Friday, January 31, 2014

Super Bowl Decor Ideas

What are you doing for Super Bowl Sunday?  Jaisa always does a post-Bowl recap with the best of the Super Bowl snacks, so I figured I'd handle things from the homey front.  For the first year in a while, we are not hosting people here.  While I'm not a huge football enthusiast, I do love a good theme party so I'm sorry that I won't be setting up any football-themed d├ęcor this Sunday.  Here are a few things from around the blogosphere that are cute and simple enough that you can whip them up between now and Sunday.
Print labels that look like the field for jar covers:

Football Field Popcorn Jars

Here are some utensil holders painted to look like footballs.  She painted right over the labels and they ended up looking wrinkly and leathery, but you could easily wrap a strip of brown construction paper around the can as well:

Football Utensil Holders

A paper chain made to look like footballs/a field:

Football Paper Chain
This last one is super cute and pretty on-trend given the blog world's current obsession with Kraft paper.  Roll it right up after the party for easy cleanup:

Kraft Paper Football Tablecloth

Although I'm not much into football, I AM excited for all of my friends in Seattle.  My years living in the Emerald City left me with a soft spot for the Seahawks and they're definitely my team of choice.  Have a great weekend, enjoy the Super Bowl, & go Hawks!

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Cheeseburger Dip

Well.  Just guess what I made last weekend....

 ....just the BEST DIP EVER.  Seriously.  I had to put it away and then cut both of my hands off because I couldn't and wouldn't stop eating it.  Oh, then Charlie tried it and then he got down on one knee and proposed.  Again. 

 I love Closet Cooking, so I thought I'd try out a variation of his Bacon Double Cheeseburger Dip.  Mine doesn't include bacon so it's healthy. HAHAHAHA just kidding.  About the healthy part. 

So I started by browning ground beef with some blackening seasoning.  Blackening seasoning is my new go to - it has salt, spice, and extra flavor - perfect for some multi tasking. 

There we go.  Nice and brown.

While the beef is browning, stir up some sauce for the dip.  I mixed Greek yogurt (sour cream works well too), mayo, ketchup, mustard, ketchup, and a finely chopped garlic clove.

After the beef is done browning, mix in a block of cream cheese...

...and then pour in the sauce you made...

Give it a taste.  Charlie is obsessed (like OBSESSED) with mustard so I added some more.

Ta daaaaaaaa. Wait.  We're not done yet.

Next, add some finely shredded cheese on top.  I used Colby cheddar...but you can use anything you want.

Oooooo la la.  I baked it at 375 for 18 minutes and this is what I got.  Golden melty gloriousness.

A burger is not complete until I have it fully loaded - that's right - pickles, onion, lettuce and tomato.

 I love the contrasting flavors and textures.  Hot bubbly dip, topped with cold crispy fresh veggies.  YUM.

Serve with some crusty baguette and give yourself a long, long hug.  Because you are awesome for making such a baller dip.   Can we just have a moment of silence for the one on the right.  Just look at that overflowing of cheesy goodness.  I can't.  I mean I just can't even handle it right now. 

Cheeseburger Dip Recipe 

1.25 Lbs of Ground Beef (85% Lean) 
1/2 Tsp of Blackening Seasoning 
1 Block of Cream Cheese 
1/4 Cup of Fat Free Greek Yogurt (or sour cream) 
1/4 Cup of Hellman's Mayonnaise 
2 Tbs of Ketchup 
1 Tbs of Yellow Mustard 
1 Tbs of Worcestershire 
1 Clove of Garlic, Finely Chopped 
2 Cups of Shredded Colby Jack Cheese 
1/2 Cup of Sliced Pickles 
1/4 Cup of Diced Onions 
1/2 Cup of Diced Tomatoes 
1/2 Cup of Chopped Lettuce 

Preheat oven to 375.  On the stove top, brown ground beef with blackening seasoning.  Drain grease and add back to skillet.  Add cream cheese and mix together until melted completed.  Mix together the yogurt, mayo, ketchup, mustard, Worcestershire, and garlic.  Add to beef and cream cheese.  Taste - add more mustard, or anything else that you'd like.  Add shredded cheese on top and then put in the oven and cook until cheese is  bubbly and melted - about 15-18 minutes.  Top with chopped veggies and serve immediately with crostini, crackers, or whatever else you'd like. 

Stay hungry! 

Monday, January 27, 2014

Learning to Knit?

As the dead of winter sets in I'm looking for ways to stay warm and things to do besides binge on Hulu and wait for spring to show up.  Learning to knit seems like it hits both of those needs and I'm looking for some suggestions on how to get started.  Books?  Online tutorials?  I'm sort of short on time to go out, but would you suggest some sort of knitting circle (I never once made it to a "Stitch and Bitch" knitting group at Bates but now I'm wishing I had!)?

Will often wears these beautiful sweaters my grandmother knit 20+ years ago for my siblings and me.  They have so much detail work and have held up all these years (I especially love the sailboat buttons on this blue sweater which must have been knit for my brother):

My grandmother passed away last January (I don't think I ever mentioned this on the blog) and I really regret not learning to knit from her.  She was very talented and made some beautiful things for my family throughout the years.  I love knowing that even though Will never met his Great Grandma Stella, he's still wearing things she lovingly handmade so long ago.

Will also has a beautiful blanket that was knit for him by a friend of my father.  It's gorgeous, soft cable-knit green and it's just about the epitome of cozy.  We call it his "Grandparents' Blanket" since he cuddles up in it with my parents whenever he sees them (which, luckily, is often).  It was the first non-hospital blanket he was ever bundled up in and I'd love to be able to make a beautiful gift like this for somebody:

Obviously I can't start out with cable knits, intricate collars, and buttons, but does anybody have suggestions on where a total knitting beginner can get started?  Let me know and stay cozy homey!

Friday, January 24, 2014

Shrimp Salad Lettuce Wraps

Remember this shrimp from Monday?  Hard to believe I had leftovers but I DID! 

So with the leftover Sriracha dipping sauce and leftover spicy shrimp, I decided I would make a shrimp salad.   In order to add some color, I wilted down some fresh spinach in the microwave, gave it a fine chop and added it to the chopped shrimp.  For some extra crunch, I added extra chopped red bell pepper. 

To that, I added some of the leftover sauce and a few extra pinches of blackening seasoning just to give it a little more oomph.

How good does this look?  This was so refreshing and light- just delicious.  I could have eaten it just like this out of the bowl.

I didn't have any bread, or regular lettuce, so I used radicchio as my vehicle of choice.  This was so good you guys!!  The sweet creamy shrimp was so good with the crunch and bitterness of the radicchio.  I'm so proud of my little impromptu surprise.

I wrapped it all the way around and took a BIG bite.  Fresh, light, and healthy - and you'd never know.

Shrimp Salad Lettuce Wraps 
1 Cup Chilled Spicy Shrimp, Chopped 
1/2 Tsp Blackening Seasoning 
1/2 Cup of Red Bell Pepper, Chopped 
1/2 Cup of Wilted, Chilled Fresh Baby Spinach 
2 Radicchio Cups 
2 Wedges of Lemon, Option 

Mix all of the ingredients together except the radicchio.  Spoon the shrimp salad into the radicchio cups.  For an extra twist of freshness, squirt some lemon on top then devour. 

Stay hungry! 

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Peanut Butter & Banana Smoothie

Jesse had his wisdom teeth out this past weekend which means projects around here have been limited to a) baby care b) husband care and c) finding tasty pureed foods for both of them.  Here's a peanut butter banana smoothie that we can't get enough of:

Jesse has been living on these since Friday because he needs sustenance.  I have been living on these on Friday since they are so delicious.  Baby Will can't eat peanut butter yet, but when he can, I'm sure he'll be all about these smoothies as well.  They're filling and taste creamy without any dairy.  If you don't add the honey, this smoothie is vegan (side note: did you know that serious vegans don't eat honey?  I guess it makes sense but I'd never thought about it).

To make this smoothie, I used:

2 bananas
handful of ice cubes (4 or so)
1 cup water
2 tablespoons of peanut butter
teaspoon of honey (optional)

Blend until smooth.  Feed to your newly toothless husband or enjoy on your own!

Mix it up with a few different flavors by adding chocolate syrup, berries, or a handful of spinach.  We had a spinach one this morning and it's super tasty.

Enjoy and stay hungry!

Monday, January 20, 2014

Super Simple Spicy Shrimp

Charlie was gone this weekend so I knew I was going to be cooking a) mushrooms or b) seafood.  It was snowing all day Saturday so I decided to work with what I already had.  Shrimp it twas. 

Shrimp is such a great go to.  It cooks super fast and it can be made a million different ways.  Oh, it also keeps great frozen. I was in the mood for some kick so I decided to fry up some spicy shrimp and dip it into a Sriracha laced dipping sauce.  Yum.  I'm drooling up in here. 

This sauce was delightful.  I could have drank it.  I just threw together some fat free Greek yogurt, mayonnaise, fresh lemon zest, garlic, some finely chopped red and yellow bell peppers, Sriracha, and seasoning salt.   I gave it a little whisk and voila!   Dipping sauces don't really need to be carefully measured.  Just throw some stuff together and try it...see what it needs...and adjust.  Don't worry - I included exact measurements at the bottom.

You can really use whatever shrimp you like for this.  I usually buy frozen that have already been split and cleaned and thaw them out in the sink.  Obviously fresh is the best, but this is what I had on hand.  It's usually just me eating them, so it works well to buy them frozen and just take out what I need.

After thawing them out in the sink, I patted them down with a paper towel and tossed them with some blackening seasoning.

Charlie and I went to a cooking class on Friday and fell in love with grape seed oil.  It's a super light flavored oil and has a higher smoking point than olive oil, so it works well with searing at a high heat.  So I cranked the heat on high, added some oil, and then when the oil was glistening, I added the shrimp.  Grape seed oil and seafood were just made for each other.  Trust.

I think cooking seafood at a high heat for a lower time, helps form that nice outer crust.  Soft seafood is no bueno.   These came out beeeeeeeeaaaaaaaaaaautiful.

This makes such a simple, super quick (low carb!) appetizer.  

Just wait til you see what I did with the leftover shrimp.  YUM.

Super Simple Spicy Shrimp Recipe 
2 Cups of Frozen or Fresh Shrimp, Thawed
1 Tsp of Blackening Seasoning
2 Tbs of Grape Seed Oil

1/4 Cup Fat Free Greek Yogurt
1/4 Cup Hellman's Real Mayonnaise
Zest from 1/2 Lemon
1-2 Tsp of Sriracha
1 Garlic Clove, Minced
2 Tbs Each, Finely Diced Red and Yellow Bell Peppers

Once thawed, pat shrimp with a paper towel.  Toss with blackening seasoning, set aside.  Mix all of the sauce ingredients together and set aside and chill.  Heat skillet over medium high heat and then add grape seed oil.  Let pan heat up until oil is hot and glistening.  Carefully add shrimp, one at a time and flip ounce shrimp turns pink and opaque, about 2 minutes.  Cook other side until shrimp curls and shrimp is cooked all the way through.  Serve immediately while hot with chilled, spicy dipping sauce.

Stay hungry!

Friday, January 17, 2014

A Book of Love for Baby Will

We were lucky to get the most incredible outpouring of love and support when Baby Will was born last March.  Calls, visits, cards, emails, texts, and my first post on the Facebook that has ever gotten more than 100 likes (you know, the big stuff).  I've been meaning to aggregate all of those sweet messages into a book for us to read to Will.  When I found a company online that has make-your-own board books, I thought it could be perfect.

It was.  This little board book of love is exactly what I had in mind:

"Welcome Will" is a mixture of text and pictures that covers Will's first few days in this world.  I wrote it as a story that opens with his birthdate, weight, etc ("William was born on March 26, 2013 at 4:24 in the afternoon...".  Once we cover the basics of his birth day, we move into the meat & potatoes - all of the thoughtful & loving words that people sent to us:

I used a mixture of texts, emails, handwritten notes, and Facebook messages.  It was awesome reading through all of these old messages.  Everyone was so sweet.  I just want Will to know that friends & family all over were sending love and good thoughts his way.  I want him to know how much he is loved.

Possibly this is how to raise an egomaniac.

I can't wait to read through this with Will and tell him all about everyone who loves him, near & far.  The quality of the book is great - thick and beautifully printed.  It took a while to dig up these messages and use Pint Sized Productions' online tool but it's totally worth it.  I read through it myself about 20 times as soon as it arrived.  I am so pleased.  I am so relieved I didn't have any typos in there.

This is starting to sound like a sponsored post, which it isn't.  I may try making a DIY board book at some point by Mod-Podging paper on top of an old board book, but for now this was an easy enough way to make this book of love for Will!  Have a great weekend, everyone!

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Eataly Chicago

Eataly...Eataly...where do I EVEN BEGIN.  Charlie and I have been long awaiting the arrival of this adult Disneyland, that is two complete giant huge floors of imported Italian goodness.  There are 10 restaurants and rows and rows of cheese, meat, bread, fresh made pastas, olive oil, a gelato counter, a nutella counter, etc etc ....oh and everywhere.  In fact they encourage you to shop with a glass of wine in your hand!!!!!  I mean, I just can't.  I kept creeping around the corners expecting resurrected Jesus to pop out because I thought for sure I died and went to heaven. 

We've gone two Saturdays in a row (oops), but here are pics from just our first visit. 

We first went to La Pizza, and ordered their Neapolitan style pizza, straight from the brick oven...oh my. 

We also ordered a winter roasted veggie salad that was just RIDICULOUSLY fresh and satisfying (for me at least)... Charlie was even kinda into it...

Charlie and I swung by Eataly's fresh pasta counter while we were waiting for our table at La Pizza. We had no idea that they also served their fresh pastas, so we ordered up the sausage filled pasta that caught our eyeballz.  Ummm YUMMMMM.

Ok for those of you that know me, you know that I have a complete and utter (udder?) problem with gelato. Meaning I can't say no to it.  Charlie and I have gotten into ARGUMENTS about it because I'm so obsessed and demand it like a crazy person.  Let me put it this way:  if I had to choose between my trusty Uggs this Chicago winter weather and real, Italian gelato...well, you know what I'd pick.

For example, it was 10 degrees and snowing in Chicago and I carried both of these home with me, sampling them as I went.  There is pistachio and stracciatella on the left and salted caramel on the right.  CAN'T EVEN HANDLE IT RIGHT NOW.

I will continue to photograph my Eataly escapades because I'm expecting many many more. 

Stay hungry! 

Monday, January 13, 2014

Beadboard Ceilings for a Half-Bathroom

This was a productive weekend for us - the first one in a long, long time.  I don't know if it was the unseasonably warm weather we've had or the excitement of a new year, but this weekend we tackled a project we've been meaning to do since we moved into this house.  We have a very small, very windowless half bathroom on our first floor that visitors use.  

Pretty sure that lightbulb has been out since 2011.  We sure know how to treat our guests.

The pictures are terrible, but it gives you a feel for the room.  I didn't even photograph the popcorn ceilings that were stained by a leak before we moved in, but it was dismal.  All of it.

(The photo above is the reason I shouldn't buy seasonal anything.  I guarantee that box of reindeer tissues won't run out until June.  And I'll get super annoyed but what I am supposed to do besides use them up?  Throw them out?  Box up the Kleenex with the rest of the Christmas stuff and bring them out next December??)

Since we magically woke up on Saturday morning with a newfound zest for life and home improvement, we packed up Willbo Baggins and headed to the Home Depot where we bought some beadboard & trim to cover up the ugly popcorn ceilings and then haphazardly chose a paint color for the walls.

After we made it home, we put Will down for a snooze and Jesse got to work cutting the beadboard down while I started painting the bathroom.  

Once that was finished, we headed to the basement to use our miter saw to cut 45 degree angles in the trim that would go around the wall under the beadboard.  On some DIY projects Jesse and I have a blast and on some projects we want to kill each other.  I'd say it's a 50/50 split on that but luckily the home improvement gods were smiling down on us this weekend.  Jesse and I high-fived our way through even the trickiest math and measuring.

With the ceiling components cut to size, we both squished into the tiny bathroom and used nails (find the studs!), Liquid Nails, and our arm strength to get the beadboard panel onto the ceiling.  Once it was up there, we added the trim along the sides.  

I realized that we aren't exactly pioneers in beadboard ceilings (2011 called and they want their hot blog project back), but I'm so excited about how it's coming out.  The ceiling makes the bathroom feel so much more finished (& here's a peek at my new paint color, Behr's "Heron", which I lurve).

We're taking the rest of this week to finish off the bathroom - filling in some holes, painting the ceiling, framing art for the walls, hanging the mirror and cabinet back up, and perhaps finding some neutral Kleenex.  Stay tuned and stay homey!