Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Thank You Cards (Made by Baby!)

A few weeks ago, we celebrated Will's first birthday party.  Once the guests left and the balloons deflated, we were left with a stack of awesome gifts from Will's generous friends & family.  I wanted everyone to know how much we appreciated them coming to Will's party (guests from as far as Chicago and DC!) and I wanted to make some sort of unique thank you cards.  At first I had a vision of Will with balloons on the front of a photo card, but the baby didn't feel like modeling and so I quickly gave up and went in a different, messier direction.

Here's how we made some homemade thank you notes in just a few (colorful) minutes:

I started with blank white notecards (from the craft store) and taped them down to some brown paper on my dining room table.  Instead of individually painting each card, which could get extra paint inside the card or on the back, I figured it would be faster and cleaner to paint all of the cards at once.

Next step - put some nontoxic finger paint on your baby's sweet little fingers.  Don't get too alarmed when he wants to climb all over the table.  He'll cover more territory that way.

Make sure he gets every card with some color...

...then whisk him up for a bath while the cards dry.  The next morning, remove the tape and - voila - a set of personalized cards made by baby.

Next step is to teach him to write out his own "thank yous".

We got lots of positive feedback from recipients on the cards.  I think DIY thank you cards might be a yearly thing that we do with Will.  These painted cards could also work well if you were making a set of cards as a gift - just make sure you have a recipient who likes to send snail mail and is okay with abstract baby art (hello, Grandma).

All in all, I'd say that Will's first art project was a big success!

Monday, April 14, 2014

A Minneapolis Food Crawl

Sorry for being so MIA. It's been a busy couple of weeks.  I went to Seattle, then Connecticut, then Minnesota, then Scottsdale and then next week I'm off to Florida!  Worky work, busy bee!  Well it's not all work, there's some play weaved in there. 

The great thing about being in Minnesota for work is that I also got to see my best friend Lauren, who moved there last winter.  Whenever we get together, there is nonstop laughter and ridiculousness.  We didn't really have a plan...just knew there would be lots of food and alcohol involved.  Here are a few shots of our amazing food crawl.  

We started our day off at King's.  This is their Tuscan kale salad with provolone cheese, roasted garlic dressing, croutons and crumbled egg.  I could have eaten this and this alone ALL...DAY.  

This was insane...this was their biscuits with white sausage gravy.  I

This dish was as delicious as it was beautiful.  It was an eggplant cannelloni with pickled eggplant, smoked eggplant and all kinds of other yummy things.

After we stuffed ourselves with brunch and like 14 mimosas, we continued our day at George & The Dragon for some wine.  We grabbed a table and some lumpia which are basically Filipino egg rolls.  So yummy.

After George & The Dragon, we sat outside at Broder's, this perfect little Italian place where we got some cold cuts...

...and some more vino.

Our food crawl ended and Lauren & Zan's house where Lauren made me fresh carrot and grapefruit juice vodka spritzers.  What a day.

As you can imagine, we didn't make it too far into the evening.  We ate, we drank, we laughed, we passed out.  I woke up on the floor next to the fireplace and then I made my way to the guest room bed. Which turned out to be Lauren and Zan's bed.  Man, I am such a treat.  

Stay hungry! 

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Springtime Party Favors (& a First Birthday)

This past weekend we celebrated Will's first birthday!  Time flies!  I didn't go nuts with decor, but made up a few "W1LL" banners to match the general theme of the Paperless Post invite we sent out:

The party was Saturday so we spent most of Friday evening cleaning & grocery shopping.  It seemed like we were all set - plenty of food, a clean outfit for the baby, dog-fur-free living room, birthday banner hung.  Once Will had gone to bed and Jesse was watching March Madness, I began to worry that we needed party favors for our guests.  I started out thinking we needed favors just for the kids but then thought to myself that I should have something for the adults, too.  When it's 8:45 at night and you live in the woods, you have somewhat limited options but I headed out to the closet Home Depot, which was open until 10 and bought, on a whim, some flower bulbs.  At the Target next door, I got some paper Easter grass and rushed home to assemble them with some plastic bags and ribbon I already had.

Here's what I came up with - I was pretty pleased...

...except they're basically the least kid-friendly favor ever.  We had 4 kids there besides Will and I think they were hoping that these were chocolates.  Sorry, kids, just gladiolus bulbs.  Also in hindsight I wish I had gone with bulbs that can be planted inside since some of our guests were apartment dwellers.  I had just grabbed gladiolus bulbs because a) it was late and b) I think they're really pretty.  Lesson learned!

Happy Birthday, Baby Will, and Happy Spring, readers!

Monday, March 31, 2014

Healthy "Crab Cakes"

OOOO these were so good.  SO good.  Light, crispy, deconstructed, fancy shmancy crab cake endive bites.  All the flavor with a whole lot less guilt. 

We were having friends over this weekend for a heavy steak dinner.  Steak + cooking at very high temps = high drama.  So not only did I want to make an appetizer that was light and wouldn't crush every ones appetite, but something that was easy to make ahead and assemble quickly.

Charlie and I made crab cakes at a cooking class a few weeks ago and they were so delicious, that all I've been thinking about is that flavor.  That fresh seafood, crunchy buttery flavor.  Since we were having steak, hash browns, wedge salad, and a mess of other things, I thought I'd make a slightly less horrifyingly fattening version.  SCORE.

With the crunch of the endive, I promise I'll never go back to the deep friend version.  These were so much better.

Here's the recipe peeps:

4 Heads of Endive
12 Oz of Premium Lump Crab Meat (Fresh is best or canned in the fridge section) 
1/4 Cup Hellman's Mayonnaise 
1-2 Tsp of Sriracha 
1 Garlic Clove, Finley diced and worked into a paste 
2 Tbs Finely Minced Chives, plus more for garnish  
1 Tbs of Dijon Mustard 
1 Tsp Low Sodium Soy Sauce 
1/3 Red Pepper, Finely Diced 
1 Tbs Fresh Lemon Juice 
1/4 Cup of Panko Bread Crumbs, seasoned with salt & pepper
1 Tbs of Butter 
Lemon Zest 

Trim and clean the endive, separate and set aside the best leaves.  Drain crab and rinse gently with cold water, pick through grab and discard any rogue shells.  Pat dry with paper towels.  Add all the ingredients to the crab except of the lemon zest, Panko and butter.  Gently mix everything together, careful not to pulverize the crab - you want to leave nice big chunks.  If possible, chill crab mixture for two hours. Right before serving, melt butter over medium heat and add breadcrumbs that have been seasoned with salt and pepper.  Once they become golden brown, set aside.  Fill endive with a dollop of the crab mixture and then top with a little bit of bread crumbs and additional chives.  Finish with a little lemon zest and ENJOY.

Stay hungry!

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Steakhouse Dinner at Home

So Charlie and I are going to cook dinner for some friends this weekend and we're hoping to channel our inner Chicago steakhouse and whip up this classic meal at home.  Here are a few recipes to get me (and you, shall you venture down this path) started:

1.  Grilled "Wedge" Salad.

2. The Perfect Filet Mignon.

3. The Perfect Prime Rib.

4. Oven Roasted Mushrooms.

5.  Loaded Mashed Potatoes.

6. Oven Smashed Potatoes.

7.  Yorkshire Pudding.

Yum.  One thing this post tells me is a) I make a lot of homemade steakhouse worthy dishes and b) I don't cook enough veggies.

Stay hungry!

Monday, March 24, 2014

(Another) Handmade Baby Quilt

This is my second baby quilt post in a week (after Baby Meatball's red & pink gingham one), though I actually made this one first.  I made it in February for Baby Benjamin (son of another college roommate, Holly) but Ben was born late (rude) and I had to wait to give it to him until last week.

This is probably where you'd expect to see a picture of a new baby with my quilt, right?  Sorry.  When I saw him he was busy either eating or sleeping.  Also, I think it's sort of bad manners to post pictures of somebody else's 5 day old baby on the internet.  So, no baby, but here's the quilt made with love for Ben:

This quilt is all boy, with blue stripes, blue dots, blue gingham, & blue whales.  When shopping for fabric, I found the cute little whales first and then picked other fabrics that I thought would look nice together.

I learned while making this that the gingham fabric I bought was WAY too thin - it kept coming apart at the seams where sewn to the other fabrics.  So frustrating.  Never again with gingham.  You can see I overcompensated with thick stitching along the seams to keep everything together.  Novice quilter here.

All in all, I'm pretty pleased with this.  This sounds really corny, but as I was making it I was thinking all sorts of good wishes for the baby (at that point, they hadn't decided on Benjamin yet so it was more like "I can't wait to meet you, Baby Whatever-Your-Name-Will-Be" and "I hope you and Will have so much fun being lifelong buddies, Currently-Nameless-Baby").  I'm hoping Ben enjoys it for tummy time and play time and rolling around on the floor and snuggles with his family.

Welcome to the world, Baby Ben!  Stay cozy!

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Hardly Housewives St. Patrick's Day Recap

St. Patrick's Day in Chicago this year was an absolute ball...and HEY!  I managed to stay married.  Charlie might have even been the more intoxicated one...not sure...sort of hard to tell.  Anyway, we had a great group of friends over and spent the entire day eating and drinking.  Here's a quick recap of the dishes that got us through the day:
I had to make SOMETHING healthy so I decided to make a rainbow veggie tray with homemade dill dip.  So, this might not look that hard, but it was so annoying to make.  The vegetables kept sliding everywhere and it's not as easy as you'd think to make a rainbow with clouds and a pot of gold out of all edible ingredients.  It looked cute though and that's all that matters.


The corned beef was the MVP of the day.  I hit up my good friend Danny for his recipe and MAN was it good.  It was super simple: I just seared it on both sides and then cooked it low and slow - 12 hours at 200 degrees.  I'll do a separate post on it because, well, this baby deserves its own blog...but for realzzz.  It was one of the best things I've ever eaten.  I gave Charlie a bite and he goes OMG WHAT DID YOU JUST GIVE ME.  HOW CAN SOMETHING TASTE SO DELICIOUS.

I should have made four.   It was that good.

So dumb dumb can't figure out how to rotate this picture, but I'll share it anyway.  This was a super simple pasta salad I whipped together with pesto, peas, and bowties.  I think I underestimated how many people dislike peas.  When we were cleaning up there were little plates with mini pea piles everywhere.  What is wrong with you guys?  Peas are delicious.

This was the cheesy corned beef bread before it went into the oven.  I doubled the recipe which I would highly encourage you to do if you make it.  It's ridiculous.  

CAN SOMEONE EXPLAIN TO ME HOW TO ROTATE PICTURES ON BLOGGER.  Anyway, these were corned beef cabbage roles with mayo and dill and other awesome stuff.  My girl Madalene brought these over and they were sooooo good.  They were crunchy and Irish and divine.

Just because I like to make things super complicated on myself, I thought I'd also make some mini shepherds pies.  They had flaky phyllo crusts with layers of beef, corn, mashed potatoes and parsley butter.  The parsley butter was my Mom's idea.  Good call Mom. 
These were legit.  I was actually pretty proud of myself.  I'll do a post on these bad boys too. 

My friend Cori is always good for something deliciously sweet.  She made these super thin buttery crispy amazing I ate four cookies.  They were gone in like three seconds flat.

I hope you guys had an AWESOME St Patrick's Day and are recovering nicely. 

Stay hungry!