Sunday, November 28, 2010

Quickie

Just a quick recipe that I tried this morning.  I bought wayyy too much canned pumpkin and had a lot of cranberries in the freezer.  I love pumpkin, but I try to limit those pies and cakes to Thanksgiving Day (and maybe a day or two after).  After my morning run, I need something to really fill me up.  I made my usual bowl of plain old fashioned oatmeal with water and stuck it in the microwave.  Once it was done, I added two heaping tablespoons of plain canned pumpkin and mixed it in.  You may need to pop it in the microwave for just a bit more to heat the pumpkin through.  I then topped it with some of my cooked spiced cranberry sauce (made with Splenda).  It was like Thanksgiving in a bowl without the guilt.  The canned pumpkin is also full of vitamins and the cranberries were a great topper!

Saturday, November 27, 2010

We did it!

I survived!  The Ellis household hosted our first Thanksgiving this year.  I was so excited to take on the task.  I think by the day before I had lists made up of other lists and recipes covering my island.  I was so blessed to have my mom come over on Wednesday so we could get the majority of the cooking done ahead of time.  I can honestly say that it went without a hitch.  Don't get me wrong, it is a ton of shopping, cooking, and work, but it makes it so fun when you have someone there to do it with you.  I learned so much.  We started early on Wednesday and tackled the stuffing, the stuffed pumpkin, the cranberries, apple cake, pumpkin pies, veggie tray and dips, and smoked mozzarella and apple calzones for appetizers.  We even had time to the tables set up and decorated and managed a trip to Randalls for a couple of last minute items and Michaels for the candles I forgot.  On Thursday, I learned how to violate a turkey and get it ready for the oven (it just felt wrong the way you have to dig around in there).  We just stuffed it with oranges, onions, a few lemons, and celery and covered the outside with salt and pepper.  We did a high heat turkey which means you stick it in the oven at 450 and bake it for two hours.  It doesn't dry out and the outside gets a nice crust.  It also comes out a beautiful deep golden brown.  Clay bought a turducken from the Cajun market down the way.  What a big hit!  It was stuffed with cornbread and jambalaya in the very middle and was delish.  However, it was quite the oven hog.  That thing was in the there for almost six hours.  It did give off a ton of juice for gravy though.  So, we stuck the meat in the oven and took Bruiser (my spazzy Boston Terrier) for an hour walk to hopefully wear him out.  We had time to shower and get presentable before everyone started coming and to air out the house.  The thing with that high heat turkey is that juices tend to smoke in the bottom of the tray and it smokes...a lot.  After we took it out, the smoke subsided and all was good.  I will admit that in all the craziness to get everything warm and out, I forgot to make the corn souffle entirely, but honestly, it wasn't missed.

Day before preparations by mom...

Day of: Getting the sweet potatoes ready for their glaze with my favorite vintage apron I got at the City Wide Garage sale for $3

Making sure it is all out, notice the hair quickly went into a ponytail
 We lucked out on table decor.  Mom already had red tablecloths, the moss is from my wedding, the acorns from the yard, amber votives were $1 at the rental shop blow out sale, and the autumn colored leaves were from World Market that I got on mega sale since I waited until the last minute to think about table decorations!
Yum, the stuffed pumpkin was so good.  I could have gone with a little less cheese, but I have a love affair with with Gruyere.  The rolls under the towel were homemade crescents by my sister.  There is nothing that compares with fresh baked rolls.

Yeah!  All the food was done and out at this point (which explains the big grins!)


 Everyone chowing down...





The desserts were amazing.  My brother's pear tart was to die for (top right in the picture) and beautiful as well.  He'll be guest blogging later this week and will share this recipe with us.  OMG, my Aunt Paula brought Red Velvet brownies.  They were like sin in a square (2nd picture in the middle).  My apple cake (bottom middle in top pic) was a little boring looking but it came out pretty good.  Clay and I have found out that after a few days in the fridge, the spices really come out and it is so much better. 


And last but not least, this is my 2 month old nephew and godson (held by my oldest goddaughter Grace), Noah.  Check out his hair!!  His 'do is always a conversation starter.
All in all, a success.  I'll gather up all my recipes and post them tomorrow.  

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Finally!

Finally, a FINISHED project has emerged from my craft room!!  You know that baby blanket that I keep saying I need to finish?  Well Lily is now over five months old now, but it is finally done!  I guess it took a cold to keep me down long enough to sit and finish it.  It isn't perfect.  In fact, it is the first one I've done without the help of my mom.  I learned a lot and finally figured to just finish it instead of sewing, pulling out stitches, sewing again, pulling out...you get the point.  I put my OCD aside and just let some of the imperfections stay.  I did, however, learn to applique.  I put her name in the corner and I really like how it came out.


Really?  One of the has to be in the middle of everything all the time!  Ruby did say that it's super comfy though!

 I finally got to use of my craft room tags!  Remember them from this post?

Friday, November 19, 2010

Thanksgiving Help from Martha Stewart

Are you hosting Thanksgiving this year?  Are you starting to sweat at the idea of dry turkey breast and gummy casserole?  Look no further.  Martha Stewart has compiled recipes from all kinds of top chefs and made a Thanksgiving cookbook in .pdf format that is free to download.  There are recipes for everything from soups and starters all the way until dinner ends with dessert.  I wish I had looked through it earlier because I probably would have amended my menu a bit for next week.  However, I still may try one or two of them.  Rick Bayless has a recipe in here for Butternut Chipotle Chicken Tamales.  Don't those sound delish?!  I've also heard rave reviews for the Salt and Pepper Grilled Turkey that Martha does.  The corn souffle has also caught my eye.  I've never done one before and I hate to try too many technical dishes on a holiday.  I usually save those for Clay so he can be my guinea pig (sorry Clay, muuuahhh).  There is even a section with holiday cocktails and after stressing over all the cooking, I have a feeling I'll be needing one of those!  I hope you all have a great weekend!

Click HERE to download your copy.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

I think I actually gained weight reading this website...

I'm not a huge fan of dessert.  Usually, cakes are too sweet but I do enjoy the occassional cupcake.  As long as you just eat one, they certainly help out with portion control.  Fancy, dolled up cupcakes have been all the rage for the last couple of years.  I thought I had seen it all until I came across Bake It In A Cake.  OMG, these are insane.  Some of them are way over the top, but some of them will definitely make it into my recipe binder.  Some I'd like to try include:
Candy Cane Kiss Brownie Cupcakes

Fall in a Cupcake- vanilla cupcake with a drop of apple butter in the middle and topped with vanilla buttercream and sprinkled with cinnamon
Cherry Chocolate Cheesecake Cupcakes (chocolate cupcake, graham crust, cherry filling, and a swirl of no bake cheesecake on top...whoa)
I think all my running has turned me into an eating machine.  I'm hungry ALL THE TIME.  I resist for the most part but I've already told everyone that leaves food on their desk at work that it isn't safe.  These pictures are literally making me drool.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Blonde is Better

I used to collect Barbies back in the day.  I will admit, I still love her.  In fact, I would die to have a party in the Barbie Suite with a bunch of girls in the Palms Hotel.  Check this place out!  The crazy thing is that it is almost as big as my house...and the $4000/night price tag.  Oh, and the sunburst mirror in the first picture is actually made of 65 vintage Barbies. 

So, just when I thought that was crazy enough, BarbieCollector.com (yes, I am a member) launched the Blonde Collection.  Holy cow. 
Oh weird, just what I needed, a $9k Barbie hair chandelier...
 I had to laugh at this little bit of pop art since I've been referred to as Malibu Barbie when the mystic tan gets a little on the "that color doesn't occur in nature" side
 I love these bangles!  Especially the one that reads "if at first you don't succeed, dye dye again."  Not that I dye my hair or anything ;)
I'd love an old school styling head!  I'm always looking for someone to let me do a swirl and curl on them.


Monday, November 15, 2010

There is a place for us...

I think there is still a misconception that bloggers are geeky computer nerds that write about Star Wars fan clubs and World of Warcraft conventions.  Even though it has been around for awhile and I still get people that ask me, "who reads your blog?" and "what is that all about?" with that "I don't get it" look on their face. Umm, pretty self explanatory.  I write about things I try, want to try, interests, and accomplishments (plus the occasional failure).  Hopefully, my trials inspire others to try new things or learn from my mistakes.  So, you can imagine how excited I was when Christi from Rumination Avenue told me about the Austin Bleet Up.  It is December 3rd at the mega Whole Foods downtown.  There will be live music, food and drink samplings, local vendors for some holiday shopping, and ice skating on the roof!  How awesome is that?!  I just have to make sure I don't get too wild since my 10k at the vineyard with wine tasting is the next morning.  Whew, I have a feeling that weekend is going to hurt...

A First

Clay and I hadn't been to the farmer's market in Cedar Park in quite some time and the weather was too nice (a bit chilly, but nice) not to go.  However, I forgot that you have to get there early in order to get what you want.  Almost everyone was completely out of eggs and meat, which is the main reason we went.  Clay sampled some Indian dishes from one of the vendors that were really good.  We got some naan, royal dip (a yogurt/cucumber/mint mix), and some chicken curry concoction.  The dip is amazing.  It would be really good on a lamb wrap with the naan.  I also got a bag of tangerines, some garlic & herb goat cheese, and one of these bad boys:
I couldn't resist the temptation to try and cook a whole fish since it was something I had never done before.  However, when I got home I realized I didn't know what to do with it.  I know you can stuff it and cook it whole, grill it, bake it, or fry it.  There are so many options!  Clay hates to cook fish inside because it stinks up the house so we agreed on grilling it.  I whacked off the head and tail and then went to fillet it.  Hmm, easier said than done.  I got one side off, bones pulled out, and scales off but the other side wasn't as easy.  I have a pretty good history of cutting myself in the kitchen and I think the sight of me whacking at that fish made Clay a little uneasy.  He opted for the electric knife and it worked like a dream.  What a mess though to get all those scales off!  I then put a bunch of cilantro, about 2-3 tablespoons of lime juice, and two cloves of garlic in the blender and processed it so that it was still chunky but well blended.  I oiled up the skin side with some olive oil and schmeared my mix on the flesh side.  We put them on the top rack of the grill where it's indirect heat for about 10 minutes.  It was so good!  But honestly, I will probably just buy the fish already filleted next time.  My hands smelled like fish for two after...and that is not hot.


Thursday, November 11, 2010

Thanksgiving Centerpieces

Now that Thanksgiving is actually two weeks away, I'm finally starting to get my lists together.  My mom and I are both list makers and it definitely helps when it comes to party planning.  Plus, I love the satisfaction going down and making big strikes on what I've finished.  I've been trying to figure out what to do for the tables.  I don't think it has to be anything super over the top, but something simple can make a big difference.  On Better Homes and Garden today, they have a slideshow of Thanksgiving centerpieces.  Here are a couple of my favs:
 I love the smell of orange and spice!

I don't necessarily like the acorn/lemon combo but I do like the use of the acorn branches for some height.
Honestly, this looks like rotten fruit in a basket.  However, I do like the little boss filled box.  I have a ton of moss left over from my wedding that I could definitely get some use out of.

This is one of my favorites.  Our backyard is covered in acorns.  It would just be a matter of actually taking the time to hot glue them all over a basket.
This is my other favorite.  I like the dark red added to the pallette.  I don't think Thanksgiving just has to be golds, oranges, and browns.  I also like the use of the fresh sage. 

My Body Hates Me, but not as much as before...

I'm in week two of my half marathon training.  In preparation for our Tough Mudder race at the end of January, we have all started our running schedule so that hopefully we won't want to die that day.  I will have to admit, my body HATED me last week.  I've always been athletic, but was never a long distance runner.  I was a sprinter in my track days and even though I can blast through an hour on the elliptical machine, running is totally different.  At least the training starts slow with 3 mile runs.  Today was a big accomplishment.  This morning I ran my four mile track around our neighborhood without stopping and I sprinted the end of the run down our street.  It doesn't sound long, but it is when you aren't used to it!  My next race is the 6.2 mile run at the vineyard in a couple of weeks.  I think by then six miles will be a breeze.  To think in 2.5 months, I'll be running 13.1 miles with these obstacles intertwined.  Scary!  Being that it's Veterans Day today, I thought it would be appropriate to bring up the organization that the Tough Mudder benefits.  Their proceeds go to the Wounded Warrior Project who provides services and programs that ease the burden of the wounded and their families, aid in the recovery process, and smooth their transition back to civilian life.  I have pledged to raise $150 in donations before the race (but I hope to raise way more than that).  Please take a moment and donate HERE.  Even if it is only a dollar, every bit counts.  Thank you to all those that have proudly served our country.  God Bless You.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Tic Toc...

Only 45 days until Christmas!!  WHAT?!  Where are the days going?  What is even worse is that I promised myself I'd have my shopping done before Thanksgiving which is only two weeks from tomorrow.  I'm going to have to get it in gear if I plan to finish in time.  I do have a good start, but plenty left to do.  My saving grace...A Christmas Affair.  The Junior League of Austin sponsors this fantasic marketplace every year.  It goes from November 17-21st and benefits all the great organizations they help year round.  Hopefully, I will be able to cross lots of people off my shopping list in one trip.  One booth I will be hitting up for sure is my friend Paige's Show Pony Designs.  Check out her newly renovated airstream for shows on the road!
Here are some of the great things she'll have at the show:



We also had our second bunco game this past Monday.  It was a blast!  I love this group.  We have so much fun and we're working to make it even better.  We started talking about next month's meetup and what we could do for Christmas.  We decided on an ugly Christmas sweater contest and an ornament (handmade or bought) exchange.  We agreed, the crazier, the better.  I can't wait to see what people show up in.  I have a feeling mine will turn out like something along the lines of this...

Monday, November 8, 2010

A Busy Weekend

I love sewing days with my mom.  She came over on Saturday to help me do curtains for the living room.  I really wanted to get the living room done before Thanksgiving and this was my jumping off point.  We went over to JoAnne Fabrics to get some coordinating fabric for the paisley that I had bought online.  I love JoAnne!  Every time I go there, everything I need is on sale.  Their 54" decorator material was 50% off.  However, I can't believe I forgot that I had another 20% coupon for my whole purchase sitting in the inbox on my computer.  Oh well, there will be more trips there in my future.  The bummer is that since our windows are so big, the rods end up being just as expensive as the fabric.  I'm really working on femming it up in our house.  It is really masculine (except the craft room).  We did get the curtains done and a few pillows for the couch.  Next will be a new rug and redoing the mantel with some softer accents like topiaries, cloche jar with birds, and a new iron piece in the niche.

BEFORE:






































DURING:  A constant battle to keep him out of curtains.  He has to be in the middle of everything!
























AFTER: still a lot to do before Thanksgiving, but a great start.  THANKS MOM!!
















I can already tell that we are going to have to cover the pillows when we leave the house to keep them from turning into the dog's new nesting spot.  Ruby had her eye on them.


A New Spin on Soup

Have you seen those challenges on Top Chef where they have to do things like make a meal into a really great soup?  This recipe kind of does the opposite.  It turns French Onion Soup into a hearty dinner.  I'm always looking for new ways to cook steak.  Clay loves it but I don't always want to do the same thing over and over again.
French Onion Beef Tenderloin
Ingredients:

  • 1 pound beef tenderloin (filet mignon) or sirloin steak, 1-1 1/2 inches thick, trimmed and cut into 4 steaks
  • 1/2 teaspoon minced dried onion
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt, divided
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  • 2 tablespoons canola oil, divided
  • 2 large sweet onions, thinly sliced
  • 1/3 cup dry sherry (see Note)
  • 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup reduced-sodium beef broth
  • 2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme
  • 4 slices whole-grain baguette (1/2 inch thick), toasted
  • 1/2 cup shredded Swiss cheese
    1. Sprinkle steaks with dried onion, 1/4 teaspoon salt and pepper. Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the steaks and reduce the heat to medium. Cook, turning once, until desired doneness, 3 to 6 minutes per side for medium-rare. Transfer the steaks to a plate and tent with foil.
    2. Position a rack in upper third of oven. Preheat broiler.
    3. Add the remaining 1 tablespoon oil to the pan. Add onions and sherry, cover and cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until the onions are tender and golden brown and the liquid has evaporated, 10 to 12 minutes. Sprinkle flour over the onions and stir to coat. Add broth, thyme and the remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt; cook until bubbling and thickened, about 1 minute more.
    4. Remove from the heat and return the steaks and any accumulated juice to the pan. Pile up some of the onions on top of the steaks. Top each steak with a slice of baguette and some cheese. Transfer the pan to the oven and broil until the cheese is melted and bubbling, about 2 minutes. Serve the steaks with the onions and sauce.

    TIPS & NOTES

    • Note: Sherry is a type of fortified wine originally from southern Spain. “Cooking sherry” sold in many supermarkets can be high in sodium. Instead, get dry sherry that’s sold with other fortified wines at your wine or liquor store.

    NUTRITION

    Per serving: 377 calories; 18 g fat (5 g sat, 8 g mono); 80 mg cholesterol; 20 g carbohydrates; 0 g added sugars; 31 g protein; 3 g fiber; 533 mg sodium; 575 mg potassium.
    Pretty easy ingredients list.  I used the little tenderloin medallions and one was plenty for me.
    Bruiser can smell steak a mile away
     Clay liked it.  I always know its a keeper if he doesn't offer much to the pups that are waiting for a crumb to drop under his feet (unlike the failed salmon recipe from the other night...it was bad, really bad).

Friday, November 5, 2010

The Search Continues...

I got an email from Asos.com yesterday apologizing for losing my first order and wanted to let me know that they upgraded my shipping, refunded the shipping on the latest order, and gave me $15 off my next order. Can you say upgrade? They weren't kidding when they said the shipping was upgraded because the leopard dress that ordered arrived last night. I was pretty jazzed until I opened the package. The print is cute but the material felt really cheap and the zipper didn't want to stay up. I really don't need another wardrobe malfunction at a company holiday party. Been there, done that.  Plus, I think it might make me look like a street walker.  It would be really cute in a casual way with opaque tights, boots, and a jacket, but not on its own.  I returned it back to the U.K.  Bummer.  So the search for a holiday party dress continues.  Below are the next ones in the running.  As I'm typing this, I've already ruled out the gold.  It's a little too matronly.  Most of them are from Modcloth that carries some of the cutest/vintagey clothes ever.  Oh, I can't decide!  I love the teal one and the black sweetheart strapless with the netting overlay on the bottom.  The ivory with all the ruffles is also definitely some smashin' fashion.  If you look below, you'll notice that these are all at a great price.  Which is your favorite?  Opionions are appreciated!!  I know I always give mine.


Whipped Butter Dress
$78 - modcloth.com
Layered dress »

Kind Intentions Dress
$50 - modcloth.com
Stiletto dress »