Monthly Archives: May 2011

Summer Roast

The other day, I temporarily lost my mind and decided to try on last year’s bathing suit.

I’m not sure what prompted such a crazy idea. Let me tell you how often I put on a bathing suit. Try almost never. Yes, I realize summer is around the corner. Yes, I realize this makes me a bit of weirdo. But I don’t know anyone with a pool or a yacht or a canoe, I’m pretty sure my neighbor would give me the side eye if I appeared in his yard frolicking beneath the spray of his lawn sprinkler, and there is nay a beach to be seen within hundreds of miles of my house. Unless you count the Mississippi River, which I can actually see a tiny sliver of from an upstairs window (Water views, anyone? We be fancy like that.) Unfortunately, I’m pretty sure you couldn’t bribe me with all the cupcakes in the world to even dip my pinky toe into that body of water. Just saying.

But I do own a suit. You know, just in case some kind of life and death swim suit emergency should arise. Like when I get those spam-tastic recorded calls on my cell about having won free airline tickets and suddenly there’s a tropical vacation in my future. Stuff like that. 😉

So I’m putting away some (still wintery) laundry recently and my lonely, waded up, wrinkled bathing suit caught my eye. I thought, what a nice suit. Look at the cute little ruffle. And pink straps. I like pink.

I contemplated just leaving it there and forgetting about it. Putting on a bathing suit after a long, cold winter does not a happy girl make. In fact, it sounded like a great way to straight up ruin the day. But, then I thought, hey, what the heck, ya know? Just do it.

I held my breath as I shimmied into the bottoms. I shut my eyes as I eased into the top…and then…

It was not quite the soul-crushing, self-esteem-slashing experience I built it up in my mind to be. Whew. Deep breath out. Okay, so the term muffin top is something on my radar now. Awesome. And maybe my butt is a little jiggly, but last’s years bottoms still cover it completely so…yay? Nobody’s perfect. Considering how much I like dessert and how sometimes I only get as far as putting the 30DS in the DVD player before I give up, we’ll call it a win.

Are there things I would pinch and tuck and trim and tone? Yes. Am I supermodel status? Absolutely not. But, I am me. I kinda like Me. Hear that, Me, you’re okay. Thumbs up, girlfriend.

And I do try my best. Isn’t that all you can do in your life in every situation you’re in? I pay attention to what I put in my body most of the time so I enjoy the HECK out of the times I don’t. I try to stay moderately active. So I’m not a rugby player or a derby girl or a marathon runner, I probably like sausage a little more than a dainty lady as myself should, and I know I watch too much TV. Even so, I can cook with fresh ingredients. I can get my fiber and eat my veggies. I can drink my water. I can do a modest workout and feel a sense of accomplishment. I may not look like a 10 in last year’s bathing suit, but I have succeeded in maintaining a healthy weight and I try to make good choices.

I find a really quick way to sabotage an entire day’s worth of healthy habits is to get hungry in the afternoon between lunch and dinner. Now that I’m in between jobs because of our move and home during the day, it becomes way too easy to reach for that bag of Eric’s potato chips or slice off a slab of brownie from the pan and call it a snack. Working-Full-Time Me would be horrified. With her strict weekday food rules and tendency to empty her purse of all singles and loose change before leaving the house so she couldn’t hit the vending machine, she would NOT approve. Scraping-Window-Stickers-and-Sock-Folding Me is hungry so LAY OFF. 😉 Heh.

So I’ve started working my snacks into my meal plan to cut down on the 2:00 p.m. cookie temptation. Apples with a bit of natural peanut butter, carrots and bell pepper strips with hummus and now, this crunchy, salty, roasted edamame.

This is a super simple, completely customizable, protein packed, fiber full snack. It’s so easy and totally addictive. Frozen edameme (don’t even have to thaw it, how’s that for convenient?) is seasoned and roasted in a hot oven until the little, green soy pods get golden and crunchy. I like them simply dressed with just a bit of olive oil, kosher salt and lots of freshly cracked black pepper. Any seasonings or spices you have on hand would work – chili powder, cayenne, cumin, garlic or onion powder – whatever you’ve got and whatever you like. These are best made in small batches as they do lose their crunch as they sit around, but since they are so easy to make, it’s really no big deal. You could toss these in the oven while you’re getting for work and have an afternoon snack ready just in time to walk out the door.

Keep this recipe in your back pocket. Just in case a bathing suit emergency should arise. 😉

ROASTED EDAMAME (Recipe Source: The Kitchn)

INGREDIENTS:

  • 16 ounces frozen shelled edamame
  • 2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly-cracked black pepper
    (or 1-2 teaspoons alternate seasoning)

DIRECTIONS:

  1. Preheat the oven to 375°F.
  2. Pour the edamame in a strainer and run under warm water for a few seconds to melt any ice crystals. Spread the edamame on a clean dish towel and pat gently with another dish towel to dry them as much as possible.
  3. In a mixing bowl, toss the edamame with the olive oil, salt, and pepper (or other seasonings). Taste one of the edamame and add more seasonings if desired.
  4. Spread the edamame in a single layer on a sheet pan and roast for 30-40 minutes. Stir every 10 minutes and watch for the edamame to begin puffing and turning golden-brown. Their color will also darken, the exterior will be dry, and you’ll hear them “singing” as steam escapes from inside the bean.
  5. Remove the pan from the oven and transfer the roasted edamame to a serving bowl. They are best if eaten within a few hours of roasting.

ENJOY!

One Year Ago: Creamy Frozen Smoothie Pops
Two Years Ago: Strawberry Rhubarb Streusel Muffins

3 Comments

Filed under appetizers, veggies

And the Winner Is…

All! Thank you SO much for the great response to the Heartland cookbook giveaway. There is so much food and tradition to discover right here in the US of A – thank you for sharing your favorites with me. I’m not very well-traveled (how Midwest of me, right? Ha.) so I have yet to discover many of your favorites but I’m totally up for an epic road trip where we don’t stop to do anything but eat. You in? We’ll just gather new friends along the way. Like Dorothy in Oz. We’ll sing and maybe skip a lot. No flying monkeys though. Too scary. And I don’t trust those things with my snacks. Sticky monkey fingers and things.

Anyway…

Let’s get down to business. The winner!

Random.org used it mad number scramblin’ skills (how does it do that?) and chose…

Comment 32! The lucky winner is Sally who said…

Congratulations, Sally! I’ve never been to Cincinnati myself but from what I’ve heard about this chili, I need to get out there and try it. I’ll be dropping the book in the mail to you after the long weekend! I hope you enjoy it as much as I do.

Thanks again to everyone for entering! Most of all, thanks to all of you for reading. I love our time here – laughing and eating together. Makes me smile every time I think of it. You are all awesome sauce. Don’t ever forget it. 🙂

1 Comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Take a Break, Get a Book

**Giveaway closed as of 8:00 p.m., May 25, 2011**

You guys. I need a break. I spent a good portion of the day yesterday scraping bumble bee stickers off a bedroom window with my old library card. Bumble bee stickers. As if I needed another reason to dislike bees. Stingy and sticky. We’re not currently not on speaking terms.

How about you? Could you use a break? A pick-me-up? Maybe of the cool, refreshing, sweet/tart variety? Sounds good, doesn’t it?

Ahhh. Yes. The sound of tinkling ice cubes is like music after a long hard day. Is it blazing hot where you are? Then get out of here, I’m mad at you. Please take our cold, clouds and rain with you.

I’m kidding. You can totally stay. If you stick around, we can relax in a couple of virtual rocking chairs, have a cool glass of refreshing, rosy lemonade and I’ll tell you all about a fabulous GIVEAWAY coming at ya right now!

My little corner of the internet turns three on Saturday. Awww. My baby is growing up. I can’t believe how fast the time has flown by. We’ve been through a lot together and I’m so grateful for all of you, especially while I was on hiatus there trying to move. Twice. So, just to say hey, thanks for playing, I’m offering you a chance to get your hands on a pretty cool cookbook.

A couple months ago, I got an email from a rep from Andrews McMeel Publishing asking if I’d like a preview copy of a new book called Heartland: The Cookbook by Judith Fertig to mention here on the blog.

Would I? HECK YES, I would. I jumped all over this one like white on rice. First, I was so humbled and honored that someone took the time to read my blog, learn a bit about me and offer me a product that totally fits with what I’m all about. How refreshing! I’m a Heartland girl born and raised and it’s no secret how much I love Midwest. I was excited to get my hands on a book featuring food and stories from my little slice of the country. And second, I got an additional copy just for YOU!

Oh my goodness, friends. This is a beautiful book. You don’t have to be in the Midwest to appreciate the wonderful fresh ideas, gorgeous photos and nostalgic stories. Judith is clearly passionate about Midwest, it’s people and it’s food history and tradition. It’s wonderfully written and full of Heartland goodies. I will say a few of the recipes contain ingredients that even I, smack dab in the middle of the middle west, may have a hard time locating, but they are easily substituted for something more readily available. For example, I’m not sure where one would procure pheasant (less one shoots it themselves) but the recipe could easily be made with chicken, as noted. 🙂

This book is full of delightful pantry basics like jams and sauces; hearty, stick-to-your-ribs breakfast fare; versatile bread recipes that can be made into loaves, rolls, coffee cakes, pizza crusts and more; soups, salads and main dishes brimming with the best of the Heartland harvest; and mouthwatering desserts that are perfect for sharing. In addition, it’s packed with resources on where to find the best of the best in ingredients, food and experiences right here in the Midwest!

I jumped right in by trying the Porch Swing Lemonade (recipe follows), and the Sunflower Cookie Brittle (coming soon!) and both were wonderful. I’m officially in love with this book. If you live in and love the Midwest like I do, if you’re a former resident transplanted elsewhere and looking for a little taste of home, or if you’re just curious about the people, food and culture of this (highly underrated, in my humble opinion) part of the country, please consider checking out this book!

Here’s how to enter:

Leave me a comment telling me about a favorite food or food tradition from your city or state (even if you’re not in
the Midwest).

You have until 8:00 p.m. central time, Wednesday, May 25 to leave your comment and I’ll use random.org to pick a winner! Giveaway is open to U.S. residents only (my apologies to international readers). Sorry, family…you’re not eligible either.

Disclaimer: This giveaway is sponsored by Andrews McMeel Publishing – they provided me with two copies of Heartland: The Cookbook by Judith Fertig. I was not compensated in any other way and all opinions expressed in this post are my own.

THANK YOU, THANK YOU for reading and GOOD LUCK!

Now, the lemonade. As a rule, I’m not a big fruit juice person, but if there is one thing I absolutely cannot resist, it’s fresh-squeezed lemonade, especially when it leans toward tart. It’s so refreshing. When I spotted this recipe featuring fresh lemonade kicked up a notch with a syrup made from an early spring Midwest favorite – Rhubarb – I knew I would love it.

And I did! Rhubarb, sugar and water cook down into a thick, perfectly pink syrup and from there it’s mixed with lemon juice and water and garnished with a bit of fresh rosemary. The result is an all-natural, rosy-cheeked lemonade with subtle rhubarb and floral notes. Depending how sweet you like it, you can add additional sugar to the finished product. I found that just the addition of the rhubarb syrup made it plenty sweet for my taste (and I actually decreased the sugar a bit when making the syrup) but remember I’m all about tart so adjust accordingly to your taste. 🙂

Like I said, I need a break. If you do too, whip up a batch of this, grab a good book or a good friend and hit the porch. Stay there all afternoon. You’ll be relaxed, refreshed and recharged in no time.

PORCH SWING LEMONADE (Recipe adapted from: Heartland: The Cookbook by Judith Fertig, pages 34 & 127)

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice (about 7 large lemons)
  • 1 1/2 cups Rosy Rhubarb Syrup (recipe follows), Fresh Herb Syrup, or Blackberry-Lavender Syrup (you’ll just have to win the book to get these recipes which sound DIVINE, by the way!) 😉
  • 1 1/2 cups water
  • Sugar, for sweetening (if desired)
  • Fresh lemon slices for garnish
  • Sprigs of fresh rosemary, for garnish

DIRECTIONS:

In a large pitcher, stir together the lemon juice, syrup, water and sugar, if using. Add lemon slices and rosemary. Taste, and add more sugar if necessary. Serve cold and poured over ice.

ROSY RHUBARB SYRUP:

  • 4 cups chopped rhubarb, fresh or thawed frozen
  • 1 cup water
  • 2 cups sugar (I used only about 1-1/4 cups)
  • Juice of two lemons (because I used less sugar, I used only the juice of one lemon)

In a saucepan over medium-high heat, bring the rhubarb and water to a boil. Lower the heat to medium-low, cover and simmer the rhubarb until tender and pulpy (it will basically fall apart), about 10 minutes.

Strain out the pulp over a bowl, reserving the juice. Measure the juice and add enough water to equal two cups. Return the liquid to the saucepan and stir in sugar. Bring to a boil once more and cook until the sugar dissolves, about 8 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in lemon juice. Allow syrup to cool (it thickens as it cools). Strain the syrup again, and pour into an airtight container or bottle. Store in the refrigerator for up to a month.

Enjoy!

Giveaway starts…NOW!

Ready, set, ENTER! Good luck everybody! 🙂

48 Comments

Filed under drinks, fruit

Old Paint, New Paint, Red Paint, Blue Paint.

Oh, painting. Why do we always get fooled into thinking it’s going to be a fun job? It’s just like wrapping a ton of Christmas gifts. You do it so infrequently that when it’s time to do it again, you’ve forgotten how much it really…well, isn’t fun. At all.

At first it’s exciting. Oooo, pretty colors! Fresh supplies! You’ll blast some of your favorite tunes and turn this blank slate into something beautiful that everyone will enjoy!

But then. Mistakes happen. Supplies run low in the middle of the job. It takes way longer than you ever thought it would and by the end of the day you’re so tired of crawling around on the floor you can’t believe you EVER thought it was going to be fun. Lesson learned. Until you forget again, that is.

In our new place, every single surface had to be painted. Every. Single. One. Every wall, every piece of trim, every interior and exterior door. All 2200 square feet of finished living space, in every room, every hallway, every nook and every cranny.

See, the previous owners (oh, those pesky previous owners!) they did SOME painting. (Some. Until they obviously got tired of it, sometimes before they even finished the wall right in front of them.) And by some miracle we didn’t even hate all of their color choices. But it just wasn’t done very well. Drips, rough edges, blobs all over the ceiling. It had to be redone. We couldn’t stand it. Plus most of the trim, baseboards and door jams, and all of the interior and exterior doors were still in primer – that is, never painted at all.

While normally we’d just strap on our worn-out, yucky painting jeans and just go after it while quietly cursing every stroke of the roller under our breaths, this job proved to be too large for us to handle. And, as much as it pained us (Cheap does not even begin to cover it, for realz), we decided to go ahead and leave this one to the pros. So, we were handed a book of swatch samples the size of an unabridged dictionary and told to choose.

We spent hours wandering our empty house trying to decide. One of the toughest jobs ever. If you do it yourself, hey, it’s just paint and as annoying as it would be to redo an entire room after you decided you hated the color, it wouldn’t sting so bad. But when you’re PAYING someone (handsomely *ahem*) – there is tremendous pressure to get it right the first time.

When I think about the colors I want on the walls in my home, I get the warm fuzzies. Good thing Eric and I are on exactly the same page when it comes to this stuff. 🙂 (I knew we were made for each other!) We like neutrals that are rich in cozy hues, greens that are decidedly more yellow, and reds and golds that match the fiery flair of my spice cabinet. The frosty blues and aquas, steely grays and silvers, and cooling lilacs and purples that seem to be so popular these days just don’t do it for us. So much of the year is cold and gray around these parts, it’s hard for me to imagine bringing that vibe inside. With a toasty, cozy color pallete, we’re sure to have summer year round.

So the blues and grays are out and yellows and greens are in. The painters arrived and they didn’t leave for almost three weeks. THREE WEEKS. That’s a long time to be side-stepping around a work zone in your own house.

Good news though! It was worth it. LOVE. Every thing looks great, exactly like we hoped it would.  All colors are Sherwin Williams interior. Here’s what we ended up picking:

From left to right:

  • Red Cent-SW6341
  • Beeswax-SW7682
  • Hinoki-SW7686
  • Muslin-SW6133
  • Netsuke-SW6134
  • Garden Sage-SW7736

Pics of swatches vary from what the color looks like on the wall. Obvs. 😉 But you get the general idea.

That saucy, spicy terracotta red ended up in the kitchen. It makes me hungry just looking at it. It’s also in the downstairs half bath.

That bees-knees honeycomb gold keeps our small, cozy den warm and inviting. It will look great next to a roaring fire and a steaming mug of hot chocolate. We also used this one to gussy up the the guest bath upstairs and bring the sunshine into one of the bedrooms.

The rich but neutral tan is in the main living room, as well as the downstairs and upstairs hallways. It’s the perfect blend of understated and vibrant.

The lighter, slightly green tinted shade is much softer in person. It lightens up our master bath perfectly. With its dark vanities and textured tiles swirled with milk chocolate brown and slate gray, this shade makes our bathroom modern, yet cozy. It’s also in a bedroom.

The next shade over is the previous shade’s neighbor on the color swatch. They are like BFFs. 😉 It’s just tad darker and richer. We put this on the walls in the master bedroom and it flows perfectly from the bathroom. The fourth and final bedroom was done in this shade as well.

The sage green is my favorite of the bunch. Naturally, as green is my favorite color! In person, it’s earthy and warm and a lot less drab. It makes the bay windows in the front of the house pop. It highlights our lovely headboard and double door entry in the master bedroom. And it breaks up the tan as an accent in loft that’s open to the living room. Oh, and it’s blanketed the laundry room. If I have to do my least favorite chore, at least I can be surrounded by my favorite color while I’m doing it! 🙂

So, the painting is done! YAY! We’re slowly but surely making the house our own and I’m anxious for things to get back to normal. Boxes, boxes everywhere! Eek!

In food news: The kitchen is open once again! YAY! I spent hours (days?) organizing my kitchen and I think I’m finally back in business. It’s going to be a great place to create and share deliciousness with family, friends and all of you. I’ll be celebrating with a GIVEAWAY! Yes, a fabulous giveaway coming at ya this week. Just in time for my third (!) blogiversary which just happens to be this Saturday!

So! See you all in a few days with a new recipe and a fun surprise. I’m SO ready to put the food back in this food blog! 🙂

One Year Ago: Shrimp and Sausage Boil Pizza
Two Years Ago: Chicken Marsala Pasta Toss

4 Comments

Filed under Good Living, Major Projects, Renovations