Amy’s Virtual Baby Shower!

You guys! This is so exciting! There’s a party going on and we’re celebrating the virtual way across many miles and many states. ๐Ÿ™‚

See, I’ve been a part of a cooking forum out on the interwebs for more than six years. Although I’ve never met any of the ladies there in person, I can say all of those girls feel like friends. It’s so great to come home at the end of a long work day, pop open the ol’ laptop and jump into great conversation with friends. ๐Ÿ™‚

One of the best parts of the board is celebrating all of life’s joys with each other and that’s what a few of us are doing today. Carrie of Carrie’s Sweet Life is hosting a virtual baby shower for our sweet friend Amy of Amy’s Kitchen Creations! She is expecting a baby girl this month! Hip, hip hooray for baby girls! We are so excited for you!

The theme of the shower is recipes for busy moms. Perfect! When deciding what to share today, I wanted the dish to meet two criteria: 1. Easy to make. No fussing around with tons of prep work or babysitting. I turned to the golden child of the too-busy-to-cook cook’s kitchen: the slow cooker! And 2. It should make a lot. Like a ton. So much you could eat it every night for a week. Considering how close I am to becoming a mom myself, these slow cooker french dip sandwiches were a great way for me to flex my supermom muscles and get tasty and easy dinner on the table and have enough leftover to stash in the freezer for a quick meal later on. Busy moms take note, this is about as simple as it gets.

A large chuck roast is tossed into the trusty crock on a bed of a sliced onions. A flavorful mix of beef stock, soy sauce, garlic, Worcestershire sauce, and mustard is poured over the top. It’s left to simmer and at the end of the day you have tender shredded beef with a great dipping sauce to have on the side. Total active time about 12 minutes: 10 minutes to get the stuff in the crock, 1 minute to slice up some rolls, and 2 minutes to broil a bit of cheesy goodness on top.

Another great thing about these sandwiches? Perfect for parties. Couples shower perhaps? Maybe to celebrate a perfect bundle-to-be? I’m thinking yes.

Amy, congratulations again! We are so excited for you and we can’t wait to “meet” your sweet baby girl and welcome her into the “family.” Click on over to Carrie’s Sweet Life to see the full round-up of recipes for this wonderful celebration!

SLOW COOKER FRENCH DIP SANDWICHES (Recipes source: As seen at The Dainty Chef, originally from Confections of a Foodie Bride)


  • 1 medium yellow onion, sliced into quarter inch rounds and the rounds kept in tact.
  • 3/4 cup beef broth/stock
  • 1/4 cup soy sauce
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 Tbsp creole mustard
  • 2 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
  • 2.5 to 3 lb. chuck roast
  • salt & pepper
  • 6-8 sandwich rolls, split (a good, crusty roll is best! Better to soak up that juice!)
  • 6-8 slices of provolone or swiss cheese


  1. Place the onion rounds in the bottom of the slow cooker. In a small bowl, whisk together beef broth, soy sauce, Worcestershire sauce, mustard, and garlic. Add to the slow cooker over the onions. Salt and pepper both sides of the roast and place on top of the onions. Cook on low for 6 to 7 hours or until the beef is fall apart tender.
  2. Once the meat is done cooking, transfer the roast to a cutting board and shred using two forks. Remove the onions and set aside. Strain the drippings into a large โ€œdefatterโ€ measuring cup to get rid of the oil that collects on top (a mesh sieve works too).
  3. Heat the broiler. Place the split sandwich rolls on a lined baking sheet and toast for 1 minute or just until the bread begins to brown. Remove the tops from the pan. Scoop the shredded beef onto the bottom of the rolls and top with reserved onions (if desired) and cheese. Return to the oven just until cheese is melted, about a minute more. Top with sandwich halves and serves with small bowls of au jus.




Filed under beef, sandwiches

Just popping in…

Friends! Hi!

Allow me to be the very last person to wish you and yours a very happy Halloween, Thanksgiving and holiday season. It’s a Hallogivingmas miracle! All hope is not lost, however, because I’m dropping in here at the end of the year with one last munchie for you to add your New Year’s Eve spread. More on that in a sec.

So let’s see. Where did we leave off. Oh! That whole growing a human thing. Well, I’m in my 38th week and this baby girl is still tucked in tight. We celebrated our first Christmas together this past week. This little pumpkin is spoiled already! And her daddy looks awful proud!

Mama is doing as good as can be expected. A little uncomfortable, a lot anxious. Things that used to be easy have become quite difficult. Putting on socks, for example. There’s something you take for granted. I need to set aside a least a full two minutes to get my socks on. Yesterday I went to the grocery store and got winded bending over to get the stuff out of the cart and on to the checkout. The teenager behind the register had himself a little chuckle over the whole thing. Heh. But, despite all that (and all the other minor pregnancy annoyances) I am over the moon excited and Baby Girl is doing well. She should make her grand entrance any day now. I’ve never been so ready for anything in my entire life. Labor? Bring it! Let’s do this!

So I guess tomorrow is New Year’s Eve although I must admit I’m not paying much attention. There will be no parties. We have no plans. I’ll probably ring in the new year fast asleep on the mound of pillows I use to keep the heartburn at bay. But you! You probably have all kinds of big plans. There will probably be sparkly spiked drinks and mounds of finger foods made with all things perfect like goat cheese and puff pastry. Maybe you’re even getting all dolled up. Put on some glittery nail polish and have a drink or two for me. I’ll live vicariously through you.

Now, if your New Year’s Eve get together involves more Bud Light and bean dip than Champagne and caviar, allow me to tempt you with one more easy and irresistible treat. Make a big batch of this stuff, put it in bowls on every coffee table, end table and TV tray in your party space and marvel at the way your guests find themselves powerless to keep their mitts off it. It’s pure, crunchy, buttery, sweet evil. I’m talking about…homemade caramel corn!

Caramel corn is my ultimate snack food weakness. Once I get started, I cannot. stop. eating it. I actually made this batch a few weeks ago to give away as part of a “My favorite things” gift exchange with the girls at work. Is caramel corn seriously one of my favorite things? Why, yes. Yes it is. In fact, let’s just go ahead and remove “whiskers on kittens” from that song and put insert caramel corn there instead. Much better. ๐Ÿ˜‰

I’ve tried several caramel corn recipes over the last few years but I keep coming back to this one. I like it because it doesn’t involve a candy thermometer and it’s low and slow bake in the oven allows the caramel to melt evenly over the popcorn. The end result is a light and crisp sweet snack and not a gooey, stick-to-your-teeth clump. It also keeps insanely well in an airtight container. Not that it’ll hang around that long. Try this stuff. Fall in love. Addictive. You’ve been warned.

HOMEMADE CARAMEL CORN (Recipe Source: As seen at Annie’s Eats, originally adapted from Christie’s Corner)


  • 1 cup popcorn kernels, unpopped*
  • 2 sticks unsalted butter
  • 1/2 cup light corn syrup
  • 2 cups packed light brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract (try a teaspoon of vanilla bean paste for an extra flavor boost!)


  1. Pop the popcorn using your preferred method. (Do you have a Whirley Pop yet? We LOVE ours and haven’t bought microwave popcorn in almost two years. Recommended!)
  2. Place the popcorn in a very large bowl. You may need two very large bowls. You know what? Just use two bowls. You’ll need a lot of room to stir the caramel into the popcorn.
  3. Preheat the oven to 250 degrees. Line two large rimmed baking sheets with parchment paper and set aside.
  4. To make the caramel, melt the butter in a two-quart sauce pan over medium heat. Add the corn syrup, brown sugar and salt and stir to combine. Increase the heat to medium-high and bring the mixture to a boil, stirring frequently. Once the mixture is boiling, let the mixture continue to cook for 5 minutes without stirring.
  5. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the baking soda and vanilla. The mixture will bubble and get frothy. Pour the hot caramel over the popcorn in the bowls and stir or toss to coat. (This takes a little patience, just keep after it!)
  6. Spread the popcorn evenly on the prepared baking sheets. It will be clumpy, but will spread out as it bakes. Bake for 40 to 50 minutes, tossing/stirring every ten minutes and rotating the baking sheets if needed. After 40 minutes, test a piece of cooled popcorn. It should be light and crispy when you bite it. If it’s still chewy/gooey feeling bake for another 10 minutes.
  7. Allow the popcorn to cool completely on the baking sheet before storing in an airtight container.


*If you prefer to use microwave or already popped popcorn, I would estimate you’ll need somewhere between 30 and 32 cups of popped popcorn for this full recipe.


Filed under Uncategorized


People seem to like to ask this now quite obviously pregnant girl if I’m having any crazy cravings. You can almost see the disappointment in their faces when I tell them, no, I am not currently topping off my ice cream sundaes with a dill pickle instead of a cherry. Sorry to disappoint you, friend.

I’ve never really had strong food cravings and that doesn’t seem to be all that different now that I’m carrying around Baby Girl. Sure, I’ll have moments where I think, you know what sounds amazeballs right now? Cheese fries. But if all I have is carrot sticks and hummus, well, that’ll work too. Close enough, right?

There has been one thing I’ve had a hard time resisting over the last few months though. It’s the one thing that *always* sounds spot-on delicious to me. The good thing about this particular item is it’s not something I’m going to have lying around, it’s extremely unlikely I’m going to just whip this up on a whim, and I’d have to go out to get it. That means putting on real pants and shoes. Let’s face it, craving or not, laziness always wins out over having to put on real pants and shoes. Fact.

So what’s this mystery item I daydream about? Why, doughnuts, of course! Doughnuts and any and all of their assorted fried dough cousins – fritters, churros, hush puppies, beignets, corn dogs, etc., etc., and so on. Even funnel cake sounds good! And I don’t even *like* funnel cake! I don’t know what it is….I just have a hankering for hunks of golden brown, fried, carbohydrates these days.

Side note: how come pregnancy doesn’t make you like really crave kale? Or beets? Wouldn’t that be ideal?

I’ve only indulged in my fried dough craving a couple times over the last six months. Let’s just say I didn’t feel particularly stellar after I inhaled a giant apple fritter one Saturday morning that Eric ever-so-poignantly observed was as big as my face. It totally was too. He wasn’t trying to be mean. He was just surprised. Six months ago, I would have mowed down on about half of that thing, declared I was full and then handed the gnarled remains over to him to finish. Not anymore. The sheer amount of food I can put away these days surprises even me sometimes.

Dudes! What the heck? Who ate all this??

Oh. I did. Huh. Wonder how that happened?

Anyway. Luckily when the doughnut craving gets a little too strong to ignore, I can whip up a quick batch of the baked variety here at home. These cinnamon sugar pumpkin doughnuts may just be my favorite to date. Bursting with warm, cinnamony fall spice and pumpkin flavor, these are about as close to bakery-fresh goodness as you can get. The crunchy, cinnamon sugar exterior makes them feel all the more indulgent. I whipped up these up quickly one chilly Sunday morning a few weeks ago, built myself a roaring fire (and by that I mean I flipped the switch on the wall and the gas fireplace came on), cuddled up under my favorite purple blanket and proceed to down two of these suckers in record time.

Out of the recipe, I got 12 full sized doughnuts and 12 “doughnut holes” (same batter baked in a mini-muffin tin). I will say, as with most baked doughnut recipes, these are best the day their made. After 24 hours or so, the coating just kind of melts into the doughnut leaving behind a slightly soggy, sticky cake product. They are not, however, any less edible that way. Believe me, I popped two or three of those minis just about every time I walked by. Craving satisfied.



  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
  • 1 (15 oz.) can pumpkin puree
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice, or 3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon plus a heaping 1/4 teaspoon each ground nutmeg and ground ginger
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1-3/4 cups + 2 tablespoons unbleached, all-purpose flour
  • Cinnamon-sugar, for coating


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray the wells of a doughnut pan (or muffin tin) with cooking spray.
  2. Combine all ingredients except flour and cinnamon sugar in an electric mixer and beat until smooth. Add the flour and stir until just combined. Do not overmix.
  3. Fill the wells the doughnut pan about 3/4 of the way full. Bake 15 to 18 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Allow to cool for 5 minutes in the pan. Run a knife along the outer edge of each doughnut to loosen and remove to a wire rack to cool.
  4. When the doughnuts are cool enough to handle, but still warm, place a zip-top bag with cinnamon-sugar and shake to coat. Cool completely on a wire rack. Makes 15 to 18 doughnuts.



Filed under bread, breakfast

For my Baby Girl…

Baby Girl,

I’m sitting here, feet kicked up, TV on in the background, feeling a little Sunday night tired. I’m thinking about you. How can I not? You keep kicking me! ๐Ÿ˜‰ I’m thinking about that afternoon a few weeks ago. We saw your tiny face reflected back at us from your little cocoon, your little hands waving, feet dancing to a song we couldn’t hear. When she told us to “think pink!” I almost fell off the table. A sweet baby girl. All ruffle bottoms and giggle fits and hugs. How lucky we are to be expecting you.

So, spoiler alert: I’m new to this whole mom thing. Forgive me for having absolutely no idea what I’m doing. There’s going to be missteps. Oops moments. I may be a novice mom, but I’ve got 30 years of being a girl under my belt. When I wised up and grew up, I actually learned a few things.

I hope you’ll always be kind, Sweet Girl. Never get caught up in a game of “everyone else is doing it,” especially when it comes to someone else’s feelings.

I hope you’ll go camping one day. Bait a hook, pee in the woods. Whine like hell while you’re doing it if you have to and never do it again if that’s how it ends up. But do it once. Be brave and try new things. Be proud of the little victories. Do the kinds of things I never did.

Don’t be surprised if you’re born without a shred of talent for music, art or athletics. But I hope you’ll learn to appreciate all three.

I hope you fall head over heels in love with books. Go ahead…dog-ear the pages, write in the margins. Read and reread your favorites. Let Judy Blume teach you everything want to know about being girl but are too embarrassed to ask your mom. She knows her stuff. Trust me.

I hope you don’t get too caught up in practicality. If, in your heart of hearts, you know you want to write children’s books, or lead safaris in Africa, or start a gourmet lollipop business out of your tiny kitchen with one copper pot, I hope you go for it. Don’t do what feels safe, do what feels right.

I hope you get a little (not too much!) barroom education when you go away to college (but NOT before that. Ahem.) There’s no better lesson in consequences than the morning after one too many vodka cranberries.

I hope you never lose touch with your childhood best friend. There’s no other sister, confidant or partner in crime like her. Keep it that way forever. Even if thousands of miles separate you.

I hope forgiveness comes easy to you. Grudges are too heavy a burden to carry over a lifetime that feels unbelievably short.

I hope you kiss a few frogs. Not too many though…this seems to lead to nothing but more frogs. But a few mistakes along the way is good for ya. Besides, it’s kinda fun!

I hope you fall in love with a man who turns out to be a lot like your dad. That sounds weird, I know. But trust me on this. You’ll know he’s a keeper. Is there any bigger hero in a girl’s life than her dad? I think not. You’ll know he’ll love you exactly how you are, your own unique brand of crazy and all. I did. And I do. ๐Ÿ™‚

I hope you never let the corner-office, six-figure salary, high-powered career women *or* the six-kid, supermom, everything from scratch, homeschooling women make you feel bad about your choices. Just do what’s best for you and your family and know that’s okay to be happy with simple. It’s okay to be happy with good enough.

Baby Girl, I worry constantly about being good enough. Strong enough. Brave enough. For you. But more than anything, I hope you don’t ever worry about being good enough for me. Because you already are. You’re perfect in your smallness, your punchy little kicks. A constant, happy reminder of all the fun to come when my days are cloudy and dull with routine. As much as I love this little one on one time we have together, just the two of us, I can’t wait meet you. I can’t wait to see how quickly you wrap your dad around your tiny little finger. I know our world will never be the same. We love you now and always.

Until January,

* * * *

I made these simple lemon crinkle sugar cookies in one of those gotta-have-cookies-now emergencies. I made them pink because….well, I’m celebrating Team Pink style! These are light, tender, chewy and subtly lemony. These are the kind of cookies that you could seriously plow through five or six without blinking and then gape at the empty plate wondering who the heck ate them all. They’re that good. And look at that crinkly top! Is that just irresistible or what? Make these. Share them. The pink is optional, obviously, but sure does kick them up a notch. Enjoy!

(PINK) LEMON CRINKLE COOKIES (Recipe Source: As seen at Lauren’s Latest)


  • 1 stick of butter, softened
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • ยฝ teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 egg
  • 1 teaspoon lemon zest
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1-ยฝ cups all-purpose flour
  • ยผ teaspoon salt
  • ยผ teaspoon baking powder
  • โ…› teaspoon baking soda
  • {1-2 drops red food coloring, optional}
  • ยฝ cup powdered sugar, for rolling


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line light-colored baking sheets with parchment paper.
  2. Whisk together flour, salt, baking powder and baking soda in a bowl and set aside.
  3. In a large bowl, cream butter and sugar together until light and fluffy. Beat in vanilla, egg, lemon zest, juice and food coloring, if using, until combined, scraping down the sides of bowl as needed. Add the dry ingredients slowly and mix until just combined, scraping down the sides the bowl once during mixing.
  4. Roll about a tablespoon of dough into a ball and roll in powdered sugar. Place on baking sheet about three inches apart. Repeat with remaining dough.
  5. Bake for 9-11 minutes or until bottoms are barely brown and cookies look set, not shiny. Remove from oven and cool cookies about 3 minutes before transferring to cooling rack. Makes about 3 dozen.



Filed under cookies

Hello Again

Oh, hi! You’re still here? Nice to see ya! I’ve dropped off the face of the blog in past (Remember when I was homeless for two months? Or when our house was a 24×7 construction zone?) but never like this. Three posts in the last four months? Yeesh. That’s downright unacceptable!

So! Let’s catch up. The last few months have flown by. I spent a lot of time trying to keep my eyes open past 7pm. I took a lot of naps, nursing a plummeting energy level. I’d rather not even remember the constant, nagging sour tummy, the aversion to all things cooking and food…

You guessed it – we’re having a baby! Eric and I thrilled to be expecting our own little bundle of joy in January. All things blogging are not conducive to early pregnancy what with the sight of everything except grilled cheese turning my stomach and everything. Now that I’m over that hump and the energy level is back (I’m going to clean out my closet! After that I’m going to clean YOUR closet!) I hope to get back in the swing of things here on the old blog (whose 4-year blogiversary slipped by completely unacknowledged back in May, we may need to have a belated celebration for that one!)

When I was down with turning, churning stomach one of the only things that tasted good to me was fruit. Cold, fresh, juicy fruit. Berries, oranges, apples basically sustained me for 10 weeks this spring. As soon as I felt like I could get back into the kitchen, I whipped up this fruit pizza.

What a refreshing summer treat! Straight from the fridge, this cold, creamy concoction really hit the spot. It’s easy to whip up and feeds a crowd, so it’s perfect for your summer gatherings and BBQs. I used a combo of raspberries, strawberries, kiwis and blueberries for the topping and the fruit held up surprisingly well. You could easily make this ahead of time. ๐Ÿ™‚

I combined several recipes to come up with one that suited me. For some reason, I decided I was too lazy to make my own cookie crust (I used a sugar cookie mix) but not too lazy to make my own glaze (mainly because I wanted to be able to control the added sweetness it would add). Feel free to make this as homemade or as semi-homemade as you please! ๐Ÿ˜‰ And it’s GREAT to be back!

FRUIT PIZZAย (Recipe Source: Pieced together from recipes at Philadelphia and All Recipes)



  • 1 (1lb. 1.5 oz) package sugar cookie mix


  • 1 8oz. package cream cheese, softened
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
  • 2 to 3 cups assorted sliced fruit


  • Scant1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 pinch salt
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch
  • 1/2 cup orange juice
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1/2 teaspoon orange zest


  1. Grease a 12-inch pizza pan. Preheat oven and prepare the cookie mix as directed on the package. Press the cookie dough into the pan, forming a lip at the edge. Bake 12 to 15 minutes until lightly browned and set. Set aside on a wire rack to cool completely.
  2. With an electric mixer beat the cream cheese, sugar and vanilla until well combined. Spread over the cooled cookie. Arrange the fruit over the top.
  3. Make the glaze: Combine all the glaze ingredients except the orange zest in a small saucepan. Cook over medium heat and bring to a boil, stirring constantly. Cook for 1 to 2 minutes until slightly thickened. Remove from heat and add the orange zest. Allow to cool slightly, but do not allow to set completely. Spread over the fruit. Chill the pizza for two hours before serving. Makes 8 to 10 servings.



Filed under cookies, fruit

Road Trip

It’s summer and you know what that means…

Road trip!

Well, not for me. I’m staying right here. But for many others, summer means packing up the old Family Truckster Chevy Chase style and hitting the road.

Living here on the banks of the Mississippi River in shadows of I-80, this area is a stop along the way, not the destination. The interstate is packed with campers and trailers, cars with bikes, canoes and kayaks strapped to the top, and minivans glowing with the blue light of DVD players in the back seat all on their way to somewhere other than here.

When I see a car with a plate from a far off, mythical land like, say, Vermont or Oregon, I always make a little story about where they’re headed and why. They’re headed to sunny Southern California to play Micky Mouse and Disneyland. They’re fulfilling a lifelong dream to chase tornadoes on the plains of Kansas and Oklahoma. They’re running off to join the professional rodeo circuit. I had a hard time coming up with something for the car with the plate from Hawaii I saw this past winter because all I could think was, DUDE. Bummer. Seriously.

I will say this town knows what people on the road are looking for. And that’s breakfast. The best part of the long road trip is breakfast! Around here, they do it up right. A slab of ham with a side of bacon and crispy home fries. With a cinnamon roll as big as your head to start off. This is the Midwest after all. You may just be passing through, but we’re gonna go ahead and make sure you take a little extra butt jiggle with you when you leave. ๐Ÿ˜‰ Aw, go ahead. You’re on vacation.

Personally, I’d rather join the crowds of motel and camper dwellers at the local joint for breakfast as opposed to make my own. I don’t know. There’s just something about getting up early and dirtying my entire kitchen before noon that makes me cranky. However, I did get a waffle iron for Christmas, so I decided it was high time I make some waffles for breakfast – instead of drowning them with maple syrup at 6pm and calling them dinner like I’ve been doing for the last six months.

This recipe for yeasted waffles makes breakfast a snap. Know why? Because the dirtying up of all the dishes happens the night before! YES! Now that I can handle. A simple yeast batter is mixed up and stuck in the fridge until morning. All you have to do is roll out of bed, flip on the waffle iron (and the coffee maker) and hot, crispy waffles are just minutes away!

I’m not sure I’ve ever had a yeasted waffle before but I really like the results. The flavor is deeper and more complex. The texture is spot on. This time I topped my waffles with strawberries, some pineapple broiled with brown sugar (mmmm…) and a dollop of Greek yogurt to cut the sweetness.

If you’re stuck at home this summer like I am, take a vacation from time consuming breakfast and make these!

OVERNIGHT YEASTED WAFFLES (As seen at Erin’s Food Files and The Novice Chef, originally adapted from Better Homes and Gardens)


  • 2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 package active dry yeast
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/3 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 3/4 cups milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla


  1. Stir together the flour, sugar, yeast, salt and cinnamon in a large bowl. Add in the milk, eggs, oil and vanilla to the flour mixture and beat with an electric mixer until thoroughly combined. Cover the batter loosely with plastic wrap or a towel and chill overnight or up to 24 hours.
  2. Stir the batter before making the waffles. Follow the directions on your waffle maker and repeat until all the batter is gone. How many you get will depend on your maker. I have a large Belgian waffle maker and I got 5 large waffles. ๐Ÿ™‚


Filed under breakfast

Always Be Prepared

I am nothing if not perpetually unprepared.

Well. Wait. That’s not completely true. I always come prepared for things like big speeches and final exams. I bring the materials and the points I’m responsible for to meetings at work. I’m usually prepared to answer work-related question when presented with one. I am a responsible adult, after all. Or I do a pretty darn good job pretending to be. Whatever.

But I never have an umbrella handy when it’s raining. I’m pretty sure I’ve never had an umbrella handy once in my entire life. I don’t think I even *own* umbrella. If I do, I have no idea where it is. In fact, if it’s pouring rain, not only will I not have an umbrella, I’ll have no jacket, no hood and I’ll being wearing wildly impractical footwear (silk ballet flats, perhaps?) and super long, draggy pants.

Need to put gas in the car when it’s five below? Sure wish I had a hat. Freight train stopped dead on the one set of tracks I absolutely must cross or there’s no possible way I can reach my office short of donning a Superman cape and leaping over tall buildings in a single bound? Should have left 10 minutes earlier. Also, should have peed first.

I have no extra batteries. No emergency needle and thread handy to fix a wayward button that fell off a shirt. We’ve run out of toilet paper before. Like totally and completely out, not a square in the house out. I know. I know.

I don’t have my important papers stacked together neatly in a file ready to grab at a moment’s notice. No stash of bottled water and canned goods. I’m not exactly sure where the flashlight is and we don’t have a weather radio. Oh, a first aid kid? I think there’s some loose band-aids under Eric’s sink in the bathroom and maybe some ointment in the laundry room. If someone’s bleeding profusely, I’m likely zero help anyway, so it’s not like a first aid kit is going to do any of us much good.

Don’t cut yourself at my house, please and thank you.

I’m also unprepared when it comes to having my blogging ducks in a row for foodie-type holidays bloggers go nuts over. Like Cinco de Mayo. This shredded beef for tacos would have been much more appropriate if presented last week. Posting it on May 7th makes me quite lame. But it doesn’t make the beef any less delicious.

This is one of my favorite things to come from the crock pot to date. To be honest, I don’t use my slow cooker that often because I find most of the meals to come out of it to be meh. I like my meat tender like anyone else, but there’s a difference between tender and mushy. The slow cooker crosses that line too often for me. This beef stands up well to extra long cooking time, and the flavor is so fresh and yummy. It’s perfectly seasoned and spiced. We stuffed it in tacos the first night, then I made Mexican-inspired stuff shells and some pressed sandwiches with pepper jack and hot sauce with the leftovers over the course of the week. Easy, versatile, and tasty. Even when you’re unprepared. ๐Ÿ˜‰

SHREDDED BEEF FOR TACOS (Recipe source: As seen at Elly Says Opa!)


  • 1 (2-3 lb.) boneless beef roast (rump, chuck, whatever you have)
  • 1 tablespoon canola oil
  • 1 onion, sliced
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 3/4 cup beef broth
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried parsley
  • 2 teaspoons chili powder
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano


  1. Heat a large, heavy bottomed skillet or dutch oven over medium high heat. Add the oil. Sprinkle the roast with salt and pepper. ย Once the oil is hot, add the roast to the pan and brown on all sides until a nice crust forms, about 2 minutes per side. ย Place in the slow cooker.
  2. To the pan with the beef drippings, add the onion and cook for about 2 minutes. Add garlic and tomato paste and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Stir in the beef broth and spices, scraping up any browned bits from the bottom of the pan. Pour the seasoned broth and onions over the top of the roast.
  3. Cook on low for 8-10 hours or until fork tender. ย Shred meat with a fork and moisten with a bit of the cooking liquid. (To soak up any extra liquid, you can turn the crockpot to high for a little bit after shredding the beef.)



Filed under Uncategorized

Safe Travels

Eric and I haven’t done much traveling. I realize now this is something I should be quite embarrassed about, similar to finding toilet paper stuck to my shoe or my fly unzipped in the middle of a big presentation in front of People Smarter and More Important Than Me.

But that’s the way it is. Here we are, both turning 30 in 3 months, and we’ve never left the US. Well, I take that back, Eric spent a few days in Canada a few years ago. So he wins. I guess.

Don’t me wrong, I’d love to jet off somewhere exotic. See majestic mountains, jewel-toned oceans and crumbling ancient ruins. There’s just always an absence of two very important things. Mainly, money and time. I frequently hear from the well-traveled that we should do these things while we’re young. While it’s just the two of us. Before kids come along.

We’ve had six years. Let’s be honest. I’m 99.9% sure that’s not going to happen. Someday, right? Someday when we’re retired and all of sudden traveling Europe by train with the lead anchor on the 10:00 news sounds like an excellent idea. (Does your local news advertise trips like this? An Alaskan cruise with your favorite weatherman! The commercials always make me laugh!) Yep. Then we’ll go. Someday….

Until then, it’s a good thing I have a stocked kitchen and an active imagination. With the right food, I can travel wherever I want, whenever I want.

A couple weeks ago, I decided Italy was the place I wanted to go. So, I closed my eyes and thought about what it would be like to be there. I pictured peaches and cream sunsets streaked with lavender and pink, jaunty cobblestone streets and the whir of scooters whizzing by. I pictured a white flowy sundress, gold sandals that tie around the ankles, and hair in long, loose waves. I pictured outdoor cafes, tiny cups of espresso billowing with steam and bottles of wine that last for hours. I pictured hopeful coins shimmering with wishes at the bottom of a tinkling fountain. I pictured history – the last remains of great empires, towering, intricate cathedrals and Renaissance art. I pictured falling in love.

Most of all, I pictured gelato. Walking slowly with one hand wrapped up in the fingers of a true love and the other wrapped around a cone dripping with a cool, creamy treat.

This Gianduja-Stracciatella Gelato will put you there. All of those experiences in just one bite. And if that isn’t what it’s really like there – hey, I can dream right? It is my imagination after all. Someday I’ll know for certain.

I’m not even sure where to begin to tell you how much we loved this stuff. In The Perfect Scoop, David Lebovitz describes gianduja as an Italian confection made from local hazelnuts ground together with milk chocolate. Hello, heaven! This gelato is like frozen Nutella with bits of crunchy, chocolate goodness running through it. It may look like chocolate overload, but really the flavor is not over-the-top rich. It’s chocolatey in a completely perfect way. The hazelnuts give it a little bit of a coffeehouse flair. I’m actually not big on ice cream in a cone, I almost always have it in a dish. But here, the slightly spicy crunch of the cone compliments the chocolate and hazelnuts perfectly. Go for the cone!

GIANDUJA-STRACCIATELLA GELATO (Recipe Source: The Perfect Scoop)

Make the Gelato:


  • 1 1/2 cups hazelnuts, toasted
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 3/4 cups sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon coarse salt
  • 4 ounces good quality milk chocolate, finely chopped
  • 5 egg yolks
  • 1/8 teaspoon vanilla extract


  1. After toasting hazelnuts*, rub in a kitchen towel to remove as much of the papery skins as possible. Finely chop the nuts in a food processor.
  2. Warm the milk with one cup of the cream, sugar and salt in a saucepan. Once warmed (do not boil), remove from the heat and add the chopped nuts. Cover and let steep at room temperature for one hour.
  3. Put the chopped milk chocolate in a large bowl. Heat the remaining cup of cream in a small saucepan until it just bubbles. Pour it over the chocolate and stir until melted. Set a mesh strainer on top of the bowl.
  4. Pour the hazelnut infused milk through the strainer into a medium saucepan. Squeeze the nuts firmly with your hands to extract as much liquid as possible. Discard the nuts.
  5. Rewarm the hazelnut/milk mixture. In a separate bowl, whisk the egg yolks. Slowly pour the warm hazelnut/milk mixture into the egg yolks, whisking constantly, then scrape the mixture back into the saucepan.
  6. Stir the mixture constantly over medium heat with a heatproof spatula, scraping the bottom while stirring, until the mixture thickens and coats the spatula. Pour the custard through a strainer into the milk chocolate. Add the vanilla then stir until cool over an ice bath. Cover and chill the gelato in the fridge until very cold, at least 8 hours or overnight.

*To toast the hazelnuts, spread in a single layer on a baking sheet and bake in a 350 degree oven until golden and fragrant, about 10 to 12 minutes, stirring once or twice.

Make the Stracciatella:

Stracciatella is more of a technique than a recipe. It involves melting chocolate and adding it in steaks to frozen ice cream. The streaks are broken up into crunchy “chips” that run throughout the ice cream. I have to say I really loved this technique and will likely use it again in the future. The bits of chocolate are small and they melt instantly when hitting the tongue, giving you a delightful chocolate flavor. Sometimes I find adding actual chocolate chips to ice cream leads to chunks that are so frozen solid, it’s like crunching down on tasteless, waxy pebbles. This technique eliminates that.

  • Finely chop 5 ounces of bittersweet or semisweet chocolate (do not use chocolate chips)
  • In a clean, dry bowl set over a pan of simmering water, melt the chocolate, stirring until it is completely melted.


Remove gelato from the refrigerator and stir. Pour into ice cream maker and freeze according the manufacturer’s instructions. After it’s frozen, transfer from the bowl to a storage container. Drizzle the melted chocolate over the gelato in a slow, thin stream, stirring as you pour to break up the chocolate. Cover and freeze until ready to serve.



Filed under chocolate, ice cream

Those Summer Nights

As my Dad would say – New Years Day is right around the corner.

Oh, you thought New Years Day occurred on January 1? The day we pull out our new day planners and calendars? When the holidays end and it’s cold and miserable outside and there seems to be nothing at all to look forward to for months on end?

Well, yes, there’s that New Years Day. And then there’s the other New Years Day: Opening Day. The start of a new baseball season. A day most cherished by both my dad and my husband. We won’t talk about how they cheer for rival teams. Could get ugly. ๐Ÿ˜‰

Now, I’ve never attended a ball game in April myself, because, let’s be honest, I’m just not that much of a die hard. Even so, I start craving the long, luscious days of summer as soon as the season starts. There’s just something about baseball. It’s the essence of summer.

When I was younger, I got taken out to the ball game more times than I can count. Thanks to my Dad’s devotion the game, I spent many hours of my childhood summers at the ballpark. Or riding in the car to get the ballpark. So much so that as soon as I was old enough to decide for myself if I wanted to go, I pretty much quit all together. Now that I’m older, I appreciate the ritual of the game so much more. I look back on all that time sitting with my Dad at the ballpark very fondly and find going to games with my Dad is still one of my favorite things to do. And it just so happens, I married a big baseball fan so the tradition of summer nights at the ballpark continue.

Baseball is reserved exclusively for the best days of the year. The kind of days that melt into warm, twinkling twilight. The crack of the bat, the suspense of the ball dangling in midair, the explosion of the crowd. It’s the perfect combination of excitement and relaxation. Being at a ball game is like chilling on the patio in your own backyard. All your best buds, eats hot off the grill, ice cold brew. Sure there’s a game going on, but if most the 9 innings is spent laughing and socializing, that’s okay. You still win regardless of the score.

Forget the peanuts and Cracker Jack, when I get to the park, all I want is big soft pretzel complete with a tiny cup of overpriced, overprocessed liquid cheese concoction. Oh, and a cold beer. Carbs, washed down with more carbs = dinner. Those ballpark pretzels….I keep going back. Are they that great? No. When it’s gone do I look down at the wayward pretzel salt stuck to my lap and think “hm, I sure am glad I ate that”? Uh, no. But it’s part of the ritual.

The good news is you can recreate that summer pretzel ritual at home all year round. And have it taste a million times better than the lukewarm, doughy, previously frozen version you get at the park.

Homemade soft pretzels are super easy to make and a great introduction to the world of yeast if you’ve yet to venture into that whole realm. The dough mixes up in a snap, it’s easy to work with and shape and the scrumptious reward at the end is well worth the extra time it takes to do it from scratch. The boiling step can be a bit tedious, but again, well worth it in the end. This time around I fancied them up a bit with classic flavors of an everything bagel. Peppered with a mix of poppy seeds, sesame seeds, salt, onions and garlic, these pretzels pack a ton of flavor. They’re excellent with a bit of honey mustard and outstanding with a homemade cheese sauce. Any way you bake them, break them, dip them or scarf them, you’ll stand up and cheer. ๐Ÿ™‚

EVERYTHING SOFT PRETZELS (Recipe Source: Alton Brown via


  • 1 1/2 cups warm (110 to 115 degrees F) water
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1 package active dry yeast
  • 22 ounces all-purpose flour, approximately 4 1/2 cups
  • 2 ounces unsalted butter, melted
  • Vegetable oil
  • 10 cups water
  • 2/3 cup baking soda
  • 1 large egg yolk beaten with 1 tablespoon water
  • Optional toppings: Poppy seeds, sesame seeds, course pretzel salt, dried minced onion, granulated garlic – all to taste


  1. Combine the water, sugar and kosher salt in the bowl of a stand mixer and sprinkle the yeast on top. Allow to sit for 5 minutes or until the mixture begins to foam. Add the flour and butter and, using the dough hook attachment, mix on low speed until well combined. Change to medium speed and knead until the dough is smooth and pulls away from the side of the bowl, approximately 4 to 5 minutes. Remove the dough from the bowl, clean the bowl and then oil it well with vegetable oil. Return the dough to the bowl, cover with plastic wrap and sit in a warm place for approximately 50 to 55 minutes or until the dough has doubled in size.
  2. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F. Line 2 half-sheet pans with parchment paper and lightly brush with the vegetable oil. Set aside.
  3. Bring the 10 cups of water and the baking soda to a rolling boil in an 8-quart saucepan or roasting pan.
  4. In the meantime, turn the dough out onto a slightly oiled work surface and divide into 8 equal pieces. Roll out each piece of dough into a 24-inch rope. Make a U-shape with the rope, holding the ends of the rope, cross them over each other and press onto the bottom of the U in order to form the shape of a pretzel. Place onto the parchment-lined half sheet pan.
  5. Place the pretzels into the boiling water, 1 by 1, for 30 seconds. Remove them from the water using a large flat spatula. Return to the half sheet pan, brush the top of each pretzel with the beaten egg yolk and water mixture and sprinkle with desired toppings. Bake until dark golden brown in color, approximately 12 to 14 minutes. Transfer to a cooling rack for at least 5 minutes before serving.

ENJOY! Also…play ball! ๐Ÿ™‚


Filed under appetizers, bread

Where the Magic Happens

Hey! Remember last spring when we moved? And I said I was going to be sharing some of our home improvement projects here on the old blog?

About that. I lied. Or something. Honestly, there hasn’t been much worth sharing. Everyone knows the process of making a house your own is a slow one. I have a lot of blank walls, a lot of half finished rooms. I have a lot surfaces missing expertly placed decorative items. And most of all, I have a lot of windows missing window treatments. Luckily none of these windows look directly into the windows of any our neighbors. ๐Ÿ˜‰

The one room that’s getting there is the kitchen. Thought you’d all like to take a peek.

Welcome to our kitchen!

I tend to spend a lot of time in here. Hours on end. Entire weekends. But it’s so cozy, I hardly even notice that what I’m doing in there (cooking, cleaning, washing dishes) happens to be what most people would define as work.

This crescent moon shaped island is without a doubt a unique conversation piece. It has plenty of room to spread out and has electricity. Pretty, but also functional. The stools provide a cozy place to have a quiet breakfast.

So you’re probably thinking…there TWO refrigerators in there? That’s crazy cakes. Well, here’s the thing. When we moved in there was the fridge behind the island and huge gaping hole along the back wall under the overhead cabinets there. We needed a forklift to pick our jaws up off the floor when we heard what it would cost to turn that space into additional cabinets and storage…that just wasn’t happening right away. So what did we do? We stuck a sad looking, half dead houseplant on the floor in the gap and stashed 12 packs of soda there. You know, the usual. When we decided to replace the fridge behind the island with a new french door (LOVE!) we just pushed the old fridge over to that empty space. Like a glove, friends!

I admit it’s a bit odd and it’s not a forever solution, but the extra space for beer and boxes of clementines and my ice cream maker bowl is nice. Someday the budget will allow to finish it off properly but for now, we’re content with being the weirdos with two refrigerators. ๐Ÿ™‚

Now, a few of my favorite things about this room.

The view. Morning sun glistening off fresh snow. We see more than our fair share of friendly forest creatures out in our yard at the edge of the woods. The deer are particularly active. ๐Ÿ™‚

The tile back splash. This was an unfinished mess when we moved in. Now it’s a beautiful focal point.

Kindly ignore the glaring dirt spot on the cook top. Please and thank you.

The glass front cabinets and drawers that flank the cook top. The drawers are the perfect size for spice jars and my out of control collection of loose measuring cups and spoons. And the cabinets allow for storage and a fun pop of color.

The booze shelf. Because… Duh. ๐Ÿ™‚

The other thing I love about the kitchen is the way were able to personalize it. Eric constantly gave me a hard time at our old house about how I refused to put anything on the walls. I just couldn’t seem to find anything I liked. I hated every single mass produced metal wall piece and print I saw. So I stopped looking. Best decision ever. And now we have stuff on the walls.

Like these nifty little metal signs my brother-in-law had made for us for Christmas.

They have our name and other identifying info on them, so that’s been blacked out to protect the innocent. ๐Ÿ˜‰ I’ve mentioned before how Eric grew up a on dairy – the top sign is the graphic that was printed on the side of his grandfather’s farm truck and the bottom is bottle cap from his product. Sentimental and special, these make the kitchen uniquely ours.

For Christmas, Eric bought and had framed this print from an Illinois artist. I love it because everywhere you look there’s something new to discover and it’s brimming with my favorite colors. It’s a little bit city and little bit country. Just like us. And of course, the U of I references are appreciated…seeing as that’s where we met.

Finally, as a blogger, there are plenty of photos of food laying around. Fitting for the kitchen, obviously! Now, my photos are nothing special so it’s not like giant canvas prints would be appropriate. But scaled way down, stuffed into cropped square frames, and tiled along a wall in the dining area, it’s a fun way to display a few favorites. I gave the photos a vintage feel by washing out the colors a bit so they wouldn’t be so harsh on the wall. I really liked how they turned out.

Sorry for the cruddy pic – the patio door is directly across from this wall and the glare is insane.

So there ya have it! I hope you enjoyed the detour for a little behind the scenes tour. Back with food in the next post. I have one of my most favorite recipes to date on deck so stayed tuned for that! ๐Ÿ™‚


Filed under Good Living, Just for Fun, Renovations