Friday, July 29, 2011

Front door wreath

After our front door face lift a few weeks ago, I thought it looked kind of sad and lonely. I kept seeing beautiful wreaths popping up all over Pinterest, so I thought I'd give it a try! And I love it. It was a great weeknight project, and so easy even this dummy could do it.

What you need:
1 grapevine wreath ($2.50 at Hobby Lobby)
Acrylic paint (Delta, $.49 at Michaels)
Four flowers (Mine are mums, I think, $2 each at Hobby Lobby)
Roll of wired ribbon ($3.99 at Michaels)
2" wooden numbers ($.99 each at Michaels)
Hot glue
Floral wire

It's kinda a no-brainer to put together and I feel silly even writing directions. Slap some paint on those numbers. Hot glue them onto the wreath. Pull the flower buds off the stems. Hot glue onto the wreath. Make a big bow with the floral ribbon (mine had five loops) and securing to the wreath with floral wire (or in my case, a bread bag tie).

Not to tough, huh? I think the flower/color combinations are endless and I think my friends who buy houses will be getting these from now on.

No-flour, fudgey cookies

Hans isn't generally a fan of cookies. He always complains they're too dry. He much prefers brownies, which I'm not the biggest fan of. For some reason they don't feel substantive enough for me. So I've been on the hunt for a brownie-cookie crossover.

These gooey dark chocolate cookies from Divine Baking fit the bill pretty nicely. They're incredibly rich (I can't eat more than one) and satisfying. And with the warm, oozing chocolate, hopefully not "too dry" for my picky hubby.

Another great part? I had the ingredients on hand. That's always nice.

What you need:
1 1/2 cups (1 bag) bittersweet chocolate chips
3 large egg whites
1 1/2 cups powdered sugar, plus some for coating
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1/4 teaspoon salt

Put 1 cup of the chocolate chips in a microwave-safe bowl and heat until melted. This usually takes me 1 1/2-2 minutes, stopping to stir in 30 second intervals. When melted, set aside to cool.
In a medium bowl, combine 1 cup powdered sugar, cocoa powder, cornstarch and salt.

Using the whisk attachment on medium-high speed, beat the egg whites until they're thick and fluffy and starting to form peaks. Reduce speed and slowly add in 1/2 cup of powdered sugar.

Reduce the speed again to low and gradually added in the cocoa mixture. Add in the cooled, melted chocolate and mix until incorporated. Stir in the remaining 1/2 cup chocolate chips by hand. The mixture will be very thick and gooey.
Add some powdered sugar (I did a cup) to a shallow dish. Using my 1-inch cookie scoop, I added globs of cookie dough to the powdered sugar and rolled them around to coat. Drop the coated cookie dough on a greased cookie sheet.
Bake at 350 for 9-10 minutes. Allow them to cool about 10 minutes on the tray before removing to wire racks for cooling. Made 18 cookies.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

YW self-reliance derby

I knew last night's mutual activity would be particularly entertaining, so I made sure to take my camera. The Beehives and Mia Maids combined for a self-reliance derby. The course had five stations, with five different tasks: fold a fitted sheet, write a check, look through magazine pictures and pick out three items that would make a balanced meal, wash a dish and put a diaper on a baby (doll). The girls divided into teams. You had to tie an apron on, complete the course, and run back to give the apron to the next girl.

After the first time through the course, we actually did a little instructional on HOW to fold a sheet, write a check, plan a balanced meal and put on a diaper. Then we did round two: The girls had to do the course again, except holding the baby doll the whole time. If you dropped the baby, you had to start over.

It was really funny to watch and I think the girls sure enjoyed it. And I learned how to fold a fitted sheet. Boo-yah.

Honey garlic balsamic chicken

Sometimes we get in food ruts. We fall back on the same old meals that we know we like and they're quick and easy to make. And that works. But sometimes I get bored and want to try something new. Sometimes that works, sometimes it doesn't.

This honey garlic balsamic chicken from Baked Bree is awesome. And will probably get added to our "same old meals." It took 30 minutes from start to finish (and my chicken was still majorly frozen).

What you need:
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons olive oil
2-3 chicken breasts (boneless, skinless)
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1/4 cup chicken broth
2 teaspoons honey (I LOVE Austin's Good Flow honey. Eat it with a spoon).
1 tablespoon lemon juice (I didn't have this and left it out, and it was fine).

Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add in butter and olive oil. Once the butter has melted, add chicken breasts to the pan. Sprinkle them with a lil' salt n' peppa. Cook until there's no pink left inside - took me about 10 minutes. Remove the chicken to a plate.

In the same skillet, add in the garlic, vinegar, broth, honey and lemon juice. Raise the heat a little and cook for 5-7 minutes until the mixture thickens.

Slice up the chicken and pour the pan sauce over it. We served ours with garlic rice pilaf and it was delish. Enjoy.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Harry Potter Scarf

Can you believe I didn't blog about Harry Potter 7.2? I figured there were enough reviews of it out there. But if you were wondering, I loved it. And cried. A lot. And when did Neville get hot? Weird.
For the finale premiere (which, of course, we saw at the Alamo at midnight) I made a Harry Potter scarf! I've never crocheted before, but it was pretty easy. Just took a while. Maybe next time I won't make it as thick. This was 35 across and that was probably too much. Ooops. I was super excited that Michaels had colors that were spot on, though. Michaels, FTW. And despite the fact that it's triple digits here (and has been for 35 days so far this year - ew), I wore that scarf all day in celebration.

And oh, check this out! This is Hans on the front page of talking about the people that waited hours in line for the premiere. I totally thought one of my former co-workers did it on purpose, but they're all claiming innocence!

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Baked goat milk brie

I've always been a big brie fan. But I've never tried preparing it. Just stuck my whole face in it.
Then I came across this beautiful little recipe from Eat, Live, Run. So simple. So mouth-watering. And so easy.

Here's what you need.
1 wheel goat milk brie (about 4.4 oz)
Phyllo dough
Olive oil
2 Tablespoons dark brown sugar

Lay about six sheets of the phyllo dough in a stack on a cookie sheet. Lightly brush the whole surface with olive oil. Place the brie in the middle.
Top with the brown sugar. After I ate it, I realized it would have been good to put some in a circle around the brie, right on the phyllo dough. There were bites where I didn't get much brown sugar and I think it would have helped to have it on the sides, too.
In any event, no matter. Starting with one corner, fold the phyllo dough on top of the cheese, working your way around. Brush with some more olive oil to hold it in place. Top with the almonds.
Bake at 350 for about 15 minutes, or until the almonds are golden and the cheese gooey. We ate ours as a sort of picnic dinner with crackers, a good loaf of french bread, and some strawberries and apples. It would make a yummy appetizer as well.

My crazy job

Sometimes I get to do really fun things for work.

Like a couple weeks ago. When we had a little pizza party in the name of research. We ordered five personal pizzas from Schlotzskys, one for each of us. We enjoyed a lovely lunch together. Then everyone gave me their empty boxes and I returned to my office where I wrapped them in pretty pink zebra wrapping paper (what? it's what I had on hand!). Then I took them to the post office and had the best conversation ever with the bored post lady.

"Do these boxes contain anything hazardous?"
"No. They are empty."
That got her attention.
".... You're mailing empty boxes?...."
"To myself. Yes."

I was thoroughly entertained by this conversation.

See, in September, my company is having an event in Chicago and the event chair thought it would be fun to have a deep dish theme. The paper invitation actually looks like a pepperoni pizza, with all the necessary information on different slices. I'm mailing them in actual pizza boxes so our Schlotzsky's day was actually a test run to see how much the boxes would cost to send, how long it would take, would all five arrive, in what condition, etc.

Everything went well with the test run. Then came the fun part. After I designed the sticker for the box top and the inside pizza layers (and a "to-go" menu with additional info), printed all the materials, and the boxes I ordered arrived, my co-workers and I spent the better part of last week assembling the boxes, affixing the stickers, stuffing the boxes with the invites, sealing them shut, addressing, stamping and mailing these invites. 200 of them.

This is what our conference room looked like when we finished.

Funny, I don't remember seeing this in the job description when I took the job. But I sure enjoyed it.

Oh, and it was decidedly NOT funny when my co-worker, Mike, rushed into my office right after we dropped the last box off and blurted out "You proofread these first, right? Because you used the wrong 'you're'!" I almost had a heart attack. And then almost killed him when I realized his mean joke. He better watch his back now.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Behold, the Man Chair

When we moved into our house just over a year ago, we realized just how little furniture we had. The cavernous living room completely echoed.

Slowly, as we work on developing patience, we've purchased pieces to fill the rooms. Last you saw the living room, we'd just scored this awesome West Elm Rug.
But one thing you may notice is in this picture is that if we've got more than three people in the living room, they better like the floor. Or we pull in chairs from the dining room. Hans has been lamenting this lack of seating for quite some time and we've been vigorously hunting for The Perfect Man Chair.

Ummm.... did you know chairs are expensive? Holy jeez. Even on Craigslist we haven't had much luck. We've been tempted of late to bite the bullet and buy the cheapest chair we can find - a faux leather chair from Target.

Saturday we headed to the outlet mall because I am STILL in search of a console table for the entry way. As we walked into the Pottery Barn Outlet, Hans made a joke about how one day, ONE DAY, we'll luck into a cheap chair.

It's like his words made it happen. Behold, the Man Chair.
Isn't it a beaut? Real, espresso leather. Wide, comfy seat that you just sink into.

We put it in the weird gap space between the empty side of the dining room and the seating area. It helps fill it out a bit. 

And thanks to this little scratch on the seat, we managed to snag it for more than 75 percent off!!
Hans loves it so much, it won't be long before it's got a permanent imprint from hit butt.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Front door facelift

Our front door is ugly. It's got so many stains and nicks and gooey crap all over it.
But that's an easy fix, right?

So we pulled it off the hinges, sanded it down, and gave it two coats of semi-gloss, black paint.

Ah, that's much better. Now I think some new hardware and a wreath are in order. Cuz that's just ugly.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Chicken almond casserole

Mmmmm.... this is one of my favorites. And I swear I started to take pictures of every step in the process, but then my camera battery died. So you only get an end result one. Sorry.

It comes from Savory Sweet Life. Cook time is pretty quick so it makes a great weeknight meal. You can also prepare it in advance and pop it in the oven. We love it for the leftovers - it makes great lunches for the next few days.

3 cups cooked rice
2 tablespoons butter
1 white onion, chopped
2 cups celery, chopped
1/2 cup almonds (I used sliced)
1 1/2 pound chicken breast cut into bite sized pieces
1 1/4 cup mayonnaise
1 can condensed cream of chicken soup
Salt and Pepper to taste
1 box of Stove Top stuffing mix (I like the low sodium)
4 tablespoons melted butter

In a medium-size skillet, toast almonds. Remove to a large mixing bowl. Add 2 tablespoons butter to skillet and warm over medium-hot. Add in chicken pieces and cooked until browned. It doesn't have to be cooked all the way through, just no more visible pink. Remove to the bowl with the almonds. Add onions and celery to the skillet and cook until tender, 5-7 minutes. Remove to the chicken/almond bowl.

To the mixing bowl, toss in the mayo, soup, and salt and pepper to test. Mix it up reeeeeaaaallll good. Transfer to a greased 9x13 baking dish.

Open the top of the stuffing mix bag and pour in the melted butter. Squish it around to absorb into the stuffing. When it's pretty well distributed, add to the top of the baking dish.

Bake at 400 for about 25 minutes.

Monday, July 11, 2011

A very Potter Party

We are huge nerds. This is not new information. And we are extremely, very, ridiculously excited about Harry Potter 7.2 coming out this week. So excited, in fact, that we decided to throw a Harry Potter extravaganza. Friday night, we had a bunch of people over to try and do a back-to-back HP marathon - starting at Sorcerer's Stone and going on through Deathly Hallows Part I. We didn't actually make it past Order of the Phoenix (#5) before passing out. In fact, most people wimped out between 11 and 2, but I'd invited a few of my young women and those girls can stay up til all hours. Kelsie, Losa and I enjoyed the last two by ourselves. And then passed out around 9 am Saturday morning (11 hours later). But we had a ton of fun and thanks to everyone that came!
Enter at Platform 9 3/4. The brick wall is just paint on butcher's paper. The broom is made of a tree branch and some dried naturals we got on sale at Hobby Lobby.
My lovely Platform 9 3/4 sign. It's a piece of scrap wood from Home Depot that I hand painted. I traced a bowl to get the circle and free-handed the numbers. I printed out and traced letters for the "Hogwarts Express" bit.
Another broom, and Harry Potter glasses ordered in bulk off Amazon
Font is actually called "Lumos" and I had a lot of fun burning the edges.
Twizzlers dipped in white chocolate.

Pretty much just mini pumpkin pies. These went quickly.
These were harder to make than I thought! They're brown paper lunch bags filled with Chex Mix and then secured with string and the most giant pretzel sticks I could find to look like broomsticks.
Holy crap, this stuff is strong. It's made with lots of brown sugar, butter, cream and cream soda. I could do a shot of it and that's about it. How Andrew Taylor chugged a whole cup is beyond me.
The spread
Nimbus 2000
Sorting hat

These cupcakes are devil's food with chopped up Reese's in them. They are sooooo good and I'm not going to tell you how many I ate... Thanks to Erin Frazier's recommendation, I bought fondant at the All In One Bakeshop instead of making my own this time. I've never worked with store-bought fondant before and it was difficult, but fun! I made the snitches, broomsticks, sorting hats, and half the lightning bolts. Hans helped out with the other half and made the glasses on his own. 

Cheap fabric from Hobby Lobby with iron on Decals (ironed on by Steph and Hans, with cutting credit to Parker).
We also hung fake candles (15 small ones) from the ceiling in the living room, like the Great Hall. They flickered all night and it was pretty sweet (just hard to photograph).

Looking to throw your own Harry Potter Party? Here's a couple good references and recipes.