Saturday, December 18, 2010

Quick and Easy Almond Cookies, LOVE these

Last Sunday was just frigid and snowing. On Saturday I made the decision that I was not going to leave the house on Sunday which meant forgoing my usual trip to the grocery store. Around 9pm I started to get a hankering for something sweet. With limited ingrediants on hand I found this recipe online and happened to have everything. These were quick, easy, and tasty!

I plan to make these again and experiment with some add ins. Chocolate chips, white chocolate chips, maybe cranberries. We'll see!


3/4 c. sugar (I used splenda baking sugar)
1/3 c. butter, softened
1/3 c. oil
1 tbsp. milk
1-2 tsp. almond extract
1 egg
1 1/2 c. flour (I used whole wheat)
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
1 tbsp. sugar (splenda again)

Heat oven to 375. In large bowl, beat 3/4 cup sugar, butter, oil, milk, almond extract and egg until light and fluffy. Lightly spoon flour into measuring cup; level off. Stir in flour, baking powder and salt; blend well.
Spread evenly in ungreased 15x10x1 inch baking pan; sprinkle with 1 tablespoon sugar. Bake at 375 for 10-12 minutes or until light golden brown. Cool 5 minutes; cut into bars. 4 dozen bar cookies.

Although, I will say this made about 16 bars...not 4 dozen. Those would be TINY!

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Dixie Kitchen and a good pie!

This post is a little overdue but I still wanted to share this recipe from My family came to Chicago to celebrate my Dad's birthday. With the cold weather approaching we decided to go to Dixie Kitchen for a little bit of the south. The food there is great, southern with a cajun twist. The drinks are pretty good too, slightly reminiscent of Pat O'Briens in Nola.

Instead of a cake I made a pie. I thought that my Dad preferred pie to cake, but then my mother informed me that they got in a fight one year when she made him a pie. Luckily he didn't fight me!

Since his birthday was in November I thought a pumpkin pie to be appropriate! I really like this version because of the crunchy streusal topping! It gives the pie a nice little crunch! I also love anything with oatmeal! The amount of oats we go through in this house is insanity!

Pumpkin Streusal Pie

1/2 cup granulated sugar (I used splenda sugar)
1/2 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar (I used splenda sugar)
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour ( I used whole wheat flour)
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1 can (15 oz.) pumpkin
1 can (12 oz.) evaporated milk ( I used light)
2 large eggs, beaten to blend
10-inch pie pastry for a single-crust pie (for leaves, see notes above)
Walnut streusel
1. Preheat oven to 375°. In a bowl, mix granulated sugar, brown sugar, flour, cinnamon, nutmeg, salt, and ginger. Add pumpkin, milk, and eggs; whisk until well blended.

2. Pour mixture into unbaked 10-inch pie pastry in pan. Sprinkle walnut streusel evenly over filling.

3. Bake on the bottom rack until a knife inserted in center comes out clean, 60 to 65 minutes.

4. Set on a rack until cool to touch, about 2 hours. Cut into wedges.

Walnut Streusal
1/2 cup firmly packed light or dark brown sugar
1/2 cup rolled oats
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
1/4 cup all-purpose flour (I used whole wheat flour)
1/4 cup (1/8 lb.) butter
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
In a bowl, combine all ingredients and mix until crumbly.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

I Finally Did It!

Dixie now smiles for the camera! Look at those pearly whites!

Sunday, December 12, 2010

weekender muffins

After many rounds I finally mastered my muffin base recipe about 6 months ago. Since then, I make a variation of the below muffins almost once a week. The great thing is, you can mix up your add ins. A few of my favorites include the variation I made today:

1/2 a bag of frozen raspberries, juice of a fresh lemon and a teaspoon, give er take, of the rind

1 ripe banana mashed with 1/2 a bag of frozen blueberries, or a chopped apple

or just blueberry or raspberry...the possibilities are obviously endless!

Mix all the dry ingrediants, then the wet, blend. Fold in your fruit. Bake these for 19 minutes at 400 degrees and you are set! This makes 10 muffins, and in case I am not the last person in the world to figure this out... foil baking cups are AMAZING. You don't lose the bottom of your muffins when unpeeling!

1 1/4 cups 100% Whole Wheat Flour
1 1/4 cups Quick Oats Oatmeal
1/4 tsp Baking Soda
2 tsp Baking Powder
1/4 cup Vegetable Oil
2 tablespoons Splenda Brown Sugar Blend (or 1/4 a cup of brown sugar)
3/4 cup Vanilla Almond Milk (unsweetened)(sweetened works as well) (or just plain milk -just add a little vanilla extract)
1/4 cup Egg Whites (or one egg)
1/4 tsp Salt

Monday, December 6, 2010

Little Lost Kitten

A few weekends we had a major scare. One of my greatest fears is one of the animals getting out or running away and I learned it is a fear for a reason. It started off as a normal day for us. Mike ran out to get us starbucks, we relaxed and drank our coffee in bed, I made some breakfast. After a while I thought to myself, "I haven't seen the kitten in a while." This happened a few times in the past, she is a kitten and kittens hide. So I started with all of her normal spots. Then I moved on to some new spots where I thought maybe she would be. As a last resort I shook her food bowl since she always comes running when it's time to eat. When she didn't come running I started to panic. My heart was racing and I just kept repeating to Mike, "The kitten is gone, the kitten is gone."

After checking all the possible places she could be again, we realized she wasn't in the house. We replayed all of the morning events back in our heads. Mike had gone out to get coffee, and come back in the front door. He also ran out quickly to check a paint swatch for his car and came back in. The dogs had gone out in the back yard too, so we weren't even sure which door she escaped from thus our search and rescue mission began.

Mike started walking the neighborhood. I checked around the back yard and alley. I also checked the laundry room and stairwell. Every time I came in the house I expected to see Purrl pop out of a hiding space, but she didn't. I decided to take to the streets too with a little bell toy to shake that usually sends the kitten into a frenzy. I hoped that she would recognize the sound and run out.

About an hour or so later Mike and I ran into each other and I decided to pass the toy off to him and go home and make some flyers. I ended up posting about 25 - 30 of these babies around the neighborhood while sobbing and repeating to myself out loud "the kitten."

After trekking the neighborhood with no luck knowing that dark was approaching I decided to take a break and sit on my porch in the cold and just hope. I also made some calls to PAWS Chicago and animal control to see if anyone had brought her in. Right about this time my neighbor was returning home. Him and his wife just had a baby so I congratulated him and explained to him what I was doing outside. A few minutes later he came down and said "Meet me in the back, I think I found your little guy!" Again, my heart started racing but in an entirely different way. He met me in the stairwell where he moved two giant doors that were just hanging out up there on the second level. Sure enough, crouched in a little ball was a very scared little kitten. I grabbed her and held her as close as I could, then thanked the neighbor over and over again.

I came in and texted Mike. When he returned home I asked him how he wasn't sobbing like me while she was lost. He basically said he was on the inside but had to keep it together. Awwww. We were so happy and relieved to have our kitten back. The next day we went out and bought her a collar and name tag. It's funny because we actually had one before but she did not like it! We thought we were doing her a favor by taking it off but she is out of luck! From here on out the kitten wears her collar!

O, and we did have to go retrieve all those flyers before dark!

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Breakfast for Champions

If I recall, as I was sitting in the Taco Bell parking lot listening to the Iowa game with my mom and sister a few weekends ago, aka my own personal hell... Iowa lost the game against North Western. However, I still needed to prepare a breakfast for champions, the Just Dance champions. I made two dishes and luckily they were both really good! The first was Overnight Stuffed French Toast:

1 tub (8 oz.) PHILADELPHIA 1/3 Less Fat than Cream Cheese
3 Tbsp. sugar (I used splenda sugar)
8 slices cinnamon-swirl bread
4 eggs
1/2 cup milk
2 cups sliced fresh strawberries
1 cup blueberries

MIX reduced-fat cream cheese and sugar until well blended; spread onto bread. Place 4bread slices, cream cheese-sides up, in 8-inch square baking dish sprayed with cooking spray. Cover with remaining bread slices, cream cheese-sides down.

WHISK eggs and milk until well blended; pour over bread. Cover; refrigerate overnight.

HEAT oven to 350ºF. Bake, uncovered, 30 to 35 min. or until center is set and top is lightly browned. Serve topped with fruit.

The second dish was Do Ahead Egg Bake, I actually made this again the following weekend but halfed the recipe just for me and Mike:

8 eggs
3 cups milk
8 cups French bread cubes (3/4 inch)
1 pkg.(10 oz.) frozen chopped spinach, thawed, squeezed dry
12 slices OSCAR MAYER Bacon, cooked, crumbled (I used turkey bacon)
1 pkg.(8 oz.) KRAFT Shredded Sharp Cheddar Cheese, divided (I used 2%)

WHISK eggs and milk in large bowl until well blended. Stir in bread. Add spinach, bacon and 1-1/2 cups cheese; mix lightly.

POUR into 13x9-inch baking dish sprayed with cooking spray; top with remaining cheese. Cover; refrigerate overnight.

HEAT oven to 350ºF. Bake, uncovered, 48 to 50 min. or until top is puffed and golden brown.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Full House

You might remember a while back I blogged about the new addition to our family. It was tbd at that point whether or not we were keeping the little kitten. Well, she has worked her way into our hearts and is here to stay in our overpopulated family. Three pets was almost manageable, four pets is insane but there is no way we could ever get rid of any of them.

As you can imagine, with a new kitten in the house, there are all sorts of kodak moments. Here are just a few that I have managed to snap with my camera and/or blackberry.

Friday, December 3, 2010

New Treats

When my family visited a few weeks back I used it as an excuse to test out some new recipes! There were definitely a few keepers!

Friday night we kicked off their visit with some wine and appetizers. I whipped up a few things that I will make again. The first were Rosemary Parmesan Crisps:

1 can (11 oz.) refrigerated thin pizza crust
1/4 cup KRAFT Tuscan House Italian Dressing and Marinade
1-1/2 tsp. dried rosemary leaves, crushed
1/2 cup sliced kalamata olives
1/3 cup KRAFT Grated Parmesan Cheese (I used the fresh, shredded type)

HEAT oven to 400ºF.

UNROLL pizza crust on baking sheet sprayed with cooking spray; press into 15x12-inch rectangle. Bake 5 min.

BRUSH crust with dressing; top with remaining ingredients.

BAKE 6 to 8 min. or until crust is golden brown. Serve warm or at room temperature.

These were delicious! Another successful test recipe was the Chipotle Apricot Cream Cheese Spread:

1 pkg. (8 oz.) PHILADELPHIA Cream Cheese, softened (I used light)
1/2 cup apricot preserves
1 chipotle pepper in adobo sauce, finely chopped (I used the entire small sized can)
2 Tbsp. water
1 green onion, finely chopped

SPREAD cream cheese onto bottom of pie plate or platter

COOK preserves, peppers and water in saucepan on medium-low heat 5 min. or until preserves are melted, stirring occasionally. Stir in onions; spread over cream cheese.

SERVE with crackers.

Both recipes were super easy, fast and a hit!

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Just Dance!

Is this game amazing or what? A few weekends ago my family came to stay with us. I wanted to get something to spice things up and as luck would have it, I thought of this game! I texted Mike to stop at Game Stop on his way home from work. Within the hour he decided to test it out to make sure we could explain the game to our guests if need be. All the sudden I hear Rhianna's SOS blaring from the living room and what I saw after was a site I will never forget! Mike dancing to some sassy hip hop!

He did so well that I made him demo the game to the same song for my family :) To save him a little face I did it with him. Since that weekend we have had some very fun dance offs with family and friends! I wake up every morning and I just want to dance!

Fake chicken soup for the sick soul

There has been a lot of this around the house this week:

I am so lucky to have my loyal, little, white babies to keep my comfy during this cold. I came down with this beast on Sunday and to be honest, it is not that bad. I can still function, work and breathe for the most part. It is just incredibly annoying and has left me house ridden all week. Tonight I took matters into my own hands and decided to make some fake chicken soup for my sick soul. It turned out to be quite delicious! Much better than anything I could have gotten out of a can, ick! The recipe is:


•1/4 cup + 1 tbsp olive oil
•4 carrots, chopped
•4 stalks of celery, chopped
•1 large onion, chopped
•2 garlic cloves, minced
•1 large mushroom, chopped
•2 vegetarian (or vegan) chicken patties or equivalent, defrosted
•1 tsp herbs de provence (rosemary, marjoram, thyme, sage, anise seed and savory) or a combo of above herbs.
•6 cups vegetable broth
•1/3 lb pasta (the recipe called for cute little o's or alphabets or broken spaghetti, I used whole grain rotini)

1.Cook pasta in a separate pot.
2.Heat 1/4 cup olive oil in soup pot over medium heat and add onions, celery and carrots. Cook until softened (about 10 minutes).
3.Add the garlic, mushrooms, herbs de provence and cook another 5 minutes.
4.Add the broth.
5.Add the cooked and drained noodles.
6.Reduce heat to low, cover. Cook about 20 minutes on a simmer.
7.Cut fake chicken into thin strips.
8.In nonstick skillet, add 1 tbsp oil and heat on medium.
9.Add the strips and brown on both sides.
10.Cut browned fake chicken into bite-sized cubes and add to simmered soup.
11.Stir and serve.

I didn't have all the seasonings the recipe called for, so I winged it with some rosemary, a little celery salt and fennel. I also used 4 quorn chicken cutlets cubed. It REALLY hit the spot, and Mike enjoyed it too. Even better it made a huge pot so I can have some for lunch tomorrow too!

Sick and you tubing

Sometimes I get on a tangent of youtubing old music videos since they have ceased to exist anywhere else. This song makes me want to pucker up with my bonnie bell lip smacker and head to the nearest basement for some make out time. Sigh...memories

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Vote and you shall receive...

The White House

Office of the Press Secretary

For Immediate Release
November 17, 2010

Statement by the President on the Paycheck Fairness Act

I am deeply disappointed that a minority of Senators have prevented the Paycheck Fairness Act from finally being brought up for a debate and receiving a vote. This bill passed in the House almost two years ago; today, it had 58 votes to move forward, the support of the majority of Senate, and the support of the majority of Americans. As we emerge from one of the worst recessions in history, this bill would ensure that American women and their families aren’t bringing home smaller paychecks because of discrimination. It also helps businesses that pay equal wages as they struggle to compete against discriminatory competition. But a partisan minority of Senators blocked this commonsense law. Despite today’s vote, my Administration will continue to fight for a woman’s right to equal pay for equal work.

I feel like I am being a bit if a political bully lately but COME ON! The press release below is infuriating. What century are we living in and what kind of message does this send to all the hard working women out there? Woman can and certainly are doing it all, and for less.

What makes me the most upset? For all the people out there that are jumping on the "republicans are going to get the country back to where it needs to be" marketing/PR extraveganza! Well you can sleep well knowing that not a SINGLE republican supported the Paycheck fairness act.

Remember the dog and pony show the republicans put on after the recent elections? The one where they proclaimed they want Washington to work better? Well, blocking a common sense measure to ensure women get equal pay doesn't leave a good taste in my mouth!

Sunday, November 7, 2010

My sentiments exactly...

I am amazed at how selfish people have become in this county. The next two years should be...interesting.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Hot Woks Cool Sushi

Finally, a new sushi place has arrived in our neighborhood! We live in walking distance to many great restaurants but have been lacking a good sushi option close by. Mike and I were ecstatic to see Hit Woks open up literally overnight!

I have been meaning to blog about this place for a while, the pictures are from our first dining experience about a month ago, and we have already since been back! This is due mostly to the fact that their menu rocks the roll of all rolls, in my opinion.

The Mega Vega!

It's not just for vegetarians. Mega Vega is packed with tempura sweet potato, broccoli, beets, cucumbers, avocados. It is amazing! I almost didn't order it because I am not a fan of broccoli, but I have to say, the broccoli provided a nice nutty flavor that really makes the roll.

The Mega Vega even inspired a new salad mix that we have been enjoying at home. Greens, beets, broccoli, avocado with a sweet vidallia onion dressing, yum!

I really like the decor at hot woks, simple, modern, with a nice color palette of brown, green and orange that really pops!

They even have a sense of humor that comes through in their menu, check out the Mount Fuji!

Before and After

Look at little Purrl! I can't even believe that this is the same sick little kitty Mike found 2 months ago. She has really beat the odds and is thriving as a fun, playful little kitten!

Last night Dixie got her room back and Purrl had free reign of the apartment with her sister Kira while we slept. Dixie's bed had temporarily been relocated to the living room while Purrl got the rest, and strength she needed sleeping alone in our 2nd bedroom. This morning when we woke up, everyone was still alive and settled in their beds, phew!

All the animals are getting along which is great! There were a few rough weeks when none of them would settle, but everyone is adjusted now. I even caught Dixie and Purrl sleeping butt to butt yesterday. So, cute!

If anyone ever finds a feral kitten, don't be afraid! It is possible to help them come back with some good ol tlc.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Upholstery 101 Graduate

Last week my beginners upholstery class wrapped up. I completed my final project and passed with flying colors. I managed to snap some images of all of my class projects.

My first project was in a previous post. It was a bar stool cover if you need a memory jogger.

My second project was a pillow, I also learned piping. It was a great way to brush up on my sewing skills, that I hadn't applied since college. Notice the slightly messed up fleur de lis I stitched on the front! Had to add my own personal twist!

For the third project I learned more about construction. This technique could be used in creating an upholstered head board or a chair. I stitched a pattern on the front for fun and used foam, board and a staple gun to secure the materials. I also honed my piping skills on this one. Again, my personal twist here was green for Mike, his favorite color and a shout out to Halloween/Day of the Dead, two upcoming holidays.

The fourth project was to learn how to insert zippers. This is great to know since I plan on making pillow covers soon to replace the current ones on my couch.

For my final project I opted to make a sewing machine cover for my sewing machine that has officially found a home on what used to be my desk. I didn't want to be overly ambitious on this final project. My main goal was to really learn pattern making. All in all it turned out great!

The class was a success and I really enjoyed myself so much so that another student and I worked out a second class with the instructor which I am super excited about. Next up is intermediate upholstery and I am ready to tackle some furniture pieces including a green chair that I have had forever! Don't worry, there will be before and after pictures!

The new class will meet every Monday and Thursday starting next week for two hours a night. I am excited to keep up with upholstery and keep telling myself that in 10 years I will be an expert! Afterall a great craft takes time!

Friday, October 1, 2010

kittens, stitchin and beer

i have been busy, busy, busy lately. between work, raising a new kitten and my upholstery class i have had zero time. i suppose that's a good thing but right about now i could use some veg time. in fact i am writing this blog from my bed at 10:25 on friday night. ok, i'll admit, it is partly because i am trying to trick my body into falling asleep early since i have to get up at 7:30 tomorrow, waaaah.

i have had so many blog posts running through my head lately but just haven't found the time... so we'll do a little catching up here. hopefully next week i can get back on track!

a couple weekends ago mike and i went to iowa for our annual decook/brown tradition, the brew haha. the brew haha is a beer fest that takes place every september in iowa, the brew stands for the beer tastings that take place with several tasty vendors, the haha is well, because they have comedians performing while you peruse the the tastings! it is always a blast. unfortunately jeff could not make it this year and mike had a bad cold, and it was sprinkling on and off all day. that didn't stop us and we still managed to have a great time. of course i had camera in tow:

afterwards jeff joined us and we continued our tradition with dinner at huckleberry's. the BEST pizza place in iowa! something about beer all day and then gorging on pizza, sigh, you just can't beat it!

some other exciting things have been happening. little purrl is growing up, and slooowly being introduced to her family. we have 4 pets now people, we are borderline animal hoarders! they haven't all taken to each other as nicely as we hoped. purrl is so sweet and fearless, i am afraid the others are going to ruin her. dixie just wants to pounce on her and play, kira just growls and hisses, and finn wants to eat her. it's been a challenge to say the least. purrl gets to come out of her room and be with the others a few hours every day. we keep increasing the time every few days and they all seem to be getting a little more comfortable, sort of.

dixie is just obsessed with purrl. i call purrl her little white baby. hopefully things continue to get better, four pets are a LOT of work.

lastly, i am coming up on the last week of my upholstery class. i have had so much fun and really learned a lot. i will miss my class so much, what will i do on tuesday and wednesday nights? o blog. i will post a recap of my class and pictures of all my projects soon. hopefully i can talk the instructor into starting an intermediate class!

and p.s, after 6 years i FINALLY figured out how to thread my brand new, never used sewing machine! whoo hoo!