I'm so excited for this weekend and I'm not sure why, exactly.  I've been looking forward to this all week and have been feeling all week like this is THE weekend that I will be super productive and get a lot of things done that I need to do that are unrelated to work... and have some fun in between. :)  There is a list of things I plan to accomplish (in no particular order except the first two):
  • pick up champagne and orange juice for brunch (mimosas!)
  • have brunch with friend Kim and her family (yeah!)
  • get my hair cut (it needs it desperately)
  • hang out with other friends
  • get shoes
  • get a new computer bag (it turns out that slamming the plastic piece on your bag strap in a car door will ruin it... but it's at least 1.5 years old anyway)
  • peruse fun things at the office supply store
  • find a couple of sweaters
  • pick up other necessities for which I currently have low/nonexistent inventory
I'm sure I'll think of some other things, but that's a good start.  What are you planning to accomplish this weekend? 

Wishing you all a safe and happy new year's eve.  I'll talk to you next year.


osso what?

I mentioned that about a week and a half ago was a productive cooking weekend which actually felt good and that I would post these 'tomorrow' - it turns out 'tomorrow' is today.  That Saturday, we made a herb chicken and rice bake thing - clearly not the technical name, but let's go with it.  We had some fresh mixed herbs - a 'poultry blend' -  and some chicken thighs. I took the herbs, chopped a mixture of them, put them in some melted butter (3-4 Tbsp.) and then spread it on the chicken (top and bottom and under the skin [that part was kind of icky]).  Meanwhile, Keith cut up some carrots, celery, and onion and briefly sauteed them.  He added them to this recipe for chicken and rice casserole and put it all in a 9x13 glass pan. I put my chicken on top of it and cooked it for about an hour (maybe 1 hr 15 min) and then took the tinfoil off to let the chicken get a little crispy and we ended up with a nice dinner - it was yummy!

He had also picked up some veal at the grocery store and I've never had it and had no idea what to do with it, but he had a recipe in mind and said he found a recipe for Osso Buco. me: Osso-what?  him: Osso Buco.  me: how do you spell that? 

The end result was that Osso Buco is really yummy and I'm not sure how to descibe it. Maybe veal cooked in a tomato, vegetable, and spice-based sauce?  Whatever it is, it's good.  According to the reviews, it can be made with pork or beef shanks, as well.  I followed the recipe exactly as it was online and we ended up with this:

And it was delightful, served over mashed potatoes and with a side of steamed green beans.



Occassionally when I'm talking to mom, she'll ask me if I want to hear about the 'bonehead move' she made. You know the bonehead move feeling - the one where you do something that is a) the opposite of common sense, b) preventable, typically, and c) just plain dumb. 

So tonight, I called mom to tell her about my latest bonehead move.  I noticed last night that the dishwasher was almost full and, in an effort to be helpful, decided to run it so that by the time Keith got home all of the dishes would be clean. It was dark in the kitchen, and I apparently thought that I knew what I was doing, so didn't bother to turn the lights on (see options A & B above) - I grabbed the soap from the cupboard below the sink, screwed off the top, and started to pour.  Imagine my surprise when the squeeze bottle dish detergent came flowing out.  What the heck?! 

Tip:  This is not dishwasher soap.
 As it turns out, it wasn't my squeeze bottle dish detergent.  It was the similarly shaped bottle of Liquid Plummer (see option C above.)  The first thought through my head is not appropriate to post. After that, it went something like this:

What do I do?  Can I clean it up? No, probably not.  ARGH - it's on my hand! OK, it's ok. Wash it off.  [washes hands and looks back at mess in dishwasher]  Hmm... now what... crap.

I ended up just washing it - mom pointed out that maybe I'll just make the dishwasher drain better, though I didn't think there was a problem with it before.  I called Keith earlier today to warn him not to eat off the dishes in there yet if he gets home before I did from work because I didn't want to accidentally poison him.  It turns out he won't be home until tomorrow and I have plenty of time to get this straightened out.  Now if you'll excuse me, I have to run the dishwasher (again).  Sigh...


silent night - or not!

I just returned from being home for the holidays and it was a great time - and I'm definitely not ready to go back to work - but I will. :)  There was a lot over the weekend, so I'll keep this as brief as I can.

The nice thing is that we didn't have to dream of a white Christmas because we had it naturally - but the roads were good enough for the festivities to press on.  I got home a couple of days before the holiday and ended up playing darts with Russ' league because they needed a sub; I'm terrible at darts, but it was fun and they didn't get upset so we had a good time.

We spent Friday getting ready for company at mom and dad's house because they were hosting - everyone pitched in so we were able to have some downtime in the afternoon, which was unexpected, but welcome!  We went to church and the kids program was good, as always.  I'm a little disappointed that we don't seem to sing one of my favorite songs (What Child is This?) during the service anymore, but the whole thing is very nicely done and I love when they sing Joy to the World as people recess.  And then it was time for the fam to come over.  By Brian's count, there were 57 people there.  It was a little overwhelming and sometimes a little crowded - not at all a silent night - but overall a lot of fun with great company and I wouldn't ask for it to be any other way. When all was said and done, we were full and exhausted and happy. 

You can find some pictures here (mostly on Christmas eve.)

On Christmas day we finished cleaning up after the party and had dinner with just the 6 of us... and we tried something new this year that we've never made at home: Prime Rib.  After searching online and reading a number of reviews, we settled on a recipe from allrecipes.com for Foolproof Rib Roast.  By we, I mean mom.  She really did most of the work on this, so I won't take credit.

Foolproof Rib Roast1 standing beef rib roast (ours was 7 lbs)
2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. ground black pepper
1 tsp. garlic powder

Allow roast to stand at room temperature for at least 1 hour; I think mom had it at room temperature for a couple of hours.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.  Combine the salt, pepper and garlic powder in a small cup. Place the roast on a rack in a roasting pan so that the fatty side is up and the rib side is on the bottom. Rub the seasoning onto the roast.

Roast for 1 hour in the preheated oven. Turn the oven off and leave the roast inside. Do not open the door. Leave it in there for 3 hours. 30 to 40 minutes before serving, turn the oven back on at 375 degrees  to reheat the roast. The internal temperature should be at least 145 degrees. Remove from the oven and let rest for 10 minutes before carving into servings.

Our notes:
  • We were skeptical, too.  Leave it in the oven for 3 hours while it's not even on?  Excuse me?  It works - we ended up with a great prime rib.  But don't open it - serious. We even taped the oven shut (per a review we read) so no one at the house wouldn't open it without thinking.  Laugh if you will, but it works. 
  • Once you turn the oven on after the 3 hours, maybe check the temp at 20-25 minutes and then again if you need to.  Ours ended up done medium, which I was perfectly happy with that, but if you want it medium rare or something, recommend checking it a bit sooner. But NOT during the 3-hour don't touch period!
  • Mom said that next time she would maybe try some other kind of rub on it (vs. the garlic/salt/pepper) - it was great, but you can probably try any kind of rub you want and use this process.
And viola! 

I have mentioned before that we don't really do presents anymore, except Santa still comes and puts things in our stockings.  This year, Santa contracted the present duty out to our mom and she filled our stockings with something really neat - she made table runners and matching potholders for each of us kids and personalized them with something we like. 

Keith got eagles, Brian got lighthouses, and Russ got deer.  And me?  Post-it notes and office supplies.  It's hilarious and awesome how well mom knows me and my love of office supplies.  I'm excited to hang it up at work because my colleagues know it too. :)  Thanks, mom! 

I hope you all had a very, merry, wonderful holiday season - however you celebrated!


back in the saddle

I had mentioned last week that I've been a little lazy when it comes to cooking/baking anything new lately.  No excuses.  But I think that as of this weekend, I'm back in the saddle, again.  I am not even sure where to start. Or if this should be one  post, or two, or three.  It's now the end of the weekend and, with the exception of Friday night, I feel like I've spent a lot of the weekend in the kitchen and doing dishes.  Here's what we ended up with:
  • Nutter Butter Truffles
  • Cake Balls
  • Herb Chicken and Rice Bake
  • Osso Buco
Starting with dessert and moving backwards.  I've been trying to find the best way to make dipped things - i.e. truffles.  I've tried CandiQuick, chocolate chips, chocolate chips with a bit of shortening.  What has seemed to work best for me, though, is chocolate almond bark and I must give a special shout out to Holly for recommending it to me!  I'll get into the ingredients in a second, but first let's talk about the dipping process (there is a backwards theme here, today, apparently...)  I rolled the middles into balls and put them in the freezer.  To dip them, I found it was best to put a toothpick in each one (photo below), dip them in the melted chocolate, shake/wiggle them a bit to get the excess off, and then put them on parchment paper to harden (leaving the toothpicks in.)  Once they are hardened, twist the toothpick out; I found that if you take the toothpicks out right away, it leaves a bigger hole on top. It does leave a little hole the way I did it, but I was planning to drizzle something on top to pretty it up anyway, so that covers them pretty well. 

Now to the good stuff!  The Nutter Butter Truffles were similar to the Oreo Truffles I made a couple of weeks ago, except with Nutter Butter cookies.

Nutter Butter Truffles
1 package Nutter Butter cookies
1 package cream cheese (softened)

Crush the cookies; I understand from the recipe/reviews, that you can use a food processor for this. I do not have one, so I used a gallon-size bag and a rolling pin, which works just fine.  Combine the cookies and cream cheese until well mixed. Roll into small balls (around 1 inch or to your desired size) and place on parchment paper; freeze until hardened.  Then dip in melted chocolate almond bark heated in a small saucepan over the lowest heat setting.  Drizzle with melted white chocolate or colored candy melts.  I used green candy melts for this.  Store in the refrigerator.

The truffles were very good, but I preferred the ones that were made with Oreos, myself.  In addition to the truffles, I made cake balls for the first time - and I think a lot of people have never had them but they are pretty popular in some places.  A friend/colleague of mine in Maryland had a business making them for a while until it got to be too much because they were so popular. Side note: hers are much prettier than mine.  The simple way to make them is to make a cake with a cake mix and use frosting bought at the store.  I was trying to think of what flavor combo I wanted and was really considering red velvet and cream cheese frosting... but then went the homemade route because I was craving this almond cake that mom makes.  So I made the almond cake - called White Texas Sheet Cake - and used it's frosting to mix.  It went like this:

Cake Balls (almond/pecan)

 1 c. butter
1 c. water
1 tsp. almond extract
2 eggs (beaten)
1/2 c. sour cream
2 c. flour
2 c. sugar
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. soda

In a large saucepan, bring butter and water to a boil to melt butter.  Remove from heat and stir in flour, sugar, eggs, sour cream, almond extract, salt, soda, until smooth.  I put the wet ingredients in first, mixed, and then sifted in the dry ingredients for this step.  Pour into greased 10x15 greased baking sheet and bake at 375 degrees for 20 - 22 minutes. (Mine only took 15, though - my pan might have been a bit bigger - keep a close eye).  Let the cake cool and then make the frosting (below). 

1/2 c. butter
1/4 c. milk
4 1/2 c. powdered sugar
1/2 tsp. almond extract
1 c. chopped pecans (or can use walnuts) 

Once the cake is cool, crumble it into a large mixing bowl and mix in the frosting, a bit at a time, until it gets to a consistency that will roll into balls, well.  Put the mixture in the refrigerator to cool for a couple of hours.  Roll the mixture into little balls (about 1 inch or to your preferred size) and then place in the freezer to harden. Then dip in melted chocolate almond bark heated in a small saucepan over the lowest heat setting.  Drizzle with melted white chocolate or colored candy melts (sound familiar?)  I used red and green candy melts for the drizzle.  Store in the refrigerator.

They look pretty much like the truffles - just different insides.

So, the other thing I did with this was to use just the middle of the cake for the cake balls - and I used the leftover frosting to frost the outsides of the cake so I ended up with some regular cake, as well!  If you're making just the cake, though, the recipe says that you should make the frosting while the cake is in the oven and frost it when it's warm.  Obviously I couldn't do that here. :)

OK, I got to this point and I think I'm going to post the other things tomorrow.  This is getting to be a really long post and you're probably getting bored.  Check back in tomorrow for the chicken rice bake thing and the Osso Buco.

Before I sign off, though, I wanted to share another neat thing I learned through these processes.  The last time I tried to make the drizzle for the top of the truffles, I used white chocolate chips which work when used alone, but every time I tried to add food coloring it would get clumpy and weird.  I tried again with a different color (like that's going to make the difference) and the same thing happened.  It turns out that adding any water or water-based product (i.e. food coloring) to melted chocolate will cause the chocolate to seize and clump... the exact symptoms my failed attempts.

So what's the solution?  Apparently they make oil-based food coloring that you can use (whoever 'they' is).  OR or you can go the route I did and get colored candy melts (I found them at Party City) and they worked swimmingly! 

One of the things I like about doing things like this is that I get to learn things as I go - I've made more truffles (or similar) than I normally would this season because I want to figure out how to do this right.  I'm not 100% there, yet, but they taste pretty good and are starting to look better each time!

If you're my colleague and will be at work tomorrow I will be pawning these off on you.  You've been warned.


xmas movies

I already posted about my favorite Christmas music.  One of my other favorite parts of Christmas are the movies - all of the classics are on, of course, and Hallmark and Lifetime (don't judge me) play a bunch of sappy, feel-good holiday flicks. And because I'm watching one of them right now - Elf - let's talk about favorites.  I'm not sure if I have 10 - but here's my top xmas movies list, in no particular order:

  • Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer (the claymation one)
  • National Lampoons Christmas Vacation
  • Elf
  • Home Alone & Home Alone 2 (I refuse to watch 3&4 because it's a different kid)
  • The Grinch who Stole Christmas (the cartoon one - not the Jim Carrey one)
  • A Christmas Carol (the Mickey Mouse one - not the Jim Carrey one - there is a theme here)
  • A Charlie Brown Christmas

I'm sure I'm missing some, but these are the ones I try to watch every Christmas season for sure.  I usually end up seeing A Christmas Story on TV - which is good but for some reason not one of my top ones... even though I do really enjoy the kid in the giant snowsuit and love the leg lamp.  And there are the made-for-tv ones that I can never remember the name of but do enjoy. I must admit, though, that I haven't seen Miracle on 34th Street or It's a Wonderful Life for a very long time... so they would maybe make the list if I watched them again, but right now I don't remember them well enough to say. I hope that doesn't make me a bad person... 

I know I'm missing some here, too.  What are your favorites must-sees during the holiday season?  Let me know!

I'll leave you with this - one on the great scenes from National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation. Love this movie.


lazy and random

My apologies in advance for the randomness of this post. 

I've been lazy - at least when it comes to cooking anything new lately. I feel like a big blog slacker. I had kind of noticed it before last weekend and thought that I would get on it this weekend and get back into the swing of things... but then Keith made chili (yummy chili) and we had that over the weekend.  And I had bought sandwich meat, too.  It turns out that, in addition to not judging precipitation levels well, I also don't really know how much a pound of deli meat is (a lot) and I bought two.  Lesson learned.

[insert awkward topic transition here]

My favorite breakfast diner in the Twin Cities is the Day by Day Cafe in St. Paul and I used to live dangerously close to it.  It's so good, though, that when a friend came to visit from out of town for Labor Day weekend a couple of years ago, we went there for breakfast three days in a row.  Since I moved away from St. Paul, I've only been there a few times but totally worth the hike when I make the effort.  My favorite dish there is the #9 (I think it's the #9, anyway) - scrambled eggs with onions and little bits of cream cheese, hash browns, and toast.  The cream cheese is what makes it awesome for me, but I've never tried it here at home - sometimes you don't want to ruin a good thing and it's hardly ever as good when you try to do it yourself.  This weekend, though, I picked up some onion bagels (which I seldom buy/eat) and cream cheese and used them to make egg sandwiches.  I thought I took a picture with my phone, but it turns out I didn't, so picture this:

Looks delicious, right?  Case in point why I am not an artist. The point is that it was yummy and actually looked a little better real and it gave me the little bit of cream cheese with my eggs without me ruining the original for myself.  I had this on Saturday and Sunday.  I'm OK for a while now - unless you want to go to Day by Day with me.  I could be persuaded.  Oh, and  for the record, my deli meat ham was not purplish like in the image - it was normal ham color.

I don't remember what we had on Monday, but I do remember that I went to the UPS store to mail a package - I was so proud of myself - until I realized I left my wallet at home.  Awesome.  I did get it mailed, though, so that was a plus.  Last night Em and I went out for dinner - and we laughed so hard we were almost crying and a few things were added to our quote book. For example (borrowed from Em's FB status - thanks E:|):

"So left up here?"


"So left?"


"Right? Or correct?"

..."Right. And for future reference I'm very good at using the word correct. So turn right."

Ahhhh good times. 

Tonight was a little late getting home from work so quick and easy was needed.  I made some spaghetti with angel hair pasta (because we don't have any spaghetti right now) and some garlic naan that we had in the fridge.  If you haven't had naan, it's really yummy flat bread that is typically served with Indian food. Apparently it also works well as a substitute for garlic bread. 


 I'll get my act together soon.  Promise.  In the meantime, I had posted wondering if any of you (all 10 of my readers) are interested in doing a guest post.  I'm not going to keep bringing this up, as to not look desperate, but think about it.  It's kinda fun. :) 

In other news, there was a blizzard this weekend, the roof of the metrodome deflated (it's four blocks from my work - it's too cold to go gawk, though), one of my other favorite St. Paul restaurants had a nasty fire, and I've been crabby because of extraordinarily-long-for-no-good-reason commutes the first couple of days this week.  But things are looking up and it's almost Christmas!!!


be my guest

I'm just going to throw this out there - anyone interested in writing a guest post for my blog?  You could write it up and send it (with pics if you want) and I can post - or I think there's a way to grant access to others, too.  With the holiday season coming up, I'm sure there are some good recipes being made or stories to tell... or even anything non-holiday related. Let me know if you're interested.  I think it might be fun!

In the meantime, maybe I'll dig in the cupboards tomorrow and see what we have - sounds like we may be snowed in, anyway.  Woo hoo!


joy to the world

If you haven't caught on, yet, I'm totally in the holiday spirit right now. One of the things I love the most about the season is the music. It's hard to come up with favorites, but I'm going to give it a shot - in no particular order, here is my top 10: 
  • Christmas in Sarajevo - Trans-Siberian Orchestra
  • Joy to the World
  • This Christmas Day - Trans-Siberian Orchestra
  • Baby it's Cold Outside - Dean Martin
  • A Start to Follow - Trans-Siberian Orchestra
  • Oh Come All Ye Faithful
  • The Prince of Peace - Trans-Siberian Orchestra
  • All I Want for Christmas is You - Mariah Carey version
  • Promises to Keep - Trans-Siberian Orchestra
  • Little Drummer Boy - Bob Seger version

Clearly I am a fan of the Trans-Siberian Orchestra - this is the CD that is currently in my car and will likely remain until New Years.  Music is great.  It can keep you occupied on long car rides by yourself, make you feel happier, and makes singing sound much nicer (at least mine).  You can also do fun things - like this (below).  Turn on your sound and enjoy.

So, what am I missing? Would love to hear your favorites!


a flaw in the plan...

Now that the Christmas tree is up, you put the presents under it and it looks so great, right? Not here.  We don't have little kids in the immediate family (sorry, Mom) and none of us really need anything for Christmas. If we want it, we'll buy it.  So for the past couple of years we haven't done presents and have decided to donate, instead. It would be nice to say that it's all very selfless and we just want to help others, but that's not completely true.  There are people who need things or don't have the resources to get some of the things they want.  And if we can help make someones holiday a little better, that's great.  But on the other end it's totally awesome for us. 

There it is... the What's in it for me? 

Well, what's in it for me is not having to stress out about what I'm buying for everyone else this year.  And not having to try to drag suggestions out of people or have them try to drag them out of me.  And not be frustrated when they tell me I don't know... or that I have to tell them I don't know... or worry that we're all spending roughly the same amount of money on each other.  And I don't have to wrap they guys' presents (except Brian's - he knows why).  Instead, I can relax and enjoy the season. Maybe bake some cookies. And smile because I don't have to go to the mall. :)  It's totally awesome.

Don't worry, though.  Santa still visits our stockings at Christmas.  He knows that's all we want.

So where is the flaw?  Now we have this big tree and no presents to take up space below it. Maybe I'll take Tim's suggestion and wrap some empty boxes to get the look... is that lame?


cookie monsters

On Saturday we had our monthly girl time scheduled - a newly started tradition with Abby, Shannon, Emily, and myself. We have typically been meeting after work during the week for dinner and drinks, but for December we opted for making Christmas cookie baking and it was a lot of fun - except we were bummed that Emily was sick and couldn't come. We started early and went to lunch, got groceries, and hit up Target and finally got back to Abby's to start mixing and baking.  As we were unpacking the supplies, I asked Abby if she had a rolling pin.  Nope.  We thought briefly about trying to find a rolling pin substitute, but then decided against that.  So they got started mixing and I was off to Target, again. Good thing - we didn't buy enough peanut butter either, so I was able to pick that up while I was out. :)

Amongst some girl talk and catch up, we managed to make four things:
  • Monster cookies - Shannon's choice
  • Sugar cookie cutouts (frosted, of course) - Abby's choice
  • Peanut butter blossoms - In honor of absent Emily
  • Oreo truffles - and my choice
Given how much work we had ahead of us, things went smoothly and quickly over the next few hours.  The monster cookies turned out amazing and as a bonus, they are gluten free!  I think this is the recipe that Shannon used (she was following something off of her iPhone - which reminds me of another topic I'll write about later.)  I think Chelsey has a recipe for these in the church cookbook, too - but I don't know if they are a gluten-free version. 

After the monster cookies, we did Peanut Butter Blossoms.  And although they tasted delicious, they were flat and we're not sure why.  Maybe because the baking soda was a little old?  I'm interested to know if you have thoughts on this because in the pictures on the online recipe, they were puffy and perfect.  But like I said, the most important thing is that they were yummy, so I won't complain. I guess I didn't take pictures during this process, so there's only one - of the end result. 

My choice was Oreo Truffles.  I wanted to try truffles again because when I did this last year before Christmas it ... well, let's just say it wasn't the result I was looking for.  They tasted great, but looked terrible.  This year, however, I got some great advice from Holly to use chocolate almond bark - and it worked like a charm!  In addition to using the almond bark the other key thing was to melt it over the lowest heat setting and leave it there and be patient (something I'm not known for.)  If you haven't had these I highly recommend because they are super easy - just oreos and cream cheese for the inside and then dipped in chocolate.  I used mint oreos and that turned out awesome.  I may try Nutter Butters next time - not sure yet - but I will do this again.  Sorry I don't have a picture of me doing this - Shannon does, so if I get it from her, I'll post it.

We made the sugar cookie dough and stuck it in the fridge to cool for a while when the others were baking.  With her new rolling pin Abby took the lead and did the rolling and thanks to Mom, we had some holiday cookie cutters.  Let me tell you that Abby's first time rolling dough on her own went much more smoothly than mine when I made an apple pie earlier this year.  Ask Mom - it wasn't pretty.  Anyway, I digress.  She did awesome - we let them cool and we frosted (and sprinkled) them.  We ended up using this cookie recipe and the frosting part of this recipe.  Also recommend.  I pretty much recommend everything we made - as long as you can get your PB Blossoms to raise. :) 

And we were happy that Harold (aka Herald - get it?), our Christmas moose from when Abby and I lived together, was there to supervise. :)

All in all, a great day. Shannon called us 'Cookie Monster Baking Machines' - and we were.  It was a great day with even better girls, ending the night watching old Christmas movies - Charlie Brown's Christmas, Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, and Santa Claus is Coming to Town. Classic.

p.s.  E-money, you don't get to punk out next time.  we missed you too much! ;-)



I was walking with a friend/colleague today to grab some lunch.  When we walked outside it went something like this:

Me:  Oh, this isn't bad
Friend:  No, not at all
Me:  Yeah, it's kind of nice, actually

And then we laughed.  We said it's like a joke that begins 'You know you're a Minnesotan when.... it's 14 degrees outside and you still think it's nice out.

That was in my head, so when I was on my way home in the snowy weather I was driving along and then thought this one. 'You know you're a Minnesotan when you think getting behind a snow plow is like winning the lottery.'  Because I did. And it felt like winning the lottery.  Jackpot!

There's a reason I don't do stand-up.  I'm not very good with jokes.  Do you have a better 'You know you're a Minnesotan when...'?  It shouldn't take much because mine are terrible, but I'm interested to hear yours. :)


now it's time...

... to get going on Christmas!  I mentioned before that I have a rule about any Christmas activity prior to Thanksgiving: Don't. But I did cheat a little - a little bit of Elf and I listened to the Trans-Siberian Orchestra's christmas CD on my way home for the holiday.  Thanksgiving was great - special thanks to Pam & Jim for hosting!  We, as most, ate entirely too much food and had a good time chatting, etc... Mom braved shopping with me on the dreaded Black Friday to go buy a new Christmas tree - but we only went to the side of town away from the mall so it wasn't terrible. We just went to two places, had lunch, and then went home.  Saturday we went to the craft fair and did a couple of errands.  Saturday night was girls night at the Festival of Trees!  This year's theme was Christmas in New York and it was, as it always is, beautiful.  Friends, christmas, food, dessert, drinks, and fun.  Can you ask for more?  And to those who helped organize and decorate - thank you. I know how much work events can be and you are amazing.  I even bought the t-shirt!  If you haven't gone, please do next year.  It's a 5-star event in my opinion and supports great causes. 

And Sunday I was exhausted so just hung out, relaxed, took in a Hallmark Christmas movie or two.  And then drove back home.  And then it was over.  Or was it?

Remember the new Christmas tree?  We put it up Tuesday night.  The previous tree was a little 4.5 foot tree and we've graduated to a 7 foot tree.  A real grown up tree.  Because it was boys' night, the guys were here to supervise and let me know that it was a little slanted (it was) and then it was less slanted (it was) and then it was perfect (it is).  The secret?  There may or may not be a Glamour magazine under the stand on one side hidden beneath the tree skirt. 

It turns out that when your tree gets bigger, the number of decorations needed increases as well.  Fortunately, we have almost enough decorations - the front is good, the sides are almost there... and who looks at the back anyway, right?

It ended up being an easy 3-step process:

Are you getting in the holiday spirit?  I am!

p.s. happy birthday to all of the recent/upcoming birthdays since Thanksgiving - next week: Nov. 27-Keith; Nov. 28-Grandma; Nov. 29 Tammy; Nov. 30 Ryan, Joan & Matt; Dec. 1 Michelle; Dec. 2 Katie; Dec. 6 Belva & Julie.  Whew! 


thanksgiving spirit

Thanksgiving is awesome.  There's great food, great friends, and it's a great chance for people to take a step back and be thankful for the things they have.  And while I'm thankful for a lot of things, I'm not going to make you read through the list.  Around Thanksgiving and through the Christmas season, its heartwarming to see people using this as an opportunity to donate, volunteer, and be all-around more pleasant, helpful people (black friday crazies excluded).  To make a difference.  It makes me think a little bit further, though.  What happens after the holiday ends?  Do we retain that ambition?

This is something I've struggled with.  I try to be an all-around more pleasant person, albiet not always successful.  I enjoy volunteering but should do it more often.  I participate in the United Way campaign and the food drive at work.  And this year around the holidays some friends and I are planning to bake cookies to donate to an agency that provides resources and support to individuals and families affected by HIV/AIDS in the Twin Cities. Those are all nice, but the part that I struggle with is finding my passion. My purpose.  My consistent role in making a difference - and I hope I find it. 

The point is this: the holidays are certainly a great time to be thankful for what you have, aware of where the needs are to help others, and to donate, volunteer, support, or be an all-around pleasant person - just don't forget about the rest of the year. And even if you don't have time or resources available to volunteer or donate, simply remembering to smile and say 'thank you' to people around you or holding a door can go a long way in making someone's day.


one step at a time

I usually have a rule that all things Christmas are not welcome in my world until after Thanksgiving. But the outside world does not want me to be able to keep my rule. I swear there are Christmas things in stores before Halloween now. What next, before Labor Day? Some of my friends started Christmas shopping weeks ago.  And I don't think that I've noticed the Christmas movies on TV before Thanksgiving - at least not much. But this year, they started a week ago. And I caved because Elf was on - I can't pass up an opportunity to watch it. As soon as it was over, I switched over to what was supposed to be Desperate Housewives, but the AMAs apparently take precedence tonight. Oh well... at least Elf is on again. What's a girl to do?

Speaking of which, it's hard to choose my favorite scene from Elf, because I love all of it.  But this one's pretty good.

But I digress and I'm still breaking my rule.  So, no more Christmas until after Thanksgiving.  I'm going to do my best to stick to my guns for the next few days. So, we'll come back to more discussion around our Christmas holiday favorites after Thanksgiving. For now, I'm going to focus on being thankful (and maybe the food we get to eat, a little, too.)

And in that spirit, what are you thankful for this year?

And how's that for a random thought post?

this week

This week has been busy - in and out of home.  I was excited that I tied for 2nd place in our chili cook-off at work!  I made the butternut squash turkey chili I had first tried a couple of weeks ago.  For the cook-off, I used a little less cumin (because I ran out) and added a little bit of Frank's Red Hot, but probably not enough to make much of a difference.  We also had a cake walk so I brought in some red velvet cupcakes with cream cheese frosting, courtesy of Duncan Hines.

Yesterday, Keith made a Rum Cake that was really good. For those of you who will see us at Thanksgiving, he is thinking about making it to bring there.  The interesting thing was that he made it yesterday and it was good... but today it's so much better!  The flavors of the rum have set it and it's super yummy.  Apparently sometimes old cake is yummier than fresh. :) 

I'm posting the recipe here, but must give credit because the one he found online was used almost exactly.  He cut the oil in about 1/2 or 3/4 of the original recipe. The original is posted, so feel free to do that, as well. 

Rum Cake


1 c. chopped walnuts
1 (18.25 oz.) package yellow cake mix
1/2 c. dark rum
4 eggs
1/2 c. water
1/2 c. vegetable oil
1 (3.5 oz.) package instant vanilla pudding mix

1/2 c. butter
1/8 c. water
1/2 c. white sugar
1/4 c. rum

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Grease and flour a 10 inch tube or Bundt pan (note: we used the bundt pan but didn't grease or flour it... we forgot but it turned out fine). Sprinkle nuts over the bottom of the pan.

Mix together the cake mix, 1/2 cup dark rum, eggs, 1/2 cup water, oil, and vanilla pudding mix. Pour batter over the nuts in the pan.

Bake for 1 hour. Cool, and invert cake on a serving plate. Prick the top of the cake.

To Make The Glaze: Melt the butter in a saucepan. Stir in 1/8 cup water and the 1/2 cup sugar. Boil for 5 minutes, stirring constantly. Remove glaze from heat, and stir in 1/4 cup rum. Drizzle and smooth evenly over the top and sides.

Super good - I highly recommend.  We also tried spaghetti squash today, though I wasn't sure how to make it - we baked it and then sauteed it with some Parmesan, butter, and spaghetti sauce.  It was pretty good, but if you have a better way, I'm happy to hear it.  And I'm sorry I don't have a picture for this, but we tried Chipotle Chicken, too.  It was really good. 

Besides that, I spent some time last night with a couple of good friends shopping, having dinner, and then movie night -- which then turned into slumber party because we got freezing rain and it was pretty much an ice rink outside.  I started home, got two blocks, and went back.  Special thanks to KVO for giving me a safe, warm place to stay.  On my way home this morning I saw two cars in the ditch... and neither of them was mine. And I am thankful for that!

Now if you'll excuse me, I'm going to go have some more cake.


one, five, ten

Today has been one year since we lost Grandma D.  This year was also the one year anniversary of losing Grandma K., 5 years after losing Grandpa K., and 10 years after losing Grandpa D.  Big year.  I've been thinking about this and it brings a smile to remember the memories. Christmas eve's with G&G D.  Christmas days with G&G K.  Grandpa K helping the guys on the farm.  Grandpa D. with his video camera and the memoir he made.  Grandma D. with her funny poems and scrabble and cards.  Grandma K. making quilts for each of us. 

And I was lucky to have grandparents (all of them) who were so proud of me. Of us. All of us.  I started my first 'big girl' job when Grandpa K. was in the nursing home and he was so excited for me - he had me write my job title on a piece of paper that he kept in his drawer so that he could tell everyone what a great job I had gotten... and he did.  And while Grandpa D. was gone by that point, Grandma K. and Grandma D. always made a point to ask how my job and my life were going. 

I know several of you are thinking about Grandma D. today, too.  And I'm thinking about you.  We were blessed to have them in our lives and I am blessed to have you.  Feel free to share a memory here, if you'd like, of any of them.  :)

I posted these videos when I first started this blog in January, but thought it an appropriate time for a repost.


snow day

The first snowfall of the year is upon us - at least those in the Twin Cities metro. I surprised myself that my reaction when I stepped outside this morning was 'Oh, that's pretty.'  It was that heavy, sticky snow that sticks to the tree branches and covers them almost completely.  The type of snow that is also good for snowballs and snowmen.
First snow of 2010 - 11.13.10 around 7:30 a.m.

A few years ago, this was not my reaction.  The first snowfall of the season during those years was not pretty.  It made me sad, crabby, and generally unpleasant.  But it was only the first snow - anything after was fine.  At some point (post-college) I started to grow up (read: suck it up/put on my big girl pants).  The feeling of this day went from pure displeasure, to annoyance, to indifference, to today's reaction: 'Oh, that's pretty.'    And while I'm not sure I'll ever get to a point where I'll wake up on this day and say 'Yay, Yay, Yay! It snowed!' it is a better life when you wake up and accept it for the beauty that it is.  And then return inside where it's warm and cozy. :)

I spent most of the day relaxing at the house and watched movies.  I saw Up, Nola, and now I'm watching Tuck Everlasting (again-it's been years...)  When they cleared the roads, I ventured to Target to get out and get a couple of supplies. And I made mom's pizza burger recipe from the church cookbook. 

Several people have asked 'how much snow did you end up getting?'  A lot.  I'm terrible at at judging amounts of any precipitation.  Instead, I'll show you - this is what my car looked like at around 11 a.m. today.  And then it kept snowing for a couple of hours - so a couple more inches maybe beyond that?  

I'll never have a job as a weather person... 

11.13.10 - 11 a.m.



We had some shrimp in the freezer I saw last weekend and decided then that I'd try making Shrimp Scampi sometime. This week was crazy, so we finally got around to it tonight. I used this recipe as a base and made some changes based on the reviews I read. What we ended up with was a good base for next time, I think. It tasted really good, but I think there's a couple of things I'll do differently next time. Here's what we ended up with tonight:

Shrimp Scampi
1 - 8 oz. package angel hair pasta
1/4 c. butter
1/4 c. olive oil
7 cloves minced garlic
3 green onions, chopped
1 pound shrimp, peeled and deviened
1/2 c. dry white wine
1/4 c. chicken broth
2 Tbsp. Real Lemon juice
1/4 tsp. Italian seasoning
Fresh ground pepper to taste
1 small Roma tomato, diced
Parmesan cheese

Make angel hair pasta according to directions to al dente.

Put the butter and olive oil in a large saucepan and melt butter over medium heat. Add garlic, onions, and shrimp cooking 3-5 minutes until shrimp is pink. Stir frequently.

Stir in wine, chicken broth, lemon juice, Italian seasoning and bring to a boil, stirring frequently. I added a little cornstarch to thicken the sauce slightly. Add fresh ground pepper.

Mix the shrimp, sauce, and pasta together and serve; top with diced tomatoes and Parmesan cheese. Serve with garlic bread.

My notes:
  • You can use 1/2 c. butter instead of the oil/butter mixture if you want.
  • I added the tomatoes on top because, honestly, I forgot to mix them in at the end. But it made it prettier, I think, to put them on top.
  • This is faster to make than you may think, so have garlic bread prepped ahead of time. If you're going to serve salads, have those ready, too.
  • Next time I think I will: add a little more Italian seasoning. I may add some crushed red pepper, too.

We had a little wine, too, and a good excuse to try out my new wine bottle stopper I got for my birthday (thanks, Holly!)

me? angry?

It may surprise you to find out that I'm not always sunshine and rainbows. Well... for those of you who know me well, you may not be shocked, I guess. :)

I mentioned at the end of my vacation post that I'd tell you about our flight experience later.

Everything was planned to be perfect. We flew through Houston where we met up with Julie to take the same flight to Florida. We left on time for our first flight. And our layover was short. ... Apparently too short. This is where things got ugly.

I'm not sure why, but our flight that departed Minneapolis on time landed in Houston 15 minutes late. Our layover was only 35 minutes, so we hauled bum to get to the other terminal where Julie was waiting for us - so we had to run through Terminal C, take the tram to Terminal B and get to our gate. As we rushed toward the gate, I see our plane backing away. It left without us. It left 4 minutes earlier than the scheduled time. I know this because above the door to the walkway it tells you what time they left: 9:51 a.m. It was supposed to leave at 9:55 a.m. [Insert wave of anger here.]

The conversation with the guy working the gate went something like this (at least as I recall):

Me: That's our plane.

Guy: Yes, you all arrived 15 minutes late on your other flight. I already re-booked you on the next flight, though. Guy smiles.

Me: So, you knew we were late and on our way, but didn't wait.

Guy: I asked them if they could wait and they said no...

Me: But they could leave early?

Guy: ummmm...

Me: They took off early. Without us.

Guy: They said they couldn't wait. But you are re-booked for the next flight.

side note: next flight is 4 hours later. This does not please me, either.

Me: Please help me understand this. My flight on your airline took off on time in Minneapolis. Your airline got me here late. But your airline wouldn't wait for us even though you knew we were on our way. Correct?

Guy: I'm sorry ma'am.

Me: Instead of waiting, your airline decided to take off before the posted time. The time that is on my itinerary.

I give Guy a confused, unhappy look.

Guy: I'm sorry ma'am.

Me: I put my phone number in the reservation for a reason. It would have been nice if someone from your airline would have called to see where we were so I could have told you we were close.

Guy: I'm sorry ma'am.

Me: Fine. Whatever. What do we need to do now?

Guy provides re-issued tickets for next flight for me and the guys; gives me two exit row seats because I had upgraded when we originally checked in for 3 seats with extra legroom. He explains the next flight only had two available.

Me: I paid for three. I assume you will be refunding the third.

Guy explains to me again that there were only two (yes, I understand that - I paid for three) and then tells me the information desk located directly behind us should be able to help.

Julie: What about me?

Julie was on a different original flight so did not get rebooked with us automatically.

Guy: Well, you could have made it - you arrived over an hour ago.

Julie: Um. No, I didn't.

Guy: Well, you could have made this flight either way.

Me: Yeah, no. She is travelling with us and we were meeting here. She arrived just before we did. It was not over an hour ago. She was waiting for us and your airline decided to leave early.

I become afraid we will begin the cycle again and take deep breath while Guy looks at his screen again and types a bit.

Guy: Looks like I can do something for you.

Guy issues ticket for Julie on the next flight, also, with no extra fee - probably because at this point he likely doesn't want to deal with me anymore. Who would?

At some point during this debacle, I think the guys had backed away and just let me go. Then I went to the information desk and, long story short, got all three of my upgrades refunded and got to keep the exit rows. I relaxed a bit with the woman at the info desk, presented my documentation, and took a few deep breaths. Not sunshine and rainbows, but I was well-behaved.

Now, you might be thinking Whoa, Crazy Lady - I'm glad I wasn't there with you! Or you may be thinking Haha, I would have paid to see that! In my defense, I didn't yell, stomp my feet, or cry (almost, though). I like to think I held my ground and voiced my displeasure with the situation in a way that got the point across but they didn't have to call security (barely, perhaps - it's all a bit fuzzy).

I think that Belva will especially appreciate this post because she was with me the one and only other time I was that irate girl at the airport when we were delayed and then almost stranded at the airport because of a snowstorm - that was my second or third time flying ever. This is probably my... I don't even have any idea - 40th trip? I've flown a lot.

Here's the thing: I've been stranded overnight a couple of other times and have been delayed a bunch, too. It's bound to happen and it's part of flying. Given this story, you may not believe me, but I normally don't care. Stranded? Find a hotel. Delayed? Find a book. Not a big deal. In fact, the first time I was stranded overnight, I thought it was great! It was an opportunity to prove to myself that I could take care of myself because I was travelling alone and stuck overnight in New Hampshire. And on our way home we were delayed for 3 hours because of the high winds back home. I didn't really care - I had a book to read and we were still getting in that night. And Julie had a long layover so we were there with her.

So what happened this time? I put a lot of work into coordinating this vacation. My second real vacation in 5 years. I was looking forward to this, planning for this, and not only did it affect me but it affected 4 other people. And they left without us.

That being said, I probably should not have been mean to the guy at the gate. It wasn't his fault personally. So, Guy, I'm sorry. But I'm still mad at the airline.

In the end, the vacation was totally worth it, though. I had a blast and I relaxed and I was happy and nice and sunshine and rainbows. :)


Disclaimer: This post reflects my recollection of the events which may have happened completely differently - but this is my story and I'm sticking to it. Even though it's a bit unflattering.

and p.s. if it makes me sound any less ridiculous, we (the 5 of us) were 10% of the passengers who were scheduled to be on that flight. It was a small 50-seater plane.


i heart fall

I love most things about fall. The leaves changing, the temperature dropping, sweaters, my awesome boots... all of it. To clarify, by temperatures dropping I mean to fall temps, not to winter temps. I love the in between stage. It's also time for foods to change. And since it's been a while since I've had time to try something new, I used today make some fall food before snow falls.

Today was Butternut Squash Turkey Chili and Jalapeno Cornbread Muffins. I'll post what I did here for the chili because it was slightly different than the posted recipe. The muffins I followed exactly, so am just going to link to the recipe for that. With the cornbread muffins, I recommend the honey butter on the recipe, too - it was very good!

My notes on the cornbread:
  • I used 1 c. fresh freezer corn rather than the canned corn the recipe calls for.
  • It could have used a little more jalapeno, probably - I only used 1/2 of one, but could have probably used a whole one.

Butternut Squash Turkey Chili
1 sm/med onion, chopped
1/2 large red pepper, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 lb. ground turkey
1 lb. butternut squash - peeled, seeded, and cut into 1/2 or 1 inch pieces
1 1/4 c. chicken broth
1 can chopped green chilies (4.5 oz)
2 cans diced tomatoes (14.5 oz each)
1 can chili beans
1 c. freezer corn
1 can tomato sauce (8 oz)
1 Tbsp. chili powder
1 Tbsp. cumin
dash of garlic salt

Saute the onion, minced garlic, and red pepper in olive oil in your large pot for approx. 3 minutes. Add ground turkey and cook until browned. Stir in all remaining ingredients and simmer for 30 minutes. I thickened it a little with cornstarch/water at the end, as well.
My notes on the chili:
  • I used more garlic than the original recipe called for, so didn't use the full tablespoon of garlic salt the original recipe asked for.
  • Adding the red pepper was good - I used half of a large one, but could have probably used the whole thing.
  • I used fresh freezer corn (from the garden) instead of the hominy in the recipe for the chili.
  • It was a little runnier than I would have liked at the end, so just thickened with cornstarch.

And this is what it ended up as (below). I really liked it - it tasted a lot like regular chili does, but liked having the squash in it. I may use this for our chili cook off at work in a couple of weeks. :) Wish me luck!


vacation & family

As some of you know, I went to Florida on vacation with my brothers and cousin Julie to visit our aunt Gail and uncle Duane - we left last Saturday and got back last night (Wednesday). It's funny because when you tell someone that you're going to (or just returned from) Florida, they give you this look of jealousy and get excited for you. I think they assume that you went to Miami, Orlando, Key West, or one of the other usual suspect vacation spots in Florida. But when you tell them you went to Tallahassee, a look of confusion overcomes the jealousy. Why Tallahassee? Because that's where our family is. And to be honest, I would take that over Disney any day.

An overview of the trip:


Travel day from Minneapolis to Houston (where we met up with Julie) and then Houston to Jacksonville. We rented my cool mini-van there and drove to Tallahassee, stopping in Live Oak at Big Daddy's for dinner.

We went to the beach house and enjoyed great food, drinks, views, and company. We took an intermission to our sitting around and visited St. Mark's lighthouse, saw some gators there, and then returned to the beach house where we continued to relax and had a great dinner there.

The boys swam a bit in the morning. We split up for the day and the boys did the antique car museum (which actually held a lot of other things - pianos, boat motors, motorcycles, etc...) and then they went out for wings/beer with Duane. Julie and I went shopping with Gail and we only made it through Bealls, which was great - but we then had to figure out how to pack for the way home. Gail made appointments for me and Julie to get massages, which was awesome.

Duane took the guys and Julie to Wakulla Springs to do a boat tour to see more gators and other wildlife. I stayed behind at the house and sat in the sun by the pool with a book and some coffee. One of my goals for the trip was to relax - so this was perfect. Gail could do her thing for a while and I did mine - and then we had some nice one-on-one time. That night, Russ did a test-run with Duane's new smoker and we had smoked pork chops that were awesome.

Another travel day. We left early in the morning and drove back to Jacksonville and then back to Minneapolis. It was cold when we got home and were all ready to go back to Florida weather.

What I Learned
Something I learned from Duane: y'all is singular; all y'all is plural. :)

That's the brief version and I'm happy to tell you more if you want more. All I can say is it was amazing - we all thought so. We all appreciated Gail and Duane letting us invade their home and their lives for a few days. We ate in for most meals (awesome food, including the best key lime pie I've ever had) and spent a lot of time just hanging out, relaxing, and having fun. We can't possibly thank them enough for their hospitality and generosity.

I've mentioned before that last year was a rough one for us. Among other things, it was the year we lost both of our grandmas. And it was the year we became grandparent-less. One of the things that I worried about (and still do sometimes) is that extended family came together for holidays and events so that our grandparents could see everyone... so what now? That was part of the reason this was important to me. And we've never been to Gail and Duane's to visit and it's something I've talked about and wanted to do for a long time. So, why Tallahassee? Because that's where our family is. And that's why I head to Caledonia regularly, and have visited Becky in Atlanta, and hope to go to Colorado again.

And without further adieu, here are the pictures:

More later on our flight stories... :)



Most of you know that I just hit a new milestone... and turned 30 on Friday. It's interesting to turn 30 because people have a lot of opinions about it. And there is a stigma around it that people think that the person turning 30 is going to have a meltdown or go into denial. We've all heard of the people who turn 29 again and again because they're in denial. Fortunately, most people have been supportive and tell me that this is a good thing - and that they love being in their 30s. One person said 'Ohhh, that sucks!' I choose to ignore that person.

I'm actually kind of excited about it. Turning 30 isn't bad, or scary, or the end of the world. It's not that much different than being 29, so far. And I think there are a lot of good things that will come with it.

Mom and I joked about it because she says whenever she used to try to tell me about the day I was born, I would say 'not this again...' But since I found out that I was nameless in the hospital for a couple of days, I like to bring that up. This year, I told her that I was looking forward to my 30th birthday... and a few days later, the 30th anniversary of having a name. :) I think, though, that it was worth the wait because my name seems to fit me well.

I got a few cards (thank you!) and my mom finished my APO quilt. I had given her a bunch of my old APO t-shirts from college and asked her if she could make me a quilt or pillows with them since I didn't wear them anymore, but they mean enough to me that I didn't want to toss them. So, for my birthday I got a card with a picture of the finished product and I love it!! Thanks, Mom!

So how did I spend my birthday? First, I didn't work. I never take my birthday off, but it was a Friday and I thought a long weekend would be a nice way to celebrate. My awesome friend Keri took the day off, too, and took me to lunch and made appointments for us to get our hair and nails done. I did haircut and manicure and she got highlights. Then I went home and changed, and we went out to dinner with a group of great friends and my brother at Cooper in St. Louis Park (an Irish pub). After Cooper, we hit Toby Keith's I Love This Bar for drinks, listened to the bands, even danced a bit, and played some Buck Hunter (a hunting video game). Here's some photos from the night.

So, they say 30 is the new 20. I'm not sure about that, but what I do know is that even though there are a few things that I cannot do as well as I did at 20, there are a LOT of things I can do better at 30. So, bring it on.

Thanks to Keith, Jennifer, Abby, Coral, Shannon, Emily, Keri, Kari, Bryce, and Kat for celebrating with me. And to those who send cards, FB posts, and phone calls. You guys rock!


Update on the war

I mentioned earlier that we are waging a war against condiments and today we notice progress! Today, we had to buy regular yellow mustard because we were out apparently - which I never thought would happen. And got rid of two bottles of salad dressing. There is progress being made and the war will go on. But I'll take the progress. Hooray!



I've been wanting to try butternut sqaush soup. As you may recall, I'm not always good at making things when they make sense. It may be the wrong season. Or something that makes the house hot when it's already 80 degrees. I did the latter, again, yesterday - but in my defense, it is the right season this time. It's not my fault that we're having unseasonably warm weather!

The recipe I used was great - and I did pretty much exactly what I was supposed to, so won't re-write it here. But I highly recommend it! My only notes are:

  • I added some red pepper flakes to the soup
  • you probably don't need the fresh thyme - it's just a garnish
  • it was really thick, but not in a bad way. I may add some more chicken broth to make it a little more soupy next time.

So, I'm interested... as we approach the colder weather, how do you keep warm? Favorite soups? Hotdishes? Comment and let me know!



Last week I was in Baltimore on business travel to our office there. While a majority of the time was work - as it should be on business trips - I opted to spend the weekend and did some other things, too. Work stuff went well and I was there during the torrential rain remnants from a hurricane that was coming up the coast. The good news is that my hotel and my office are connected by a parking ramp, so really if I hadn't watched the news and talked to people, I would have never known because I didn't really have to go outside (except to get to Starbucks). By Friday, mother nature had calmed and it was a beautiful weekend.

On Friday night, I went with a couple of friends to Oceanaire for dinner. If you haven't eaten at an Oceanaire, it's amazing - and spendy - but more importantly, amazing. We had crab cakes as an appetizer - a given if you're visiting Baltimore. I had the black & blue halibut with crab and we shared some family style mashed potatoes... and followed up with bread pudding, which I normally am not a fan of, but this proved otherwise. The photos are of my halibut meal and the bread pudding.

While the food was excellent, the company was better - Gina & Jean are pretty awesome.

On Saturday morning, I participated in Walden's Global Day of Service with the Baltimore office staff and it was a great experience - fun and fulfilling. We painted a gymnasium and lockers at a charter school that has been open for about 3 years. The building needed quite a bit of work and it's amazing what a coat of paint can do! We had a chance to hear from a couple of the 11th graders at the school about their goals for college and career - they're very driven and it was nice to get to hear from the people we were helping. Here's a picture of people painting the gymnasium, which is what I worked on.

It was nice to get to do this with some of my colleagues who I have known for almost the whole time I've worked here, but don't see often. The first picture is me, Jerry, and Jen and the second picture is me and Craig.

After the service project, I went for a walk through Fells Point, a fun area of Baltimore. Kind of like Northeast Minneapolis. They were having the Fells Point Festival which was fun, but huge crowds, so I didn't stay super long. No pictures... sorry.

Oh, and I had this pretty sushi and mango martini while I was there at Ra Sushi - I've been here before, but it's yummy so I went back.

All in all, it was productive with work and I got to see a lot of people who I don't often get to. The service project was great, though I was sorry I wasn't able to join my colleagues at the Minneapolis project that day. So all was well... except the weird smell outside of my hotel that came from a drain. For some reason late night and early morning it gives of steam that smells like burning tires. That I could have done without. It did it the last time I was there, too... so weird.


church cookbook

I find most of my recipes online, but every once in a while it's nice to use one that written on a recipe card or from an actual cookbook. Mom was nice and gifted all of us kids with the church cookbook from Eitzen. A couple of the other times I've pulled it out looking for something specific, I was bummed because it didn't have what I was looking for (one time for peanut butter cookies and the other with no-bake cookies.) ... now that I think about it, it's only been when I want to make cookies. I mentioned in my previous post that there was only two nights of planning this week due to travel - Monday was potato pancakes and Sunday was Zesty Tomato Soup - both from the church cookbook. Both awesome.

Zesty Tomato Soup
submitted by A. Doering
2 c. cooked tomatoes
1 med. onion, sliced
2 Tbsp. butter
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. minced garlic
1 Tbsp. Worcestershire sauce
2 c. beef broth
1 c. tomato juice
1/2 c. orange juice
1 bay leaf

In a saucepan, melt butter over low heat and saute the onion with garlic and salt until tender. Add tomatoes and simmer 3o minutes. Pour this mixture into a blender and puree (but be careful - see below). Return to pan. Add remaining ingredients and simmer,covered, for 25 minutes. Discard bay leaf and serve.

The recipe recommends serving hot with parmesan cheese or cold with a sprig of parsley or a thin slice of lemon.

My notes:

  • it was very brothy (not sure that's a word...) so I used a little cornstarch and water to thicken it just a bit.

  • I diced the onions instead of slice... not that it makes a difference because as I read the recipe further, you puree it, anyway.

  • I served with grilled cheese because I like dipping it in the soup.

And it was great, so will be making this again as we move into the fall/winter warm food season. The nice thing is that it's still pretty light because it's not cream-based, but will warm you up on the cool days that are promised to come.

p.s. I looked it up. Brothy is an appropriate adjective version of broth. :)

p.p.s. Does anyone know what happens if you eat the bay leaf? I've always been taught that you take it out and never eat it. In my mind, it seems that it might kill me. I'm sure that's not true, but am just curious.