ Long time no write!

Things have been totally crazy! I always say that, right? Well, it’s true. The good news: I’m freaking married now! WOOOOOOO! *celebratory dance*

It was a beautiful day, the Ryan looked stunningly handsome, and even with the little blips, the wedding was more perfect and magical than I ever could have imagined.

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In the course of the last couple weeks, we ran around like headless chickens wrapping things up at work and at school, and then off we went to Jamaica for a week! True story, I cannot recommend Sandals, Negril highly enough! They made our honeymoon completely romantic and completely awesome! Besides, whoย wouldn’t like endless rum (Jamaican rum! YUM) filled drinks and food whenever you want it while snorkeling or jamming on a party catamaran out on the ocean? Duh. Sandals, Negril. Go there. Get a butler room. You won’t be sorry you did.

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And now we’re back. It’s Thanksgiving week! YIKES! I’ve spent my day today making brownies (as requested by my aunt, whose house we’re going to before heading over to a friend’s) and preparing my “grown up” apple cider for tomorrow. And by preparing, I mean putting the crock pot and Caramel Vodka next to the front door. The cider is still in the fridge. Because it should be. Also, today I learned that you can use coconut oil in place of butter in baking batters! But be careful, the melting/solid threshold on coconut oil is only 76F, which makes it kind of unwieldy when you add things at or below room temperature (depending on the temperature of your room, that is. Ours is around 70, so…yeaaah). Fear not, however, I sampled a brownie and they’re just as good and smooshy as if I were to have made them with butter. TAKE THAT, FATTY BUTTER!

Tomorrow I plan on making a variant of a recipe I saw on Pinterest for Apple Cider with Vodka in it. I went and bought myself some Smirnoff Caramel Vodka and some Apple Cider from the Amish. The Ryan and I got a new programmable crock pot as a wedding gift, which I will be taking to our friend’s Thanksgiving dinner tomorrow evening. One gallon cider, half a bottle of vodka, put the thing on “Keep Warm” and get my friend to light up the fire pit while we set up the telescope (yeah, we have one of those too. It’s fun being married to an engineer) to see if Comet Ison blows up in the sun or not. It should be a nice evening tomorrow! And even if Ison blows up, we will have cider with booze in it. So it’s a win either way. Plus, turkey coma.

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(How did I get the same cider as in that picture on the original recipe, you ask? Turns out that Philadelphia isn’t that far from Maryland and the Amish bring it down with them to the market. Ohhhhhh yeah. ^_~)

Anyway, I’ll let you know how it turns out.

In other news, our honeymoon was a bit of an overindulgence and we put on a few *cough* pounds while we were in Jamaica. I mean, drinking fruity cocktails all day and eating fried red snapper and all sorts of other goodies (and desserts) will do that. I don’t regret it, even if my belly does. VIVA LA HONEYMOON! But that, plus the holidays, means that we’re in that tough spot of watching what we eat while not starving ourselves through the numerous gatherings we’ll be attending (especially since I bought a case of 18 Holiday cookie cutters, and I want to make Christmas cookies, damnit!). So if the rest of you are curious, I managed to find this resource for Thanksgiving/Christmas food lightened up. Because Skinny Taste is the bomb.com. I will definitely be turning to some of these recipes to bring to our group Christmas dinner.

That’s about it for now! I’ve got to run and start reading a book for a review I need to write this weekend. And ย I have a presentation due Tuesday. Gotta work Friday (and work out my purchasing finger with internet Black Friday sales)…..it never ends! Oh! And the ballet on Saturday! The Joffrey Ballet is back in DC performing the Nutcracker at the Kennedy Center! It’s a yearly tradition, so I’m excited!! Let’s hope my dress clothes fit after that awesome honeymoon. ๐Ÿ˜‰

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Happy Thanksgiving, everybody!!

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So Close! And Things To Come…

Evening, everyone! ๐Ÿ™‚ Well, the Ryan and I are mostly sort of kind of almost done packing (you know how there are always odds and ends laying around?), barring a decent amount of kitchen items and clothing. Phew! I am soooo tired of moving! Hopefully we fall in love with our new place and can stay there for a while. It’s larger than where we are now and closer to Annapolis and Baltimore, so…Maybe I can find a big girl job in one of those areas, it sure would beat my commute down toward D.C.!

Anyway, tomorrow we’re getting our keys and doing a walkthrough, and 8 a.m. Saturday the movers are coming! Eeek! The Ryan and I are both off tomorrow, so we’ll be tidying up odds and ends and hopefully we will be able to at least start cleaning some. I am not looking forward to that portion of Saturday. *sigh* The cleaning….bleh! BUT! We hired movers, so I think that’s the better end of the deal than hiring cleaners. Didn’t want to pay for both, you know? In the mean time, the kitties are completely convinced that the stack of boxes taking up residence in my living room is a theme park, and they have been climbing and pouncing and dive-bombing each other for the last few days.

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Throughout this week (it has flown! Wow!), I have spent a great deal of time watching the Food Network, and I have discovered that I like Giada and Anne Burrell, but I still can’t stand Paula Deen, y’all, or Barefoot Contessa (they use so much fattening crap!!!). And is Dinner with Jamie Deen a spinoff of Paula Deen? I assume given the last name it’s her son. Yep, my tastes in Food Network haven’t changed (no pun intended)…also, I have learned that there is NOTHING on TV! American Pickers got old after the 9th episode the other day, and Antiques Roadshow was a total snooze. Pawn Stars was cool yesterday, but it’s totally staged. And they’re kind of asshats. For real, who goes into a pawn shop looking to make real money, anyway? Everyone knows they rip you off. I used to live in Las Vegas, and there’s always a long line around the building (it’s up by the Old Strip) and those dudes aren’t even always there. *sigh* Today has been the best so far, with Good Eats and Unwrapped this morning, and then at least 30 Rock and Futurama had the decency to be on Comedy Central this afternoon. Ugh, now I know why I couldn’t do the stay-at-home thing. I’d be bored out of my skull! I have enjoyed sitting on the couch for a little bit, though. If only I hadn’t had to spend my entire week packing and catching up on workouts and going to the doctor and going grocery shopping. One whole day on my couch would have been awful nice. I think that will come Monday.

I will be blogging on Monday as well, as the Ryan and I are heading up to Delaware on Sunday for a Memorial Day/Hell Yeah, Granddad cookout! ๐Ÿ™‚ My grandfather was diagnosed with non-Hodgkins lymphoma back around January, and next Tuesday is his last treatment. Then he will go home for a month or so before coming back up for a checkup. Hell yeah, old man!! You’re kicking cancer’s ass, WOOOOOOOOO! And damn good thing, he’s walking me down the aisle. Or, well, maybe I’ll end up pushing a wheelchair, haha! He’s in physical therapy for his hip replacement surgery, though, and has lost weight (something he needed), so I am hopeful that he will be able to walk me. He said he felt great during his chemo (impressive for an 82 year old man, eh?) and still feels good, so that is a good sign! I can’t wait to see him, I haven’t seen him since Thanksgiving. ๐Ÿ™‚

For the cookout, I will be bringing a Mexican dip (a la 7 layers but not quite all 7), and s’mores brownies. And of course, I will be blogging them as I make them! I have never made the dip before, but I have definitely made the brownies. I will also be bringing my guacamole (I’m going to make some for the dip and then haul the leftovers along as well ^_^) and some nachos, so I hope everyone is happy. I was thinking of taking up a couple of turkey burgers for the Ryan and I, but I may just wait and see what’s there. It’s not like I’ll be following my diet anyway, you know?

Speaking of diet, I’ve lost 22 lbs so far, huzzah! Sadly, I went to go try on clothing yesterday and I am not any different in size. How THAT works, I have no idea. But, whatever. At least the number is down, my waist is smaller, my pants are starting to fall off, and I’m happy. I feel a lot better, too. That’s what counts.

Also! The Ryan knows how much I love to garden and our new place sadly has only northwest facing windows. He is determined to set up an aeroponics system for me so I can grow things indoors. He even wants to see if my beloved orchids can grow that way. He asked me to blog his progress making the system and growing things in it, so look for that too. And just in case you’re interested, apparently the pot growers of the world are leading the way in aeroponics technology. Tell your friends.

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The other night we went to Lowes for some wires and plugs, and we have already acquired some Tupperware containers from Wally World, so…He’s planning on using one of the Raspberry Pi’s (a mini computer about the size of a credit card, for those of you who have no idea what that is) that I got him for Christmas to make a timer system for the sprayer, and he’s already got pumps and some sort of little chips for whatever purpose (I’m not too technical on this stuff), so he’s slowly starting his mad science experiment. I’m intrigued to see if he can successfully make it and get some stuff to grow. I’ve got seeds, so we’ll see what happens. How cool would itย  be, though? Infinite possibilities to grow things indoors. I think all we need now is fixtures and lights, which we’ve been researching. I need them for my orchids and other plants as well. So stay tuned for progress on this project also!

Anywho, I am off to pack more boxes! Sorry I have nothing for dinner tonight – leftover spaghetti is convenient when one is planning a move! Ta ta!

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Winding Down & Mother’s Day Freezer Meals

Ahhhhhhhh, finally. The semester is over. I turned in my last assignment on Thursday afternoon, finished my last day of work until July on Friday afternoon, made Mother’s Day up to my mom yesterday because last Sunday I was drowning in ~65 pages of paper writing death….

And now it’s over. For eight whole days. Granted, we’re moving next Saturday, but until next Friday is over, I have time to myself to do whatever I want. Of course, I have chosen to blog, to surf Pinterest for the first time in forever, and to watch TV and movies I’ve been neglecting with the Ryan. We might even get to play some Guild Wars together this week. Mwahahahaha! (Shout out to all my njorn out there! :P)

Anyway, yesterday the Ryan and I made the haul down to my mom’s house where I got to see my wedding dress up close and personal for the first time ever (she picked it up for me and is keeping it hidden, as the Ryan will peek. And yes, I saw it when I tried it on, but this one is actually in my size!) and it is soooooooooo pretty. Yay!! Our Mother’s Day gift to her was a webcam, so she and my brother can Skype us whenever they want (my brother sends us around 9 million messages on Xbox but it’s such a pain in the ass to write back with a controller >.<), and I decided to make her freezer meals.

A little thing about my mom: she never cooks. Okay, maybe not never, but it’s more common to see a blue or harvest moon than it is to see a legitimate homemade meal hit your plate in that house. Unless, you know, I’m visiting, in which case it happens then. As a matter of fact, one of my gifts was turkey burgers, sauteed mushrooms, corn on the cob and watermelon yesterday for lunch. Bam! Anyway, since my mom has been working so hard to lose weight, she has resorted to eating those frozen Smart Ones and Weight Watcher’s meals, which…A for effort, mom. She’s starting somewhere, so baby steps. She has lost 20 lbs, so good for her! In the mean time, my brother is left to eat Hot Pockets and those self-serve pizza thingies, I dunno what they are. He also drinks soda. Lots of it. Needless to say, he’s gotten quite..hmm..pudgy?

Being the avid cook that I am, and the fact that the Ryan and I have made significant lifestyle changes to aid us in losing weight, I sort of freaked out (understatement). I love my family, and I want them to be healthy. Letting my brother happily subsist off Hot Pockets and pizza for the next 20-30 years is not the right practice, and I don’t want to have to become his caretaker (he has disabilities) with diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, etc., to handle on top of everything else. So I sat down, went through Pinterest, made a list of several meals that I knew they would eat, wrote a grocery list, and took my mom shopping. Well, she paid for it, but still. I went through the store, got everything we needed, went back to her house, and got to work.

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Look at it all! Eeeek! I wrote the name of each meal, how to cook it in the crock pot and on what setting, and even what to serve it with. I got her some egg noodles and she picked out some minute rice (baby steps, at least it’s rice, right?).

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Two hours and 13 freezer meals later, I was done. ๐Ÿ™‚ Most of this should have leftovers, so almost all of these meals should serve as two meals….therefore, they should last her almost a month. She was shocked that $120 worth of groceries could get her that far (she spends way too much on eating out 3x/day), so hopefully the health and economic benefits of this experiment will show their pretty faces and get her on the freezer meal train. Plus, she doesn’t have to do any work. Thaw it out the night before, put it in the crock pot, come home and eat dinner. Voila! It’s like those icky frozen foods but much, much better for you.

I didn’t take any photographs while I was working because frankly, my hands were dirty and covered in some sort of food substance pretty much the entire time, so I didn’t want to touch my phone. ๐Ÿ™‚

I am hopeful that this will save my mom some $$ and get both of them eating healthier. In a little bit, I am going to make her a chart for each meal and email it to her so she can write whether she did/didn’t like it, what she did/didn’t like about it, and what I can change if I come down and do it again in a month or so. She and my brother are probably two of the most picky eaters you’ll ever meet. Ever. So I’m terrified that they won’t like something I made multiples of and will throw them out. ๐Ÿ˜ฆ So the chart, I think, will be helpful. High five to the Ryan for coming up with that idea, haha!

In the mean time, here are the recipes for each meal I made her:

Ranch Pork Chops

  • 1 can organic cream of chicken soup
  • 1 packet Hidden Valley ranch dressing mix
  • Pork chops
  • Add all ingredients plus maybe some baby potatoes to the crock pot and cook on low for 6 hrs, high for 4 hrs.

Chicken Tacos

  • 4 boneless skinless chicken breasts
  • one 12 oz jar of salsa
  • 1 envelope taco seasoning (since I was down there, I made my own taco seasoning and put that in)
  • Add all ingredients to crock pot and cook on high 4-6 hrs; serve w/cheese, sour cream, or any other garnishes.

Tortilla Soup

  • 4 boneless skinless chicken breasts
  • one 16 oz jar salsa
  • 11 oz can of corn (I hate that stuff, I bought her frozen corn)
  • one can of beans (I made one with black beans and one with pinto beans)
  • 2 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp chili powder
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • Cook on low 4-6 hrs, shred chicken and serve. Garnish with sour cream, cheese, etc.

Sausage & Bell Peppers

  • 3 Italian sausages (I got her Italian style chicken sausages, have you seen the calories in regular sausages? *shudder*)
  • 1 red pepper
  • 1 yellow pepper
  • 1/2 red onion
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 1 can Italian diced tomatoes
  • 1 tbls Italian seasoning
  • Cook on low 6 hrs, serve w/mashed potatoes or as is.

Mongolian Beef

  • 1 lb stew meat
  • 2 tbls olive oil (she didn’t have any, I used canola)
  • 1 onion, sliced thickly
  • 1 tbls garlic
  • 1/2 cup soy sauce
  • 1/2 cup beef broth (we used low sodium)
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar (I only used 1/4 cup)
  • 1/2 tsp minced ginger
  • 1/2 cup Hoisin sauce
  • Cook on low 6-8 hrs, serve over rice.

Lazy Day Stew

  • 1-2 lbs stewing beef
  • 1.5 cup baby potatoes
  • 2 tsp quick cooking tapioca (I have not been able to find this anywhere in ANY store. If you have any ideas where I could get it, let me know!)
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • One 8 oz can of tomato sauce
  • 1 tbls brown sugar
  • 1-2 cup baby carrots
  • 1-2 cup celery
  • 1 onion
  • Add 1 cup water or beef broth, cook on low 4-6 hours. Eat as is or serve over egg noodles.

Pork Tenderloin

  • 1 tenderloin
  • 1 cup low sodium beef broth
  • 1/2 cup white wine
  • 3 tbls garlic
  • 3 tbls low sodium soy sauce
  • 4 tsp dried onion flakes
  • 1/4 tsp pepper
  • Add all to crock pot, turn loin to coat; Spread garlic over roast (I used garlic powder, we didn’t have fresh cloves – she doesn’t have a press and I wasn’t feeling that ambitious) and cook on low 4 hrs. Serve with mashed potatoes and corn.

Buffalo Chicken

  • 3-4 chicken breasts
  • One 12 oz bottle hot sauce (or less if you’re super sensitive – we used a 5 oz bottle of Franks original)
  • One packet Ranch dressing mix
  • 2 tbls butter
  • Spray crock pot with canola oil; Place chicken in crock pot, mix hot sauce and ranch, and pour over chicken. Cook on low 6-8 hrs. Add butter in the last half hour of cooking. Then shred and serve on rolls like pork bbq but not.

Rosemary Chicken

I wasn’t able to make this one, as we ran out of chicken, but I had it on the list anyway:

  • 3-4 chicken breasts
  • 1 can low sodium chicken broth
  • Fresh onion & garlic
  • 1/2 cup fresh Rosemary
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Line crock pot with sliced onions and garlic; Lay chicken breasts on top. Pour in chicken broth, sprinkle w/rosemary. Cook on low, 6 hrs. Serve w/brown rice and a veggie.

So there you have it! I am likely going to have to do some in this fashion myself in the next week or so, since I’m starting field school on the 28th and will be gone from ~7 in the morning to 5 in the evening, and will be out in the hot sun and sweltering humidity digging in the dirt and busting my hump everyday for 6 weeks. Oh, to be an archaeologist…Needless to say, the Ryan is going to be in charge of things for a while. ๐Ÿ™‚ Might as well help him out, right?

Anyway, I am off! Off to do whatever I want today, for the first day since at least Spring break! Wheeeeeeeee!!

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Happy Easter, y’all!

Howdy! ๐Ÿ™‚ I actually had some time tonight to do something fun! That’s not true….I made time by procrastinating on an assignment. I’m reading a book that is akin to having my teeth pulled, and I would basically rather do anything except read…Blargh!

I’m sure if anyone has spent any amount of time on Pinterest in the last month or two, you have come across this Pin for Easter strawberries that look like carrots. =) The Ryan and I are attending an Easter dinner tomorrow, and I decided to make these as a snack to bring to the party. Since I haven’t done any photo recipes in a while, I decided to go ahead and take some pictures while I did this. It’s pretty straight forward and simple. I used my cell phone because…well because I’m lazy and I had it with me. Once I started melting the candy melts I wasn’t about to walk away. So PARDON MY MESSY KITCHEN! There is no such thing as housework during school. I need to win the lottery because then I’d have time to clean. Or I’d probably just hire someone to do it for me because I could afford it…But I digress…

While the Ryan and I ran errands today, I swung by Michaels and grabbed some orange candy melts. I also grabbed two pints of strawberries. When I got home, I rinsed all of the strawberries and laid them out on some paper towels to dry. Once that was finished, I set up to get going!

I don’t have a double boiler so I did it old school and simmered water under a stainless steel bowl.

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Which you apparently don’t see in this picture, but who cares? I made sure I could grab the strawberries quickly and had them set right beside me while I waited for the water to start simmering.

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I stuck the bowl on the pot and dropped in the first bag of candy melts. And then I stirred, stirred, stirred until I couldn’t stir no more….

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I then added the second bag of candy melts and kept stirring…I swear, I totally built some arm muscles stirring this until it was smooth. My strapless dress will thank me indeed come picture time at the wedding!

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Then I dipped the strawberries and set them out on a cookie sheet lined with wax paper.

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The Ryan was a sweetheart and assisted me when I ran out of space on the cookie sheet. =) I kept the chocolate warm and melty and he lined another dish with wax paper so I could keep going. Isn’t he the greatest?

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Finally I dipped the spatula into the remaining melted candy and spattered it across the strawberries for those cute little lines. =) Mmmm, carrots…but not!

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Finally, I put them in the fridge to live overnight until I am ready to plate them for the party tomorrow. Yes, look, my fridge is just like everyone else’s. Don’t judge me.

In other news, I poured the remaining melted candy onto some wax paper and shaped it into a bunny with my spatula..because why not? It is also in the fridge, but it’s not a work of art I cared for you to see ๐Ÿ˜›

easterdog

I hope all of you have a happy Easter! (Isn’t this one of the cutest pictures you’ve ever seen ever??? I know, right?!?!?)

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