Monthly Archives: December 2011

Happy (Almost) New Year!

Well I don’t know about you but I will be sad to see 2011 go! It was such an awesome year for me!

Moving to a new state for a new job, losing said job and finding another one, meeting the man of my dreams and  getting engaged…if that’s not a whirlwind of a year I don’t know what is! I’m very much looking forward to 2012; I’m ready to begin a new chapter of my life as a wife. I’m so excited about pursuing new job opportunities, traveling with my *soon to be* husband and getting to explore more creative ideas with the blog.

 

I don’t have many pictures of the moments in 2011, but the ones I do have make me smile! (Above: Dressed up for the Holiday Squadron Party)

(People think I’m crazy when I say my dog is actually a human. But look at his face! He is SO expressive, it is VERY human-like. )

That is one of the best photos of 2011….2012 I can’t wait to see what you have in store!

Does anyone have special NYE plans? We are a low-key kinda family and are ringing in the New Year in the comfort of home. Also, we’re not big on the alcohol so I’m thinking peppermint hot chocolate would make a fine champagne substitute. And I’m not sure if we will be watching the ball drop or if Military Man will even make it to midnight!

I hope you ring in the New Year surrounded by the ones you love!

Here’s to happiness, good food, laughter, and health!

-Brittany

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Hot Apple Crumble Bars

Hello again! I hope everyone is getting back to a normal schedule and normal eating habits! I’m still on break from school, I can’t believe this is my last Christmas break ever (more on that later)! And I requested some time off work, so I’ve just been hanging out with my family. I’ve seen Sherlock Holmes and We Bought a Zoo, which is the most I’ve been in a movie theater in a long time. Tomorrow my brother’s girlfriend (whom I adore) is arriving to spend New Years with Us! She only visits when my brother comes home, and he’s so busy that he doesn’t get home often. So I’m excited to see her! But anyway, on to today’s post. Since it’s still technically the holidays, I thought I’d publish my first baking post (the one minute chocolate cake doesn’t count!).

The great thing about cooking is that you can experiment. Sometimes it doesn’t turn out so well, but other times it’s a huge success. Baking is different though, it’s far more precise. and sometimes something as simple as over stirring the ingredients can change the outcome. That’s partly why baking is an area of cooking that I haven’t ventured very far into yet. Furthermore, baking is “extra.” The results of baking usually can’t be eaten for main meals and they’re also usually very tempting and unfortunately high in calories.

Nevertheless, I’ve gotten interested in trying more baking. Maybe it has something to do with the impending holidays (I wrote this entry quite awhile back!). Baking just seems to go hand in hand with cold weather and the spirit of the holidays. So far I’ve only made one attempt at baking beyond brownies from a box and they turned out really well

I may share the recipe for these pumpkin spice cookies eventually, but for now it’s going to be my little secret. Every good cook has to have some secrets 😉 I definitely want to expand my repertoire of baked goods beyond this one recipe though. Enter hot apple crumble bars

A few weekends ago I was at my parents’ house having lunch and getting my dad’s help on my thesis. My mom had purchased a bunch of apples from a nearby orchard, so she gave me four to take home. Coincidentially, when I checked my e-mail later that day, there was an e-mail letting me know that Chocolate Covered Katie had posted a new recipe for hot apple crumble bars. Lightbulb moment! I could slice up the apples my mom gave me and eat them with peanut butter or on a bagel thin with melted provolone cheese and cinnamon, or I could try out this delicious looking recipe. I bet you can guess what I did!

Katie is vegan and also tries to make healthier desserts. But she made this particular recipe for people used to “regular” desserts, so it’s a little higher in sugar. Here is the original recipe if you’d like to know how to make it with less sugar and fat. I decided to go with the original amount of sugar and substituted dairy milk and butter for vegan versions, so I’ll write out the recipe here as I made it.

Hot Apple Crumble Bars

*Since the apples have to be peeled, this recipe is a little time intensive. But as far as difficulty goes, it definitely isn’t too hard for a beginner      

You’ll Need

1.5 cups flour (any kind is fine)
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup plus 1 Tbs brown sugar
1 1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/4 cup plus 3 Tbs cold butter (I realized tonight that I don’t have a 1/4 cup measure. I don’t know if that’s unusual, but in case you’re in the same boat, 7 Tbs is the equivalent)
2 Tbs milk
2 cups peeled, chopped apple (approximately two small apples)
2 tsp cornstarch
3 Tbs maple syrup (or agave)
1 tsp pure vanilla extract

Directions

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees

2. In a bowl, mix together the first 8 ingredients. I started with a mixer, but because there’s almost no liquid in here, even the lowest setting on my mixture threw up quite a bit of flour. So once the mixer had sufficiently broken up the butter to create little crumbs, I mixed in any remaining flour with a spoon

3. Scoop approximately 2/3 of the dough into a greased 4×7″ dish and press down firmly (I used a bigger dish, and while they turned out just fine, they were much thinner than the picture of Katie’s bars)
4. In a separate bowl, combine the remaining ingredients until the apples are well coated and the baking powder has dissolved. spread the apple mixture evenly over the crust you created (there will be some extra liquid from the vanilla extract and syrup, I just tried to make sure this was evenly distributed over the crust as well)

5. Use the rest of the dough to cover the apples and press down gently. Bake for 45 minutes and allow to cool for at least 30 minutes before cutting. Store tightly covered if you want softer bars or uncovered if you want them crispier. Enjoy!

Something about warm apples and cinnamon just seems to embody all the wonderful tastes, smells, and feel-good emotions of Fall. And oh my God do these smell amazing when they’re baking!

(Photo belongs to Katie. Mine are so thin they’re not very photogenic)

Enjoy!

XO,
V

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It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas…

Happy holidays everyone! Whether you celebrate Christmas, Hanukkah, or even Kwanza (you never know!), I hope you got to spend the holidays with your loved ones. Christmas has always been my absolute favorite holiday. I love the food and the music and the lights, and how there are weeks of build up too it. Of course I love getting gifts as well, but I love picking out gifts for my friends and family even more. This year, every member of my immediate family was completely surprised by at least one gift under the tree, which is the best part in my opinion! And that’s no easy feat with my dad and brother in the house. They are the masters of shaking, squeezing, and smelling gifts to figure out what they are before they open them. Personally, I prefer to be surprised. But anyway, on to this year

That’s my dad opening his big surprise gift, an iPad from my mom. It’ll be another 10 years before anyone manages to get my dad a gift that elicits an expression like that!

My mom was super excited about her brand new 14 cup food processor. Hers started to die during the Thanksgiving holiday. And according to my dad (who is famous for his extensive consumer research before buying any major appliance), it’s the biggest baddest food processor you can buy

I’m not going to include a picture of the gift I was most surprised by, because it has my mom’s full name on the front. But it doesn’t really require a picture to show how special it was. My  brother and I both received a hard bound copy of our family’s entire history (starting with our great grandparents on both sides) written entirely by my mom. She’s been working on it for two years and it was finally ready for Christmas this year. It was completely unexpected, and definitely the most meaningful gift I received. She also has copies for “whatever children might come along” (her words, not mine) 🙂

On a more materialistic note, my kitchen got totally pimped out this year! (side note: my grandma heard me telling my aunt this, and asked me what being “pimped out” means. II realized I had no clue how to explain that to my 74 year old grandma. LOL.)

Now all I need is more counter and storage space in my kitchen! I am SO excited to finally have a Keurig coffee maker! And I was completely surprised by the panini maker. I’ll definitely make paninis with it, but I’m especially excited about all the other things I can make with it, like my pesto parmesan turkey burgers which don’t turn out as well when  they’re  made in a skillet. That cookbook generated quite a bit of humor this morning (it’s called “100 Recipes Every Woman Should Know: Engagement  Chicken and 99 Other Fabulous Dishes to Get You Everything You Want in Life”) as my brother described how awkward he felt buying it in the store. Then my mom flipped through it and saw Let’s Make a Baby Pasta, to which she said “you’d better be careful with that one!”

Other than the fact that I unknowingly bought my brother something he got for his birthday two years ago (Purdueopoloy), gift giving was a success. After opening gifts and having brunch, my mom’s parents and two sisters joined us a few hours later for a second round of gift giving and Christmas dinner. We do a gift exchange with that side of the family and everyone gets two people and their list which equals a set amount. Since everyone pretty much knows what they;re getting (unless they did their list so early they forgot!), it’s not the same as opening gifts with my parents and brother. But it’s still fun. My gifts from that exchange display my nerdiness

Yes, I love Dr. Quinn Medicine Woman. Don't judge!

My dad’s parents also joined us for Christmas dinner but they came a little after my mom’s family. Then we exchanged gifts with them as well. And we still have one more round of gift giving on the 29th when Alex’s girlfriend joins us for New Years!

Dinner of course was delicious. My mom asked if I wanted to make something again like I did for Thanksgiving and I said I didn’t have a particular recipe I wanted to make but I’d  be happy to help make something from her menu. Somehow that never happened though. Oops. I think my mom wanted me out of the kitchen though because my throat started to hurt around lunch time and I’ve been feeling run down lately. But I felt better after eating so hopefully it was just low blood sugar and the affect of not sleeping well lately (I had surgery on my toe on the 21st so it’s been hard to sleep because it hurts every time i change positions).

Of course I’ll include the menu since this is a foodie blog. My aunt Jen brought spinach artichoke dip for an appetizer (yum!). And then dinner consisted of a pork crown roast, apple pecan stuffing, mashed potatoes with gravy, a salad with greens and oranges and a pomegranate dressing, green beans with bacon walnuts and bleu cheese, and my mom’s famous california overnight rolls

Dessert was a frozen peppermint chocolate Yule log (I’ve never had one before!) made by my mom and Jen made apple crisp.

Sadly, I will never be this talented with food. LOL.

As usual, the day went by way too fast. But I had a wonderful time with my family and was once again reminded how blessed I am. Enjoy the rest of your time off and have a happy new year!

XO,
V

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There’s no place like…home?

Today felt like the longest day of my life.

Last night my mom called to inform me that our family dog Pippi has cancer. It was very sudden. The vet said that by the time there are symptoms it is already too late. Apparently it is a blood cancer and it is very aggressive.

My mom, being the animal lover she is, has ordered ES Clear Dog Cancer Support for Pippi. The reviews are really quite remarkable. Even if it doesn’t cure her cancer, at least it will make her time here more comfortable. We are hardcore dog lovers and they truly are members of our family.

And you don’t just give up on family.

And speaking of family, it’s hard to be away from mine this time of year, and now even more so. I wish I could be there to love on Pippi and see my mom and dad.

In spite of my parents being divorced, Christmas was always a special time of year. The parent that I wasn’t with would always call on Christmas Day and I’d spend a good half hour telling them ALL about the gifts! As I grew older the phone calls changed to more heartfelt greetings and “Remember when…?”

This is my first Christmas away from both of my parents and all of my family.

It’s difficult. But I know that I’m starting my own branch on the family tree and I will get to create new traditions with new family members! The only constant in life is change, you’ve got to be able to roll with it.

I’m going to drive around and enjoy the beautiful lights….and maybe next week I’ll share the proposal story!

Prayer for my Pippi would be greatly appreciated.

Hope you have a VERY MERRY CHRISTMAS!!

-Brittany

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Crock Pot Virgin

Sorry I forgot to post yesterday! I’m at my parents’ house for the holidays so I’m totally out of my routine. here’s a post I wrote while the blog was on hiatus. Since Brittany recently posted a new crock pot recipe, I thought now was a good time to publish this post.

When I moved into my first apartment two years ago, I bought all the basics: one sauce pan, one skillet, a $5 collander from Walmart, one paring knife, silverware service for four, etc., etc. Over time I’ve slowly collected all the “extras” like: a hand mixer, a blender, prep bowls, more pots and pans, better knives, etc. Some were hand me downs from my mom, some were gifts, and some I bought myself. Unfortunately, the more new things I learn to cook, the more gadgets I find myself wanting. Funny how that works. Well, a few days ago I bought something I’ve been thinking about getting for awhile now and should’ve bought a long time ago!

Well hello, where have you been all my life?!

Walmart was selling this 5 quart Hamilton Beach  Crock pot for a ridiculously good price (and Hamilton beach products are already quite inexpensive for their quality). I passed the display twice over a period of a week, and finally I decided to just buy one and give it a try before they all disappeared. The best thing about this crock pot (besides the fact that it’s red (!) and cooks for you while you’re not home) is that the stoneware crock  and the lid are dishwasher safe. I don’t know about you, but in my book, being dishwasher safe is one of the best qualities a kitchen tool can have. What can I say, I love cooking but I hate the clean up. I used my new crock pot for the first time tonight and it was a success! Such a success that I texted Brittany saying “Why did I wait this long to buy a crock pot?!”

For whatever reason, I’ve been craving BBQ pulled chicken like crazy, so that was the first recipe I decided to try. When I typed that into the Google search bar, this  intriguing recipe for Hawaiian BBQ pulled chicken was one of the results. Of all the recipes I found, this one was my favorite. And I wanted to go by a recipe my first time using the crock pot. So Hawaiian BBQ chicken it was! If, like me, you’ve never used a crock pot before you will be shocked at how easy crock pot recipes are. They put my other easy recipes to shame! Anyway, I followed the original recipe pretty closely, but I’m going to write it out here because I have some notes for you all.

What You Need

Boneless skinless chicken breasts*

1 can pineapple, drained*

Onion to taste, chopped or cut into chunks

BBQ sauce of your choice*

Hamburger buns (optional)

*The recipe called for 2 pounds of chicken which I went ahead and got for the first try. But this made TONS of chicken. And after making it, exact measurements don’t seem very important)

*According to the recipe, the pineapple juice can be added if you like sweeter BBQ. But I found that it was actually quite sweet even without the added juice. Just FYI.

*The recipe calls for an entire bottle of BBQ sauce and says that you can never have too much BBQ sauce. However, my chicken was quite saucy. And despite toasting the hamburger bun, it got soggy faster than I would have liked. I conferred with the cooking Goddess (aka my mom) who said that cutting back on the sauce might help this. After all, you can always add some BBQ sauce after you serve it if you want more

Now for the ridiculously easy directions:

1. place chicken in the bottom of the crock pot then cover with onion and pineapple

2. Pour BBQ sauce over the chicken, onion, and pineapple

3. Cover crock pot and cook on low. The recipe says to cook it on low for 8-10 hours or on high for 4-6 hours. I cooked it on low but took it out after 7 hours and it was already fully cooked and falling apart

4. Remove chicken approximately 2 hours before it’s done cooking and shred with a fork (you can actually shred it pretty easily without removing it from the crock)

5. Return shredded chicken to crock pot and stir it back into the sauce. Continue cooking for remaining 2 hours, or until you can’t wait any longer

6. Serve chicken on its own or on a hamburger bun. I added cheese because…Well who doesn’t like cheese?!

This was really good! I scarfed down an entire sandwich plus the steamed veggies I made before eating a second serving of chicken without a bun.

I originally assumed the pineapple and onion were just for flavoring. But I realized as I was trying to serve the chicken that it’s pretty hard not to getting any pineapple chunks or onion mixed in. I ended up really liking it that way. But if chunks of fruit in your BBQ don’t sound like your thing, I recommend buying fresh pineapple and using large slices instead of chunks. The same goes for the onion, cut big chunks if you just want them for the flavor.  I hope you enjoy this! The absolute best parts were coming home to an apartment that smelled like BBQ, and having dinner basically ready to serve whenever I was ready for it!

XO,
V

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His and Her Meals

When I started writing this post, I had no idea how appropriate it would be.

Initially, this was going to be your basic “how to keep meals balanced while in a relationship” especially if you’re trying to stay healthy. WELL, as of December 16th I will have to create his and hers meals for the rest of my life!  I’m getting married to my best friend, my partner in crime, my better half, my puzzle piece, my soul mate.

I’m OVER THE MOON! It was a special surprise proposal; he really did his best to throw me off cause I’m very sneaky and curious! I always joke that I got a bachelor’s in Nosiness (or Journalism if you prefer) And I’m a VERY hard person to surprise!

I’m overjoyed! And I can’t wait to transition from recipes for one to recipes for 2 different tastes! In the meantime, here’s my original post:

It’s been well documented that while in relationships, women tend to gain weight. And I’m sure there are many women who can attest to this fact! Myself included!

One of the hardest things to do is create a meal that is healthy, delicious and nutritious! Especially when you have to make something that appeals to someone with VERY different taste buds.

I’m totally happy munching on nothing but vegetables, whereas Military Man would not be happy crunching on cauliflower and cauliflower alone.

So how do you transition your significant other to eating healthier foods and, by proxy, keep your own health in check?

Start simple!

Military Man loves Italian food so I’ve been making the switch from white pasta to whole grain and veggie pasta. The taste difference is minute. Now there are different pasta sauces out there that contain a “hidden” serving of vegetables, and they taste just as good as the regular non-veggie sneaking sauce. Plus Low Fat Ricotta Cheese is all the flavor with half the calories and fat!

More examples of his and her meals:

  

His: two eggs over medium, 1 biscuit, and a strawberry banana smoothie

Hers: 1 egg and 1 egg white, scrambled with spinach & mushrooms, with a dash of Texas Pete and Nature’s Seasons! (not pictured: 1 ginormous smoothie with spinach, banana, berries and protein powder)

Smoothies are a great way to sneak in veggies and fruits for even the pickiest of taste buds! For Military Man, the key is a smoothie that matches the taste and consistency of a milkshake. And with ripe fruit and a tasty protein powder, it is easy to create a sweet smoothie. (But if your fruit lacks ripeness and you find your smoothie lacking, add 1 TB of agave nectar or honey!)

If you’re in a relationship, do your eating habits match up with your significant other’s? If you’re single, how do you create a menu for dinner guests?

Have a great week!

-Brittany

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Popcorn Overload!

This weekend I was determined to come up with some healthy snacks for post-work//evening. If I don’t plan out my daily snacks, the drive home turns into, “FEED ME FOOD FAST!” And unhealthy options are pretty much as speedy as it gets.

But POPCORN is the solution to my problem!

20111215-202835.jpg

I bought an air popper and after a bit of trial and error, we finally figured out how to work it and now I’ll prepare some delicious popcorn to bring to and from work. It is easy to dress up and delicious alone. Plus it packs fiber, which keeps you full!

But plain popcorn, while good, needs a little kick!
I like using the I can’t believe it’s not butter spray, which is good enough alone. However, you can always add an assortment of other delicious toppings!!

Some ideas (and personal favorites):
-cinnamon
-melted chocolate
-warmed peanut butter (messy but oh so good! And extra protein!)
-nutritional yeast
-pepper
-Parmesan cheese
-paprika (just a dash)
-hot sauce
-m&ms

One of my least favorite toppings… Movie theatre “butter.” Or rather a substance similar to a liquid a car would leak. This “butter” is so disturbing to me, but so many people love it!! My friends love the stuff, and my dad and I bring our own spray butter to the theaters. Crazy or crazy genius?!

What are some of your favorite popcorn toppings? Do you go for the movie butter or do you bring your own popcorn toppings?

Have a great evening!
-Brittany

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