Wednesday, November 30, 2011

On The Kindle: The Hunger Games Trilogy

Thanks to your suggestions from my last reading post, I downloaded the Hunger Games Trilogy to read during the holidays.  Too bad the books were such an easy, enjoyable read that I finished all three in a week.  So much for spreading it out over the holidays!

The trilogy includes The Hunger Games, Catching Fire and Mockingjay and the high-energy, drama filled pages were hard to stop reading.  Now that I've read the books, I'm really looking forward to the movie that premieres in March!!

Will you be doing any holiday reading?

Monday, November 28, 2011

30 Before 30: New Thanksgiving Dish

Growing up, Thanksgiving was such a production.  My grandmother would work all week preparing the meal for the families of all of her children (my mom had 6 sisters).  We would drive over to New Jersey early in the morning and I always loved stepping into Mom Mom's house.  The aromas of the turkey, sweet potato casserole, pie and so much more would hit you the second you opened that door.

Since my grandmother's passing and our move to Texas, our Thanksgivings have been on the smaller side but still center around family and good food.  I'll be honest, I usually leave all of the cooking to my mom.  I have helped in the past (mashing potatoes or filling a pie), but usually stick to making my staple pumpkin bread.  This year I wanted to actually take over one of the other side dishes for my mom - the baked mac & cheese.

I found a pin for mini mac & cheese (recipe on the Galley Gourmet) and decided to tweak it.  By doubling up on the ingredients I was able to make 24 minis, and also a big dish to take to my parents.  This is by far the most expensive mac & cheese I've ever made due to purchasing blocks of the three cheeses to grate.

Ingredients (original measurements, I doubled for my purpose):
-1/2 lb Elbow Macaroni
-1 1/2 tablespoon Unsalted Butter
-2 tablespoons All Purpose Flour
-1 cup Whole Milk
-1/2 cup White Cheddar Cheese, grated
-1/2 cup Gruy√®re Cheese, grated
-2 extra large Egg Yolks
-1/4 cup Parmigiano-Reggiano Cheese, grated
-1/4 cup Panko crumbs
-Pinch of Kosher Salt

I started off with a great arm work out by grating the blocks of cheese.

Bring a large pot of salted water to boil and follow the instructions for preparing the macaroni.  Once drained, set it off to the side.  Combine the Parmigiano and Panko into a bowl and set aside as well.

In that large saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat and then whisk in the flour and cook for 2 minutes. Add in the milk, whisk until thick (about 5 minutes) and then add in your Cheddar and Gruyere cheeses until  completely melted.

Remove from heat, whisk in the egg yolks and combine the macaroni with a pinch of salt.

Since I made the minis for tasting and wouldn't be baking the full dish until the day after, I topped off the dish with the Parmigiano/Panko topping and then refrigerated for Thanksgiving.

I added a little extra cheese because we all love it

For the minis I sprayed the muffin tin, added in the macaroni and topped with the Panko cheese mixture.  Into the oven at 425 degree for 10-12 minutes and you're golden.

I knocked off a couple of minis before confirming that this is a scrumptious recipe!  Although there is extra effort, it is leaps and bounds better than our normal store bought mac & cheese.

Since the recipe was intended for the minis, my suggestion for the bigger dish would be to add more milk and cheese in the sauce, and possibly layer some cheese in with the macaroni instead of just on top.

How was your Thanksgiving meal?  Any favorite dishes?

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving!

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!!

I'll be enjoying the day with my family and Chris (after he gets off work) and testing out my skills making the baked mac and cheese this year along with my holiday staple of pumpkin bread.

This recipe comes from the family of my best friend.  I needed to make something for a pre-Thanksgiving meal in college and this looked pretty simple.  It was such a hit that I've made it every year since!

Pumpkin Bread Ingredients:
-4 Eggs
-3 1/3 cups Flour
-3 cups Sugar
-1 tsp Cinnamon
-1 cup Veggie Oil
-1 tsp Nutmeg
-2/3 cups Water
-2 tsp Baking Soda
-1 tsp Baking Powder
-16 oz Pumpkin

Mix all of it together and pour into sprayed loaf pans and bake at 325 degree for 55 minutes (or until the top is golden brown, the muffins only took 40 minutes, but the loaves took longer).  Since I make this for my family, and we love some left overs I normally double the recipe.  It makes a little more than 3 pans, so this year I used the extra mix for some pumpkin muffins.

I hope everyone has a wonderful Thanksgiving with their loved ones!

Monday, November 21, 2011

Cheesy Chicken and Rice

A little Tex Mex Pintrest find, Cheesy Chicken and Rice casserole!  I followed the recipe found on Tasty Kitchen, with a few modifications.

- Boneless, skinless Chicken
- 4 cups of cooked Brown Rice
- 15oz can of Black Beans (drained and rinsed)
- 1 cup Plain Greek Yogurt
- 3/4 cup Salsa
- 1 cup Cheddar Cheese
- Chopped Cilantro

I made it a little easy on myself and went with the boil in a bag brown rice instead of pulling out our rice cooker.  I think the boil in the bag kind was quick, easy and very tasty!  While the rice was boiling, I trimmed off the fat of the chicken and cut it into little pieces.

Mix all of your ingredients except for the cilantro into a bowl.  I seasoned with a little pepper and salt before pouring the mixture into an oven safe dish.  Top with a little extra cheese (we're big fans of cheese) and baked in the oven for 20-25 mins.

I topped it with a little fresh cilantro and served it up!

It tasted delicious, but next time I'll probably cook the chicken beforehand and then only bake the dish for 10-15 minutes.

Are you a fan of Tex Mex or Mexican dishes?

Friday, November 18, 2011

Our First Place - Bedrooms

Before we continue on with the mini tour of our current abode, I just have to say thank you for the reading suggestion of the Hunger Games trilogy!  I bought it on Tuesday and have already moved onto book number two as of last night.  I'm even more excited for the movie to come out in March!

OK, back to the tour.  Today we'll finish up with the bedrooms and bathrooms.  When Chris decided to move over here from Ft. Worth, I knew that my one bedroom apartment wasn't going to cut it.  We decided to give ourselves a little more space by moving into a 2 bedroom place.

Guest Bedroom

Our guest bedroom is a mish mosh of furniture pieces.  The headboard and chair were free furniture saves from my aunt's move, the dresser is actually a piece from our bedroom set, and the bookcase & side table were new purchases from Target & BB&B.  When we move, I think a little more cohesion with this room would be in order.  A fabric headboard would be a fun DIY project and I want to figure out a better way to showcase the quilt of my old college t-shirts (I always fold it up whenever we have actual guests).

Guest Bathroom

The brown and beige colors were built around the toiletry set picked up at Ross.  I love all of these pieces and will be using them again in the future house.

Our Bedroom

I love, love, LOVE that bedroom furniture!  Other than my car, it was the first big purchase I made once I got my real world job.  It's going to make a nice guest bedroom set since we'll be upgrading to a king size bed when we move.  Not pointing fingers, but someone (coughchriscough) is kind of a bed hog so the extra space will be much appreciated. The built in bookcase has been a great storage type place for some of my knick knacks.

Our bathroom

Surprisingly, with all the blue and green you may remember from our wedding, this is the only room that really features those colors. The cool beach colors of blue and green are a great way to start the day.  Sharing is caring, but I can't wait to have my own sink!  It's really interesting when we're brushing our teeth at the same time.  This will probably become a backup set for the guest bath in our new house since we were gifted new master bathroom items at the bridal shower.  I'm sure the urge to change things up in the guest bath will come around.

And there you have it, our current abode.  As excited as I am to move onto greener pastures, this place will always have a special place in my heart.

What was your first place like?  Did your decorating taste change as your grew older?

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Pesto Baked Chicken

I wonder where pesto has been all my life!  After using it in one of my first documented recipes I've been looking for another tasty dish to make. Enter Pinterest and Kalyn's Kitchen.

- 4 Boneless Chicken Breast
- 2 7oz containers of Pesto with Basil
- Mozzarella & Parmesan Cheese
- Black Pepper & Salt for seasoning

Begin by trimming the fat and then cutting your chicken breast into smaller sections.  Spray your baking pan with non stick spray and then start spreading the pesto with basil sauce.  The original recipe called for 1/4 cup under the chicken and another 1/4 cup on top, but I didn't feel like was enough.  I ended up using a total of 1 and 1/2 of the Bertolli containers.

After spreading the sauce in the baking dish, place the chicken pieces on top and sprinkle with pepper and salt.

Another layer of pesto and basil on top of the chicken and then cover with tin foil.  Into the oven at 375 degrees for 25 minutes.

Once the timer went off, I pulled out the baking dish and turned the oven to broil.  I sprinkled mozzarella and parmesan cheese on top and back into the oven for 5 additional minutes to give it that nice golden brown, melted cheese look.

Thankfully this was a recipe that I could prep during the day and then stick in the fridge as I waited for Chris to get off work.  

Do you have a favorite type of sauce that you like to use in your cooking?

Monday, November 14, 2011

30 before 30: Be in Print

One of my 30 before 30 goals was actually accomplished just a little before I published the list.  Our wedding photographer asked if we would like to submit our pictures either online or in print.  I always liked the idea of being in print, so that's what we went for.  We're still waiting to see if any "bigger" magazine will pick them up, but I was delighted to find us in the local magazine Dallas Brides.

I'm not sure how I started to get this in the mail, probably from a bridal event, but as I was flipping through there we were! After looking through every magazine rack in nearby bookstores and grocery stores, I finally just called the editor who was sweet enough to send additional copies.

If you have a 30 before 30 or 101 in 1001, what were some of the first items you crossed off your list?

Friday, November 11, 2011

Our First Place - Common Areas

As we continue to pack (I find that doing it a little at a time doesn't overwhelm me as much) and edge closer to the point of moving out of our first place together, I thought it would be nice to share some of the rooms with you.  Today we'll take a look at the common areas and later we'll check out the bedrooms and bathrooms.

These pictures were taken when we moved in November of 2008, so there may be a Christmas decoration or two.  I'm one of those people that loves to decorate for Christmas in November - Chris thinks I'm crazy.

Dinning Room

The dinning room also contains the built in desk.  It's tight quarters, but we've made due.  The maroon and gold color scheme was inspired by my time in Aggieland.  The table was given to me by my Aunt Bunny when she was moving.  Love free furniture!  There is a leaf with the table, and we have since added it and 2 end chairs. When we move into a house I would really like a new table to seat 8, so this table minus the leaf (as it is pictured here) may become our kitchen nook everyday table.

Living Room

The living room is definitely the space we spend the most time in when awake.  We've added some more decorations over the past couple of years so the walls aren't so bare.  This is a prime example of why I'm so excited to move into a place that we can paint.  I've lived with white walls all of my life.  In my childhood home, in my parent's place in Texas, in my college dorm and townhouse and in my post college apartments.  I am so over plain white walls!

The furniture has seen some better days, so it will probably be moved into a gameroom/loft in a future house.  Even though I have never used that fireplace, I will be looking for one in our house hunt.  I love decorating the mantel, especially during the holidays.  The TV stand is great for this space, but I would love a way to hide the wires.  That stand will also be moved into the gameroom in the future house.


Our kitchen is very functional, but not exactly what we're looking for in our next place.  We aren't the biggest fan of the white cabinets/white appliances combination and would like the kitchen to be a little more open, hopefully with an island.  The countertop space is pretty decent, and I do love the amount of cabinets that we currently have.  Chris and I would both love to upgrade to stainless steel appliances at some point, but the savings will dictate when those type of purchases could be made.  Since we're talking about dream kitchens, I'll go ahead and put it out there that I would love granite or quartz countertops, an under mount sink and a cool, colorful backsplash.

What inspires the color combinations in your home?  Do you have non white walls?  If so how long did it take you to decide on colors to paint?

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

On The Kindle: Same Kind Of Different As Me

"Same Kind of Different As Me" was the November selection for the book club and I have to admit I had mixed feelings as I began to read it.

Via Amazon

Reading about the life of African Americans in the days following slavery always breaks my heart. It's hard to read about the way that they were treated and think about how the lives of my grandparents and great grandparents really were.  But this novel has a very uplifting message about how one person can change the life of another and in turn make a difference to so many more.  Another book that had me in tears, but made me step back and be thankful for another day of life.  I feel like I connected a little bit more with this true story as it mainly took place in locations around Dallas and Ft. Worth, Texas.

Since the book club will be taking a break for the holidays I think I'm going to look into the Hunger Games or Stieg Larsson's Millennium trilogy (The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, The Girl Who Played with Fire and The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest).  Any votes for which trilogy I should start first?

Guest Postin' on Geek in Heels

Hey guys!  Head on over to Geek in Heels to check out my guest post on the changing times, my different internet habits and the new appreciation for appliance shopping.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Flatbread Cheeseburger Melts

Another delicious Pinterest recipe, thanks to Stephanie over at This Casita.  I love looking through her food pins for new ideas.

- 1 lb Ground Beef
- 1/4 cup Water
- 1/2 tbsp Apple Cider Vinegar
- 1 package of Dry Onion Soup Mix
- 1/4 cup Ketchup
- 11 oz Thin Crust Pizza Dough
- 1 cup shredded Cheddar Cheese
- 2 tbsp Oil (for frying)

Start off with the usual browning and draining of the ground beef.  Add in the dry onion soup mix, ketchup, water, and vinegar.  The original recipe includes mustard (which we are not a fan of) and minced garlic.  I threw on some garlic salt to add in a little more flavor. Stir and simmer over low heat.

Heat another pan with oil to medium.  The recipe instructs you to divide the pizza dough into 6 pieces and roll into a round shape.  I quickly learned (or really remembered) that we don't own a roller.  I attempted to just press it into shape, but as you can see that didn't turn out exactly round.

Fry the dough on each side until golden brown and bubbly.  After topping with meat and cheese, I threw them into the microwave for 20 seconds to get the melty cheese effect.

With how quickly these vanished from our table, it's safe to say that they will be made again.

Do you have any favorite pinterest boards for inspiration?

Friday, November 4, 2011

Home Ideas: Wine Corks

As we branch out and try more wines, we have started to save the corks.  Although my last experience with corks was not an enjoyable one, I still want to do something cool with them.

A quick search of Pinterest and I came up with a couple of DIY projects for the home.

Cork letters would be great in a gameroom or bar area.

Via Style at Home, pin from Justsunny

Via Katydidandkid, pin from Rachel

How cute is that little tree?  Both of those ideas are cute and perfect for the holidays.  I love decorating for Christmas!

Via Whole Living, pin from Joy

Cork trivet, these would come in handy for any dinner party or when the time comes for us to host a holiday meal.

I don't think we could drink enough wine for this table, but it looks too awesome to not be included!  Maybe a smaller version as a side table?

Via craftynest, pin from Christina

I don't know how comfortable that would be to step onto, or how it does with water, but I do like the look of it.

Probably the most likely project for me, the cork pin board would make a good addition to our future office.

Do you have any collections that you can turn into a DIY project?

Thursday, November 3, 2011

West Coast Eats In The Big D

If you live on the west coast, or have ever visited I'm sure you've heard of (and probably ate at) In N Out.  They have recently started opening locations in North Dallas, and let me tell you...these Texans must love them some In N Out!  Lines on opening days have been ridiculous, as seen on You Tube.

Truth be told, I'm not sure what all the rage is.  I had it once when I was visiting my friend in San Diego and it seemed like just another burger to me.  Maybe it's just the novelty of the chain?  Anyways, Chris really wanted to try it out, so we headed over for an early lunch.

The drive-thru line wasn't crazy, yet, but we went ahead and ate inside.

As you can see, the menu is very limited.  Well, limited to those not in the know.  Chris looked up the not so secret menu online, but we decided to stick with regular burger, fries and strawberry milkshakes.

Pretty much like I remembered it in California, it was good but nothing amazingly special.  Am I weird?  Is there something that I'm missing with these burgers and fries?

Have you had In N Out before?  If so, are you a huge fan?