Monthly Archives: January 2012

Impatience pays off!

Cheers to Valentine’s Day and Anniversaries! I am well aware that it is far from our anniversary and  February 14th but I am a very impatient person! Ryan and I decided to celebrate our anniversary and Valentine’s Day early!! We have a habit of being unable to hold back on exchanging gifts when we are really excited about them! Hence the lack of patience. Why wait for the actual date of celebration? We like to break the rules!

Well I’ve got to say that Ryan really outdid himself on this one…

My anniversary gift was very sweet and sentimental. It is something that really meant a lot to me and was so personal and special, I’m keeping it to myself.

BUT I am happy to share with you the Valentine’s Day gift!!

My very own stand mixer!!!

I literally screamed and jumped up and down when I opened it. Best. Gift. Ever!

I couldn’t wait to rip it open and get to baking!

And baking is what I did!!

This weekend I made 2 types of blueberry muffins (one batch with bran, one standard batch) and I’ve conquered the cupcakes (FINALLY)

Expect some recipes this week! For now, feast your eyes on my adorable dog enjoying a Snuggie. Remember when I went to the dark side? Well Boo has officially joined me there!

I know he looks miserable, but in the process of trying to stage this photo he fell asleep, ensconced in Snuggie warmth!! The sad truth is, both me and my dog are Snuggie people now.

Snuggie people with freaking amazing kitchen appliances!!!

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Moving On and Up

Tomorrow is moving day! I’m using disposable plates and utensils, sleeping on spare sheets that my mom lent me, and I only have enough clothes for two weeks *sobs* Needless to say, I can’t wait for this to be over. Once I’m at my parents’ house, I still won’t have all my stuff but at least I’ll have a fully stocked kitchen and I won’t be trying to do homework by the light of one floor lamp! I do however anticipate some nostalgia upon seeing my very first apartment completely empty of all my belongings. So to stave off any sentimental feelings, and just for fun, here are 5 things about my new apartment that I can’t wait to enjoy!

5. There’s someone at the front desk 24/7, which means there’s always someone to accept packages. UPS used to leave my packages at the leasing office, but one day they just stopped. They refuse to leave them at my front door (and I’m not sure I trust my neighbors anyway) and they never ever come when I’m actually home. So right now I have to have all my packages sent to my parents’ house. That gets really tricky if I’m ordering Christmas or birthday gifts online!

4. Gas appliances in the kitchen. My mom has always had a gas stove and I had no idea how much I’d dislike cooking with an electric stove until I actually had to do it. It seems to be a preference thing though. My best friend has an electric stove (albeit a much nicer one than mine) and she swears that electric cooks faster than gas while I strongly disagree.

3. More counter space! The more I learn to cook, the more frustrating my tiny galley kitchen got. Better yet, the kitchen comes with a built in microwave over the stove. No more wasting precious counter space with the microwave.

2. I’m still not sure how I feel about not taking my car with me. But getting home from work at 6 p.m. to find no free parking in front of my building (and on a Friday no less!), makes the idea seem a lot more attractive

1. 10 inch thick concrete walls! My apartment now is decently insulated, but the people below me have a party most weekends and they blast their music. I could drown it out with my TV but the bass is so loud I can feel it. I HATE those neighbors

 

There’s definitely a lot to be excited about, which is good because I’m getting more and more nervous too! It greatly amuses me that people seem to tiptoe around this subject when they’re asking me about the move. It’s like they’re afraid to ask me if I’m getting nervous because I might reply “You mean my mom is eventually going to leave and I’ll be all alone in a city where I know approximately 10 people?!” LOL. At any rate, I’ll definitely still be posting but Brittany will probably be posting more often for awhile. I’ve got a million phone calls to make, friends I promised to spend time with, and various other move related tasks. Have a great Monday!

XO,
V

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Crock Pot Mexican Chicken

Tonight I have another recipe for you from The Chronicles of Ruthie Hart. I made it the night after I made her Pumpkin Gnocchi Soup (yes, the very first time!)and this dish was delicious as well. It was also my second time using my new crock pot. I’ve found a lot of crock pot recipes that sound good, but they call for several steps or adding things at specific times. Is it just me, or isn’t the whole point of using a crock pot being able to throw everything in it and not have to bother with it for 6-8 hours? So I was happy when I found Ruthie’s simple, two step, and yummy sounding crock pot recipe for Crock Pot Mexican Chicken . I don’t have as many pictures, since the prep was done in a rush before I ran out the door this morning, but as Brittany likes to say, I got the money shot 🙂

You’ll Need

4-6 boneless skinless chicken breasts*

1 16 oz jar salsa of your choice

1 can corn, drained

1 can black beans, drained

1/2 cup chopped onion

1 block of cream cheese

* I learned from my first experience with the Hawaiian BBQ Pulled Chicken that 2 lbs of chicken breasts makes way more shredded chicken than I could possibly eat. So for this recipe, I only used 3 chicken breasts and it didn’t affect the other ingredients as far as I could tell

1. Put all of the ingredients except the cream cheese in the crock pot and mix well. Cook on low for 6 hours (mine cooked for longer than 6 hours because I had to start it before I left for class and I wasn’t ready for dinner at 5:30. It was just fine though)

2. The recipe says to stir occasionally. But as I said, I was gone all day and it was fine unattended. Shred the chicken either as it cooks or before serving.

3. 30 minutes before serving, add the cream cheese and stir very well.

4. serve in tortillas, over chips, or on its own and enjoy!

XO,
V

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Cupcake Catastrophe

First, enjoy the most hilarious picture of my dog. Suffice it to say, he was not a fan of the post-Christmas clearance at Petco. Suffice it to say, he may now be the ~proud~ owner of a Santa hat with attached beard AND an elf ensemble that could double as a leprechaun outfit.

His eyes say, “The door is so close, and yet, so far away…” It’s sad because they actually look like his ears…

Now to my reason for posting….I’ve been trying to make cupcakes for the past 2 weekends. WITH NO SUCCESS.

I thought it might be the recipe, I thought it might be the flour…never once did I think it might be the most obvious culprit of all!!

That’s right folks, OVERMIXING! (For those of you who thought “Brittany” you should be ashamed!)

Remember how excited I was about my hand mixer? While it has its uses for creaming butter and sugar it is a bit too overzealous when the flour and cocoa powder is added in. The first batch were more like muffins, dense, thick but still good. The second batch were…well…a total, terrible, catastrophe. I threw the whole batch away.

I found a new recipe, one that called for baking powder. I don’t have baking powder. I’d already messed up 2 batches and it was getting late. So I head to CVS and I’m standing in the aisle staring at the most overpriced tin of baking powder and I see a box of chocolate cake mix.

It’s cheaper than the baking powder.

It doesn’t hurt to have a back up…right?

This coming weekend I shall tackle the cupcake recipe again and this time I will let my beloved hand mixer take a break.

But I can’t say it was a total loss.

I made the most delicious Coconut buttercream frosting… and the great thing about buttercream frosting is that you can freeze it and save it for the day when you finally master the cupcake recipe!!

Coconut Buttercream Frosting

-1 tsp coconut extract

-1/2 tsp vanilla extract

-3 cups powdered sugar

-1 stick butter

-3 TBS of whipping cream (or milk)

-1/3 cup shredded coconut (sweetened or unsweetened)

Using a hand mixer, blend the vanilla and coconut extract into the butter along with a TB of cream and a cup of sugar. Continue to add the remaining cups of sugar and TBs of cream until you reach a spreadable consistency.  Add in the coconut until just combined.

Use the finished product to decorate cakes, cupcakes, cookies, your finger…whatever springs to mind!

While baking may not be my forte, it is something I am determined to master. It’s good to have goals and I think 2012 will be the year of the cake!

 

What have been your biggest baking flops?

Have a great weekend! I will let you know how this next batch of cupcakes turns out!

-Brittany

 

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Imitation Butterfingers

First up, today’s “eating simply” menu was super short so I didn’t want to devote a whole post to that

Breakfast: Reduced sugar apples and cinnamon instant oatmeal

Lunch: A White Chicken Pizza Lean Pocket (I did buy these at the store yesterday, but I was running really low on supplies and I knew I could finish them off by next Monday)

Dinner: Leftover Best Ever Macaroni & Cheese from the freezer.

*Side note* If you find that you rarely freeze leftovers because they don’t taste right, I have a tip for you. Some things just don’t freeze and reheat well, which may be the problem. But it could also be the way you’re reheating them. I used to hate leftovers from the freezer, until I realized that reheating them in the oven works way better than microwaving them. It takes a little longer, but it’s definitely worth it. You can  do a bunch of cooking on the weekend and then have dinner all week that requires nothing more than warming it up! Now, for a new recipe…

This recipe isn’t from Pinterest (at least not directly), but I did try another desert-y creation! And in all fairness, this does count as cleanning out my pantry because I bought the ingredients about a week ago but haven’t had time to assemble them until now 🙂  I got this recipe from Ruthie’s blog. They sounded intriguing and they’re crazy easy to make, so I gave them a shot. These imitation butter fingers are supposed to taste like the real thing. After trying them, I wouldn’t go so far as to say they taste the same. But they are darn good. And really, how can you go wrong when peanut butter and chocolate are involved? These would be a great item to take to a party…Or to just enjoy on your own!

You’ll Need

Cheez-its (I used the big ones because they seemed like they’d be easier to work with)

Peanut butter

Baker’s chocolate

Wax paper

Directions

1. Spread peanut butter between Cheez-its, making as many as you want or have chocolate for

2. Once all your “sandwiches” are assembled, melt the chocolate (I don’t have a picture because stupid WordPress keeps turning it sideways, but I used the Baker’s brand chocolate that comes in a microwaveable cup. It was perfect for this recipe)

3. Dip one end of the Cheez-it sandwich in chocolate and place on a wax paper lined cookie sheet (you could also dip the whole thing, but this way is much faster and less messy)

4. Once you’ve dipped all of the Cheez-its, place the cookie sheet in the fridge or freezer until chocolate is hardened. You can eat them right away, but I personally prefer them at room temperature. Enjoy, they won’t last long!
Tip: They’ll get hard quickly, especially in the freezer. But leave them in a little longer than you think is necessary or the chocolate will get soft as it comes to room temperature. Once they’re fully hardened, transfer to a container lined with clean wax paper.

XO,
V

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A Thousand Times Yes

As you may (or may not) have gleaned from the blog, I’m getting married to my best friend! While I don’t know the When (the military is so wonderfully…obtuse) I do know the Where (I will post Where, after my wedding along with details for those out there who are looking for locations/ideas)

For now you’ll just have to settle for the proposal story!

I’ve relayed it to my nearest and dearest, but I had yet to sit down and pen the story.

A bit of backstory, for the month leading up to the proposal I was suspicious. I am a very curious person by nature and I kept searching for any hint of an impending “will you marry me?”

We’d gone ring shopping and talked about the future on a near daily basis. It was an accepted fact that we would be spending the rest of our lives together…we just had one tiny, miniscule, minute detail left.

Here are 3 confessions:

1. About 3 weeks before he proposed I painted my nails, cause I thought he might do it that weekend and I wanted “pretty” nails for the photos. (Note: if you want pretty nails, pay a professional to do them!)

2. 2 weeks before he proposed, I wore a rubber band wrapped around my ring finger while at work.

3. The week he proposed, I figured it wasn’t going to happen this year.

The Proposal:

Ryan cued his texting early in the morning with the usual, “Good morning!” and “Brr it’s cold!” He proceeded to go into detail about how he had to close the windows and turn on the heat due to the chilly weather. Random, but not unusual.

I headed over to his apartment after work and upon walking in the front door I was greeted with a hand over my eyes. He led me into his room and when I asked “Why the blindfold?!” he managed to come up with a plausible excuse. However, my curiosity had been piqued. Previously in the week we’d decided to celebrate Christmas a little early and I was able to open a few gifts, none of which contained a ring. I covertly began examining his room for signs of any possible ring boxes/hiding places, but nothing looked out of place. We discussed our evening and had previously agreed to go look at the local Christmas light display. He casually mentioned that he had another gift for me but it was nothing big, so to make it more exciting he had created a scavenger hunt for me.

DING DING DING!! I knew something was up!

And just as I was doing a happy dance in my head he said, “And tomorrow I figured we could go into the city and go ring shopping.”

WHAT?! 

I mean, sure, I’d changed my mind about the original ring stone (emerald to diamond) and yes, maybe I had played around with a solitaire versus 3 stone setting, but didn’t my wishy-washy lack of decision on a ring give him enough to go on?!  We’d found one at Kay Jewelers and, while it wasn’t my dream ring, it would get the job done!

Note: Ryan doesn’t have a sneaky bone in his body and he is the WORST liar in the world, so after he said we would go ring shopping, I had no reason NOT to believe him.

We headed for the light festival and I took some cute (albeit, blurry) photos

He told me that his roommate was going to set up the scavenger hunt in our absence and when we had finished we had to wait for the “all clear” before heading back. We went in the apartment and I saw the cutest penguin door poster covering the patio door.

I received my first clue and dashed about the apartment (there were only 4) and the final one read, “____ knows the next clue” (___ is the roommate)

I knocked on the roommate’s door and asked, “What’s the last clue?” He replied, “Go to the patio”

Ryan had been following me around the whole time and he wasn’t acting suspicious and I didn’t notice any ring-box shaped bulges.

I opened the door and saw the balcony completely decked out in Christmas lights and garland. It was amazing! I initally thought this was the gift, because I LOVE all things Christmas decor. Ryan had previously asked me if I wanted to decorate the apartment and since we didn’t have tables or a regular sized tree I said no, but I suggested decorating the patio. My idea was promptly shot down because 2 men living in an apartment with a fully decorated Christmas balcony wasn’t going to fly.

So when I opened the door and saw the gorgeous decor I was SO happy that he had done it all,  just for me! There were candles on the railing and on the arms of the chairs, which added a romantic feel but I still didn’t think this was the moment.

I gave him many hugs and said over and over how much I loved it, and then he said, “I think there’s one more clue.”

I looked around and spotted a piece of paper attached to the wreath hanging from the door. I tentatively opened it and read, “In my pocket.”

I turned around to see Ryan fumbling with a side pocket on his pants, still I didn’t know if this was it or not. I remember thinking, “Maybe it’s jelly beans?” since he had yet to get down on one knee.

But the fumbling became more controlled and he began telling me how much he loved me and how special I was to him, all while slowly lowering down to one knee.
His wasn’t a prepared speech, it was truly heartfelt and unrehearsed. It was 100% in the moment and I knew he honestly meant every word.

I began to cry and couldn’t control the huge grin taking over my face. Even though his speech wasn’t long, I can remember thinking, “Hurry up cause I want to say YES!!!”

It was absolutely perfect.

There was no audience, no unnecessary pomp and circumstance, just an honest and heartfelt declaration of love and devotion.

And when he asked me, “Brittany, will you do me the honor of being my wife?”

All I could say was, “Yes. Yes. A thousand times, yes.”

Have a great week,

-Brittany

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Eating Simply: Day 2

On Thursday, I posted about trying to use up the stuff in my pantry and fridge and how I came up with the idea for marinara sauce, gnocchi, and ricotta cheese. Well Friday night I worked until 9:00 so I warmed up some leftover pumpkin gnocchi soup when I got home. Saturday, my brother and his girlfriend were in town for an event that ended up getting cancelled due to weather, so the three of us went out for dinner and a movie. And Sunday night, I made the same thing as Thursday night but with ravioli instead of gnocchi. So tonight was the first time since Thursday that I made something new (FYI: I wrote this Monday night but I’m posting it Tuesday because yesterday was Brittany’s turn to post). And that inspired me to do a series of posts instead of just one about how I’m making due with what I already have on hand.

I think this is something a lot of people can benefit from. It doesn’t have to be because you’re moving and you need to clean out your pantry. Maybe you’ve realized that you eat out or pick things up at the grocery store way too often considering how well stocked your kitchen is. Or maybe you’re just in the mood for something simple and you need a little inspiration. So for the next few days, I’ll post about what I’ve managed to make without going to the store. There won’t be a post every day between now and when I move, because I’m sure at some point I’ll have to order a pizza or buy a couple things at the store. But hopefully you all will find this interesting and/or helpful.

Breakfast:

For breakfast this morning, I made myself a “wafflewich.” I got the idea recently, and man are they good! It’s been a long time since I had frozen waffles and I forgot how good they are. Frozen waffles aren’t the healthiest thing in the world, so it’s not something I make all the time. But every once in awhile it’s a nice change from english muffins or bagels.

To make this sandwich, I toasted a whole grain waffle and topped it with a slice of cheddar cheese and a fried egg (I broke the yolk but didn’t scramble the eggs). Yum!

I also had a cup of coffee. I got a $25 Starbucks gift card for Christmas, but I’ve been using my Keurig maker so often that I just finished off my gift card a couple days ago. Yay for saving money and still getting great coffee 🙂

Lunch: 

I know this is bad, but I skipped lunch. I was busy today with move-related phone calls, laundry, and homework so I ended up snacking instead. Tomorrow I’ll do better!

Dinner:

Dinner was inspired by a really simple pasta recipe I saw on Pinterest. The recipe called for some ingredients I didn’t have and don’t particularly like, like red pepper flakes. So I didn’t make that, but it gave me the idea for what I did make

Yep, that and the pasta of your choice is all you need!  I cooked whole wheat spaghetti until al dente, then I added the above ingredients to taste while the pasta was still hot and stirred it all together. I didn’t take a picture of the finished product because it wasn’t much to look at, but it sure tasted good. I liked this even better than the gnocchi dish! Granted, it’s not very filling. But that’s why God invented side dishes and dessert! This would also taste great with pine nuts. but only if you already have them on hand! 😉 Enjoy!

P.S. Whenever I make spaghetti, I make more pasta than I need because there’s always enough sauce for one or two more servings. You can do that with this dish as well, but you’ll want to reheat the pasta with a little water since there’s no actual sauce to warm it up with. Rubbery spaghetti is not good!

XO,
V

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