Category Archives: Just for Fun

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. πŸ˜‰

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. πŸ™‚

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. πŸ™‚

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. πŸ™‚

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. πŸ˜‰ 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! πŸ™‚

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Filed under Good Living, Just for Fun, Renovations

OH (S)NOOOO(W)!

Hello. This post has no recipe. If this offends you in any way, please locate your nearest emergency back button and slowly exit the blog through the gift shop. There’s a sale on Snowpocalypse t-shirts. Thanks.

Let’s just go ahead and get this out there in the open. I’m 28 years old (also married. Very, very married) and I live with my parents.

Ahem. Temporarily. I’m temporarily living with my parents. We left one city without a place to live in the next one. The cart got a little too far ahead of the horse on this one, but we’re dealing. Live, learn, move forward, press on, so on and so forth. Bottom line and key word here: temporary.

How wonderful for me to waltz into Chicagoland just in time for the snow, snow, snow-torious storm of the century! What amazing luck!

Hi, I’m sarcastic! πŸ™‚

I thought I knew about snow. I thought I’d seen it all. I’ve experienced 20-plus inches of snow before (New Year’s weekend 1999, anyone?) And who could forget this early winter wallop from December 2009. But this…this outdoes them all.

Let me tell the story of the Blizzard of 2011 before I get too old and start adding outrageous exaggerations like the roof collapsed and we had to use spoons to dig ourselves out. πŸ˜‰

As this storm kicked into high gear Tuesday night, I found myself glued to the window in the front room. In the background, the television news buzzed and sizzled with a mix of excitement and concern. As reports of stranded motorists abandoning their cars on a stalled out and gridlocked Lake Shore Drive began rolling in, I watched the snow flutter like a thick, white sheet through the air. The homes across the street disappeared inside wind gusts and snowflakes. The power flickered.

Batten down the hatches. Thar’ she blows.

The wind kept me up all night. Strong gusts pushed into the house, sending slow, agonizing creaks through its bones. When I popped my head up from my toasty pillow like a groggy groundhog Wednesday morning (it was February 2nd after all!) I couldn’t believe the scene outside. Layers of white, rolling hills of snow blanketed the entire neighborhood. The flakes were still falling and the wind was still howling. Oh, also…the heat was out. Yeah.

The heat situation was rectified relatively quickly (thank goodness!) and the snow settled into an eerie, quiet calm outside. Not a creature was stirring. It’s an odd thing to see so little life in a usually busy neighborhood. No cars on the street, no sounds of jets overhead, no echoing dog barks.

The real adventure began much, much later. My parents live in a subdivision with certain, um, rules. Mainly age rules. Oh, and rules about children. I’m pretty sure if the neighbors saw grandchildren hanging around a particular property too long they would summon an angry mob to carry the children off into the night in potato sacks. Lucky for me, there are no rules against freeloading grown children setting up shop in the guest bedroom. πŸ˜‰

Kidding, of course, about the children. I think.

Anyway because of the, uh, demographics of this particular subdivision, the residents are not responsible for removing the snow from their driveway. An outsourced service does that. This all well and good, except when there’s a freeloading grown child taking up a spot in the garage and the extra car means someone has to park on the driveway. The service will NOT clear the driveway if there’s cars on it. So, we worked out a plan. We kind of cleared off the area around the car, which by some miracle of nature did not end up completely buried, and then planned to watch closely for the Snow Removal Heroes in their zippy little skid loaders. They could clear off the end of drive and my dad could get the car out of the way and they could get to it.

They finally arrived around 10pm. Before he left, my dad told me he would just take the car around the block a few times while they worked and come right back. He rushed out there, did a little hood sliding Bo Duke style, (Wait. No. But that would have been epically awesome), and got into the car. When the path was clear he gunned it off the driveway and bumped along down the street toward to end of the block.

The Snow Removal Heroes did their good deed. Bless those guys. They did our driveway and a couple more then disappeared around the corner. Fifteen minutes or so go by. Dad does not return.

Hm.

I stood by the window watching the street, waiting for the car to appear and take it’s place back on the driveway.

A few more minutes go by. Still no Dad. I sat in a desk chair and let my knee jump up and down for a bit.

Okay. I’m not one to assume the worst. As I stood by the window in my snowman jamies, I started wondering where Dad had disappeared to. He ran to the grocery store for…something that he just had to have at 10:30 p.m. HeΒ  ran into a neighbor and stopped to chat. He decided to build the Chicago skyline out of snow. SOMETHING!

Surely nothing’s wrong. Right? RIGHT?

My eyes darted from one end of the block to the other expecting to see the car’s headlights. Clock said 10:45. It had been over a half hour since he left three important things behind: our nice warm house, his worried daughter, and his cell phone – which was perched on the kitchen counter.

Pacing around the front room, my stomach filled with dread. You know that feeling? That panicky shakey feeling that makes your heart pound in your ears. That feeling had started to consume me. Something was wrong.

I thought about waking my mom, who was fast asleep by this time and had absolutely NO clue what was happening, but decided against it. I concluded I would wait until 11:00 and if he didn’t reappear I would get in my car and see if I could locate the burning wreckage my missing father.

Just moments before my deadline, Dad appears. Only something’s missing. The car.

My poor father is trudging up our street on foot. The snow had cleared out but behind it came bitter, bitter cold. A person planning on taking a car for a quick spin around the block is likely unprepared to be scaling snow mountains in below zero temps.

My heart jumped into my throat as I bolted to the front door, threw it open and called out to him. I’m pretty sure I’m not the person you want around in an emergency because I immediately burst into panicky tears. It’s what I do. I can’t help it. Calm, cool and collected I am not when something goes wrong. I’m sorry.

He was out of breath but unhurt. Oh, thank goodness! Long story, he told me when I asked what happened, but get dressed because he needed my help.

It turns out, in a bizarre twist of fate, he ended up stuck in a massive drift just outside the neighborhood.

On his last crawl around the block, the Snow Removal Heroes weren’t quite done. So he ended up out on the main road outside the neighborhood. As he turned down a four-lane divided road that runs north/south on the east side of the neighborhood, he found himself driving straight toward a man-made snow drift stacked high as a skyscraper. The plows had pushed 20-plus inches of the stuff into a pile in the middle of the road. And left it there. My dad’s car was stuck in the foothills of a snow mountain!

Ah! But a stroke of luck produced a village snow plow behind him on this deserted road. A couple scoops and pushes of the blade would render my father free of the snow’s icy grip! YAY! A scoop and push later, the plow breaks some hydraulic line somewhere and renders the blade useless. Dad is still stuck. BOO!

The plow driver got on the horn with one of the many other plow drivers out and about that night and explained the situation. Ten-Four. Someone else would be along soon to dig you out, he said, and by soon I mean I have no idea when. Good luck!

Knowing his phone was at home and that I was likely standing by the window hyperventilating with fear, he walked back to the house. Down the middle of a (normally) busy road. In the dark. Ugh. So dangerous.

I got into another car with Dad and we drove around the neighborhood, passing the scene every few minutes to see if another plow had arrived. Thirty minutes goes by…nothing. We head for home and decide to check again in a half hour. It’s 11:30 and way WAY past my bedtime.

We pull up to the scene of the crime at midnight on the dot. Hooray! More Snow Removal Heroes at work! They are slowly but surely un-gluing the car from the clutches of the Blizzard of 2011.*

*I have video of this awesomeness but I can’t figure out how to get it off my phone. Because not only am I a freeloading grown child mooching off my parents, I’m also incredibly not smart. If I figure it out, I’ll add it. Maybe. I sound like a goon on it so perhaps I’ll just skip it and save myself the embarrassment. Yes. Perhaps.

Finally! The car was free! Dad was safe! I could go to bed! (Did I mention I’ve been kind of sick? Yeah, I needed sleep. STAT!) We came home exhausted, hardly believing the night’s events. It’s funny, isn’t it, how things can change in an instant? How something as innocent as taking the car around the block can turn into a epic two-hour debacle in the blink of an eye. It’s a lesson learned if anything else. You just never know what’s waiting for you behind that snow drift.

We’ll call this a new chapter in the ol’ Family History Book. I think we’ll all be talking a long time about the first of February blizzard in Chicago and the events that transpired in the hours after. It all turned out okay in the end, but boy, if I never see 20 inches of snow again it will be too soon!

What about you, any Snowpocolypse stories to share? I’d love to hear ’em!

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Filed under Just for Fun

Top Ten for ’10.

Whoa!! Did you see that blurry streak whiz by? I think that was 2010. Is it just me or did this year fly by or what? It’s like I fell asleep on the couch for a second and missed it.

Um. Bye 2010. Nice knowing you.

I’m kind of glad to see 2010 come to an end. Not because this was a bad year or anything like that, but because we have lots of good things on tap for 2011. Our big move back to Illinois being at the top spot.

Moving! In January! How wonderful for us! Six years ago we spent one of the coldest most miserable January days in recent memory moving to Iowa. Negative temps, piles of ice and snow. It.was.awful. Really. Ever try to move boxes with frozen fingers? I don’t recommend it. After that, I swore up and down I would NEVER move in January again.

And yet…here we are. Hm.

But anyway…I digress.

The end of the year also gives me a reason to blog! Yes! A post! I used to do those! Remember?

I have been doing almost zero cooking here lately. This what happens when you’re trying to move to another state. I do, however, have a slew of new favorites I made this past year that I’d like to share again. So without further ado – my top ten favorite recipes from 2010!

Homemade Chicago-Style Italian Beef

Beef stands all over the city and suburbs feature this flavorful, thinly sliced meaty masterpiece piled high on chewy Italian rolls. It’s a childhood staple I remember fondly. I recreated authentic Chicago Style Italian Beef at home this past year for our Superbowl party. With a spicy crust of crushed red pepper, herbs and garlic, and rich, beefy broth, the crowd went WILD for this one. For a true taste of the Windy City, dip your entire sandwich (bread and all) in the juice pile it high with bottled giardiniera. Keep your napkin handy!

Red Velvet Cupcakes

These Red Velvet Cupcakes got a cuteness makeover for Valentine’s Day this past year. But underneath irresistible smiles lies one of the best cake and frosting combos I’ve ever encountered. Moist and delicious red velvet cake with just the tiniest hint of cocoa and rich, tangy cream cheese frosting will win over the hearts of your family and friends.

Guacamole

It’s a memorable kitchen moment when you rediscover something you previously thought you didn’t like. That happened to me this past year in the form of this fresh, delicious Guacamole.Β Having never been a fan before, I decided to take the plunge and try making it at home. One bite and I was hooked. Ripe avocados are mashed with tomatoes, red onion, garlic and lime juice and topped off with a few drops of hot sauce. Grab your chips and promise me you’ll try to share. It won’t be easy. πŸ™‚

Chocolate Glazed Donut Muffins

Dessert meets breakfast in the form of these fun and flirty Chocolate Glazed Donut Muffins. These slightly spiced, chocolate drenched treats stirred up memories of eating donuts in Northern Wisconsin as a kid. The only thing missing in these is all the extra fat and and calories of its deep fried counterpart. And sand in my bathing suit.

Pepperoni Pizza Puffs

I’m pretty much a sucker for anything bite-sized and these Pepperoni Pizza Puffs fit the bill perfectly. Crunchy on the outside, soft on the inside with a great punch of pizza flavor from the pepperoni and cheese, these are a delightful party snack. The best part? The puff base could be used to hold all sorts of other goodies – meats, cheeses, veggies and everything in between. Any recipe that allows for a little interpretation and creativity is always a winner in my book!

Strawberry Sour Cream Ice Cream

I couldn’t let this year lapse without another mention of what has got to be one of my favorite ice creams I’ve made to date. This Strawberry Sour Cream Ice Cream is smooth, creamy and downright dreamy. The strawberry flavor really pops and that color! I want to paint my walls that pink I love it so much. πŸ˜‰ The absence of that pesky egg/custard base makes this ice cream a snap to whip up. I think your first pint of spring strawberries is spoken for. Trust me.

Tequila Lime Tart

Oh! Now THIS I love. LOVE. This Tequila Lime Tart is so easy, yet so impressive. The tequila flavor is prominent, which I adore (one tequila, two tequila…you know the rest), and the kick of fresh lime makes it taste just like a creamy margarita piled on a crust. Having friends over for an easy taco or chili bar feast? This is the perfect way to top off the meal. Cheers!

Roasted Corn Salad

This Roasted Corn Salad didn’t get much attention here on the ole’ blog, and that’s fine, but I loved it so much I just had to include it here. If summer came in a bowl it would be in the form of this salad. Fresh sweet corn off the cob, tomatoes, summer squash and more all tossed with fragrant basil and a homemade balsamic vinaigrette. It’s great over grilled chicken and fabulous all by itself. I can’t wait for the snow and cold to melt off so I can make this again.

Herb Onion Rosette Dinner Rolls

Turn your bread into an art project with these Herb Onion Rosette Dinner Rolls. So much fun to make and eat! A basic yeast dough is mixed with a bit of dried herbs and onions and twisted into a pretty flower shape. I was sad when I took the last of these out of my freezer stash. I need to make these again ASAP.

Thick and Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies

Cookie perfection! FINALLY. The seemingly endless search for the best chocolate chip cookie recipe came to a screeching halt after discovering these Thick and Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies from Cooks Illustrated. They are the perfect balance of crisp and chewy, sweet and salty and chocolate and cookie. The thing that makes these cookies stand out for me is the remarkable flavor of the cookie itself – it’s so buttery and caramel-ly. Perfect. Really. That’s all.

So! There you have it! My top ten of 2010. πŸ™‚ As another year draws to close, let me just say how very grateful I am to all of you for sticking with me here, even while I’m a brief hiatus with this move. I see lots of good eats ahead in 2011 and I can’t wait to share them all with you!

I wish good things, lots of love, plenty of laughter and many memories for all of you in 2011.Β  See you all next year from a new state! πŸ™‚

 

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Filed under Just for Fun, Recipe Collection

Thank YOU!

Well. The journey has ended for me. I was cut like the risotto from my dinner party menu the other night from the Project Food Blog competition. Just wanted to say a quick THANK YOU to everyone for your support and votes! All of your thoughtful comments made me smile big and laugh loud. That’s all that matters, doesn’t it? Supporting each other and having a good time doing it? I love the food blogging community and I’m so grateful to have even had the chance to compete side by side with some of the best in the biz. I am in awe of so many of them. Best wishes and good luck to all those still kicking!

So, what have we learned from all this? We’ve learned maybe it’s a little tough to get luxurious around a kitchen table in a tiny, 1960s ranchΒ  in small-town Iowa. No formal dining room here. No penthouse city views, no fresh caught lobster, no exotic cheese, no perfectly paired wines. Hell, there wasn’t even make-up and a decent hairstyle on me that evening! LOL. Luxury fail.

None of that matters because you know what there was plenty of that night? Great food. Amazing company. Wonderful good news to share. Laughter. Toasts. Ice cream. Football. Beer. All the good things that make life worth living.

So anyway. Thank you, new readers and old friends. Thank you, Twitter followers and extended family. I would never had made it as far as I did without you! I’m already looking at the things to improve to whip this humble little blog of mine into shape for next year. I hope we all get a chance to try this again next fall!

Thanks for everything and GOOD LUCK!

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Project Food Blog Challenge 3: A Luxury Dinner Party

And then there were 200. Thanks again everyone for your support and votes in this crazy Project Food Blog competition! What a wild ride this has been so far. Thanks for sticking with me here! Now on to round three!

When the awesome folks over at Foodbuzz say the word “challenge” they mean it. Especially this time around. Hosting a luxury dinner party on extremely short notice ain’t for the weak and wimpy. Good thing I LOVE a challenge. Dinner for 4 (that ended up being 7 actually) in less than 24 hours? BRING IT.

Playing hostess can be a lot of fun. It gives you the chance to do things you wouldn’t normally do – like fold napkins into pretty little fans and peel a rutabaga while jamming out to ‘Cover Girl’ on the New Kids on Block Pandora station.

::Pause. Blinky face::

Because really, what other occasion would there be to peel a rutabaga? πŸ˜‰

It can also be stressful if you don’t have a game plan. Don’t toss up a Hail Mary and hope to reach the man in the end zone here. Plan a cohesive menu that won’t leave you freaked out and frazzled. And take care of the little things before staring anything else (Do your cloth napkins need ironing? How’s that tablecloth that’s been stuffed in a drawer since last Thanksgiving look?) Things that can be made or prepped ahead of time = good. Things that need constant attention and tending = bad.

Sorry, Risotto. You’re cut. Fried Chicken? You’re out of here. You may be in charge of feeding the hungry herd, but you also want to enjoy your guests.

PLANNING THE MENU

When I sat down to plan the menu for my gathering for our friends, my goal was to make my guests feel pampered, without spending our life savings on dinner. See, we’re not a real fancy group. When we get together, we tend to prefer the company of Bud Light and bean dip to champagne and caviar. I knew I could kick it up a notch from our usual without losing that comforting, down home, Middle America feeling.

I kept two things in mind: What’s in season and what’s on sale. It’s officially fall, so things like squash, pumpkin, apples and pears are in abundance (not to mention cheap) and my store just happened to have an amazing deal on pork tenderloins this week. That got the ol’ rusty gears a-turnin’ and I was able to come up with a delicious, seasonal meal that felt expensive without actually being so.

ALL THE SMALL THINGS

Before I started on the food, but after I flew around the grocery store Supermarket Sweep style (remember that show??), I got my table ready. These were not the things I wanted to be thinking about 15 minutes before my guests arrived.

A simple runner with fall details would do the trick.

I tied the napkins with gift wrap ribbon. The acorn detail came from a a little bag of (fake) fall goodies I found for half off at the craft store.

On the center of the table, I filled small, square vases with cinnamon sticks and a fall candle. Then I added a few pine cones (from that same Bag-O-Fall as the acorns) for an extra touch.

THE FOOD & PREP

The best part about this menu is that almost everything can be made ahead. The things that couldn’t be made ahead were super simple to toss together. The only action happening in the kitchen while my guests were here was making the pan sauce for pork at the last minute. See, easy-peasy. Look for the recipes coming soon! πŸ™‚

Soup: Butternut Squash Soup with Roasted Red Pepper Puree and Toasty Cumin Squash Seeds.

This soup is so simple, yet so delicious. It’s got such a great warm, sweet flavor that’s made extra special with addition of fresh thyme and orange zest. The red pepper puree adds just the right amount of smokey heat. It was a great way to kick off the meal and probably my favorite dish of the night. The best part? Make both the soup and puree the night before and reheat slowly over low heat while preparing the rest of the meal.

Entree: Spiced Pork Tenderloin with Apple and Shallot Pan Sauce

Pork tenderloin is the perfect entertaining main dish. It’s not overly expensive, it’s a flavorful cut of meat and it’s pretty tough to screw it up. I’ve never had a pork tenderloin come out of the oven anything but super moist and tender. In keeping with the fall theme, the tenderloin is seasoned with a simple but festive blend of cinnamon, ground coriander, salt and pepper. It’s seared in a hot pan on the stove then transferred to the oven to finish cooking. The sauce is a simple combination of apples, shallots and thyme cooked in butter and apple cider until crisp tender and delicious. The combination of savory pork and sweet fruit made for a delicious meal.

Side: Roasted Root Vegetables with Rosemary

Does this look like a big bowl of fall comfort or what? Red skinned potatoes, carrots, parsnips, celery root, leeks, rutabaga, and onions are simply seasoned with salt, pepper, garlic and a hefty helping of fresh rosemary, then roasted in the oven until browned and caramelized. Holy heaven! There’s a lot of chopping involved here. Not going to lie. And root vegetables? They are a pain in the you-know-what. They’re covered in dirt. (I was also covered in dirt. Thank you Celery Root!) They’re tough to peel and cut. Have no fear though – prep the veggies first thing the morning and roast in the afternoon. Then just reheat in a 13X9 inch pan while roasting the pork and serve.

Salad: Mixed Baby Lettuce with Bosc Pears, Goat Cheese and Citrus Vinaigrette

I chose to serve the salad with dinner because, well, this is my house and frankly, I like a little salad with my dinner. πŸ™‚ Actually, I thought something a little lighter and fresher on the side with heavier flavors of the pork and vegetables would be a welcome addition. This just a simple salad of mixed greens, crumbled goat cheese, sliced pears and an orange and lemon infused vinaigrette. I made the dressing the night before and, prepped the rest of the ingredients in the afternoon and then tossed it together right before dinner. Very refreshing.

Dessert: A’la Mode Sundae Bar

Put a little pie in your sundae! For dessert, I thought it’d be a lot of fun to get everyone involved to make their own customized dessert. I prepped a variety of pie-inspired toppings and let everyone go to town with big bowls of cinnamon and vanilla ice cream. I topped mine with cinnamon apples, caramel sauce and oatmeal crumble. Yum. What a great way to end a fantastic meal!

Favor: Dark Chocolate Cranberry Bark

I wanted to send my guests home with a little thank you. They did literally drop everything to come over at the last minute. What a great group, huh? πŸ™‚ So I made this dark chocolate cranberry almond bark as a favor. Of course, all but one guest left before I remembered I had it in the fridge (d’oh!) but it’s too simple not to share. Melted dark chocolate is mixed with dried cranberries and almonds and spread on a cookie sheet to set. I topped it with a white chocolate drizzle and then broke it into pieces. This is a great make ahead idea – it will keep for a good long time in the fridge. πŸ™‚

So there you have it! A relaxing dinner party featuring all the flavors of fall in the Midwest. Seasonal and easy on the wallet, this a simple meal anyone could entertain with. Great food, great friends, great times. This amazing crowd (who was kind enough to supply their favorite beverages for us to share) even gave me a standing ovation. ::blush::


See how we squeezed in a few more folks? The more the merrier!!

Missing the important things like my make-up and styled hair, but I had the most amazing time planning and executing this party! Can I put you down for my next one? πŸ˜‰

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Filed under Just for Fun, Project Food Blog

Ready, Set, VOTE!

Hi Friends! And we’re off! Voting has begun for the 2010 Project Food Blog competition.

And I do mean competition! Wow!! Tons of talented bloggers out there. Even if I don’t make it far in this competition, I can’t wait to see the challenges unfold. Everyone has so much to offer, has such different personalities and talents. It’s really quite amazing! I am in such awe of all of them.

So. Now. You can at least help me get a smidge farther in this competition…by voting for me to advance to the next round! All you have to do is CLICK RIGHT HERE and cast your vote. You do have to be registered with Foodbuzz to vote (click the little Join Foodbuzz link at the top right of the screen) but it’s super easy to sign up AND you’ll be a part of this awesome foodie community. So, really, It’s a win/win (WIN!)

Hope you’ll vote! I wish I could send cookies to everyone who casts a vote for me, but obviously that’s not realistic. What I can do is give you a big virtual hug and a huge THANK YOU in advance, for reading, for voting, for just being your awesome self.

Let’s do this! Boo-ya!

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Project Food Blog: Ready, Set, Blog!

::tap tap tap::

Um. Hello? Is this thing on?

Okay. Wow. Hey there, Readers. Welcome. I’m a little nervous here, hope it’s not too obvious. Don’t worry, I’m not imagining all of you in your underwear or anything!

::chirp, chirp, chirp::

Crickets. Awesome.

Tough crowd.

So anyway, the reason we’re here. Well, I’m here because I want to WIN the very first EVER Foodbuzz Project Food Blog competition.

Maybe you’re here because you got lost on the way to the proverbial Internet bathroom. Either way, let’s be friends! I have cupcakes! You like cupcakes, don’t you? Sure ya do.

Where to begin. Let’s see… I’m Erin, also known ’round these parts as The Milkman’s Wife. I live inΒ  Heaven. Erm, I mean Iowa. πŸ˜‰ I’m a (late) twenty-something, and four years married to Eric the Milkman. The two of us have been hanging around this blog here for two of those four.

I gotta say, I’m pretty psyched for this whole Project Food Blog business. I’m thinking it fits right in with my rock ‘n’ roll lifestyle, which, judging from some of the stories and recipes I’ve shared in my blog, is the definition of EPICALLY AWESOME! πŸ˜‰

I once rode a whale across a lake in Wisconsin…to get to the DONUTS on the other side.

I was an early 90s fashion icon. A real trend setter. The puffy gold sleeve and matching slap bracelet? Yeah, that was all me, friends. My must-have accessory? The CHRISTMAS COOKIE!

I had a near-death experience when I was 12. I saw the light. If anyone has come close to actually dying because they got cut from the cheerleading squad, it was me. The PIE brought me back.

I once fell over backwards in my chair in a very crowded college library. In front of a lot of people. When life hands you a lemon like that, make LEMON BARS.

With the help of an extensive, rigorous twelve-step program, I successfully beat a debilitating fear of homemade PIZZA that plagued me for years.

I came. I cooked. I conquered. BEEF BOURGUIGNON. Julia’s, of course. Like there’s any other. If there’s anyone kickin’ butt and takin’ names it’s my girl JC. I think I was officially in with the in-crowd for the first time in my entire life after this meal. And Julia is our Queen Bee.

Clearly, I’ve seen and done a lot of exciting stuff. I mean, you haven’t lived until you’ve fallen over backwards in your chair in the library. I’ve certainly had my ups and had my downs…but I haven’t won Project Food Blog. Yet.

Together we can change that, friends. You and me! Let me see if I can convince you, fair readers, to give me a shot at this.

With my blog, what you see is what you get. What you get is the uncensored, unedited version of me. I’m proud of that. I’m just an ordinary girl that likes to cook and write about it. I’m no expert and I don’t pretend to be. I don’t have expensive tastes or perfect technique. I don’t take life, dinner, or blogging too seriously. I just love good, home cooked food. I like to have fun with it. And I absolutely love sharing it with all of you.

Food and life are so intricately intertwined, there is no possible way to separate them. I serve up delicious, approachable, tested recipes with a side of self-deprecating humor (because if you can’t laugh at yourself, who can you laugh at?), a sprinkling of childhood memories (because I was such a geeky kid, it’s too embarrassing NOT to share), and a slice of what it’s REALLY like living with a grown man who still gets nervous in the presence of vegetables. Every recipe has a story and every story has a recipe. As soon as I find a recipe to go along with the time I fell in a pond on my birthday, I promise you all will be the first to know!Β  πŸ˜‰

As I began this first challenge, I started thinking about how far I’ve come as a blogger in two plus years. I literally grew this blog from nothing by just throwing caution to the wind and putting myself, flaws in all, out there for the world to see. And by golly, it worked! Believe me, no one is more shocked by this than I am. My readers mean the world to me (props to my peeps!) and I got to wondering what keeps them coming back. I believe the reason they keep coming back is the same reason I deserve to win Project Food Blog.

It’s not because I ooze charm, grace, and charisma. Ha. Certianly not. It’s not because of the gallery-worthy photographs that accompany each post (although I am still working to improve my skills there). It’s not because I’m some kind of foodie idol.

It’s because my readers relate to me, in the kitchen and out. I use strawberry ice cream as a way to distract myself from the weed patch that is our front yard. I make chocolate chip cookies instead of scrubbing shower tile grout. I drop entire bags of lentils on the floor and make huge, embarrassing messes in the kitchen. I screw up. A lot. And from what I can tell so do others. This makes me smile. You have no idea how glad I am to hear I’m not the only one. For real. Thank you.

I’m excited about this journey because I want to share good food and be the blogger others look to and say “HEY! She’s just like me! I do stupid stuff and fall down a lot too! SCORE!”

If you do stupid stuff and fall down a lot, and even if you don’t, I encourage you to vote for me to advance to the next round. Voting begins Monday, September 20th. I’ll be posting again on Monday with more details.

Be sure to tip your bartender! Good night! πŸ™‚

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