Sunday, August 7, 2011

Mexi-inspired Dinner

We had the most amazing dinner tonight on the grill and I had to share.  Unfortunately, I had already devoured half of my plate of food before I thought about taking a picture, so you'll just have to imagine how beautiful it was in your head.

First, we had Bobby Flay's Grilled Corn with Chipotle-Cilantro Butter, accompanied by grilled veggies (BLUE potatoes, carrots, and onions).  And, the star of the show, Grilled Sirloin with fresh Pico de Gallo.  MMMmmm...was it tasty!  The secret to the steak was using taco seasoning as a dry rub before we grilled it.  I made my own pico de gallo by combining a tomato, 1/2 an onion, lime juice and cilantro.  We also topped our steaks with some avocado slices.  Seriously, to - DIE - for!

I suggest you give it a try.  I only made 1/2 of the butter from the recipe and it was plenty for us.  We even added some of the Chipotle-Cilantro butter to our veggies and steak so everything had a nice smoky heat.  If you like spicy or Mexican food, you can't go wrong with this one!

Friday, July 22, 2011

Dresser Redo

This is my big project for the week.  I tried painting my childhood dresser a new color and I didn't like how it turned out.  My solution? Strip all the paint off so I can stain it.  Here's before and during....after to follow.  :)

Friday, July 15, 2011

No-Poo Day 5

So maybe you still think I'm crazy, but it's day 5 and my hair looks and feels great.  I've done the baking soda/apple cider vinegar routine since Monday and my hair is awesome.  It is not dirty or greasy and actually, I don't think I even needed to wash it today.  Just a rinse would have done the trick.  I'm still using my taffy and hair spray in my hair, but the pic below is just wash and air dry.  So far I love it and I haven't seen anything negative.  I did the vinegar rinse every other day and I did notice my hair looked shinier on those days.  BUT I wouldn't do that every day since it can be too harsh and drying to do the vinegar every day.  Anyway, I'm going to keep going, but so far so good.  Anyone else brave enough to try it?  It's easy and cheap, what have you got to lose?

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

No shampoo pics, day 1

Here is what my hair looks like after washing and rinsing with BS/ACV. I took some with and without flash, but look how shiny my hair is when the flash is on!

Buh-Bye Shampoo: Day 1

I've been reading up on going shampoo-free or "poo-free" for a while and I decided to give it a try.  Of course, shampoo is a very regular part of our everyday lives, so to think about using no shampoo is crazy to most of us.  So why do this?  There are plenty of good, no, GREAT reasons to quit the shampoo cycle.

  • Chemicals:  This is the #1 reason for me.  The chemicals in shampoo (and pretty much EVERY product you can get at the regular old store) just freak me out.  We don't know what all of these unregulated chemicals can do to our bodies, so I'd just like to avoid them for my health and my family's health.  Some of the main offenders include mineral oil (the byproduct of converting crude oil into gasoline! YUCK!) and sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS).  SLS is a know skin irritant and found in anything that can foam up (shampoo, toothpaste, dish soap, body wash, etc.)
  • Cost:  The ingredients you need for going poo-free are baking soda and apple cider vinegar.  You can buy these in bulk if you want, and they are much cheaper than buying shampoo and conditioner, which is mostly water anyway.
  • It's good for the environment too!  Baking soda and ACV are natural and won't harm the environment, plus I'm contributing less garbage to land fills by not throwing away those empty bottles.
So, Day 1.  What's the verdict?  I think it's good so far.  I used about a tablespoon of baking soda in my palm, got it wet to make a paste and scrubbed away.  Rinsed.  Then took a tablespoon of ACV in a cup and added about a cup of water and rinsed my hair.  I won't have to do this step every day, only 2-3 times per week.  Eventually I hope to be washing my hair less, although I'm still going to use hair products like hair spray, so I'll have to rinse that out.  

Right now my hair is clean and shiny and looks great.  We'll see how it goes from here.

Here are some sites I read before doing the experiment myself.

Also, if you just search "shampoo free" you will find TONS more.  Okay, that's all for now.  More updates to follow as I continue my experiment!

Thursday, July 7, 2011

The New Bathroom

Finally, the pictures I promised before.  We finished our bathroom project about a month ago now and I LOVE it!  We were able to keep the floors and tub/shower, and we ripped everything else out.  Here's what it looks like.  I'm so happy with how it turned out.  :)

This is the view from the outside looking in.  It is a teeny tiny bathroom, but I think the white ceiling and light color on the walls with white trim make it look bigger than it actually is.

 This is the view of the other side looking into the bathroom.

Here's a good shot of the wainscoting we put up, as well as the new toilet, 
new cabinet (built by Reece), and new valance to match cabinet.

A close-up of the cabinet.  This thing is huge!  I love how it turned out.  
Reece just built a box and we attached an old window with fabric as the door.

My little picture collage.  I just spray painted some thrift store frames.  
The birds were actually some greeting cards my Grandma Shirley had, and I made the "Wash Your Hands" sign after seeing one like it on

This is a little blurry, but you can see the vanity here.  I also painted our old mirror to match the new white wainscoting.  We have a quartz counter top and a new sleek modern faucet.

One of my favorite things is this corner.  
It used to have a bulky cabinet on the wall.  
I bought a new frame and mat for a print I already had and 
I mounted some inexpensive hooks on the wall for towels.  
Simple yet pretty and functional.

Well, that's it!  Like I said, I love it.  Every time I'm in there, I just look around and feel so happy!  We're not totally done though...about a week after we "finished" our bathroom fan went kaput.  So now we have a fan to install too.  Love Menards!  The best part is we did the whole thing on a budget and only spent about $800.  Pretty good as far as bathrooms go.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

What's going on?

Wow, I just saw that my last post was April 7th!  I had a very busy couple of months with the end of the school year, and things are still busy now that it's summer.  Reece and I are just finishing up our bathroom remodel, and it turned out great!  Pictures will follow...and I have other little projects going on inside and outside the house.  Here are some of the highlights:

  • Garden is planted, including 16 tomato plants (!!!), eggplant, carrots, sweet peppers, jalapenos, squash, cucumber and herbs.  I hope it is a bountiful garden!
  • Landscaping is in progress.  I planted my lovely hydrangea in the front and planted some petunias in back for some color.  Pretty much everything will be getting a major "haircut" in the fall so that next year, we will hopefully have some pretty looking plants instead of the overgrown monsters we have now.
  • Putting the finishing touches on the bathroom and kitchen.  I have some minor things to do in these rooms, but my goal is to get them done before the housewarming party next week.  
One fun little story...I was out in the yard pulling weeds out of a big dirt pile by our garage.   This dirt was from our container garden from last year when we were renters, and at the end of the year we just dumped it in this pile.  So, back to the pulling I was going I saw something familiar and not week-like.  I thought, is that cilantro?!  I picked some and smelled it.  Yep, definitely smelled like cilantro.  The plant must have gone to seed from our garden last year, planted itself and grew with the weeds!  It was such a nice surprise to find since the cilantro plant we bought this year looks sickly and probably won't last.  Surprise cilantro!  Love mother nature.  :)

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Leftover Rice...

...makes the BEST Rice Pudding!  So, it's probably not surprising that my blog is about food.  I'm a total "foodie" and I love trying new recipes.  Today I searched for a yummy looking recipe, but I think I modified it enough to have made my own recipe.  The inspiration recipe was Alton Brown's Indian Rice Pudding.  My recipe is below...

Indian Inspired Rice Pudding

2 c cooked rice
1 can evaporated milk
1 cup half and half
1/2 tsp cardamom
1/8 tsp fresh grated nutmeg
1/3 c sugar
3 T sweetened shredded coconut ( I would have used coconut milk like Alton if I had it, but I didn't, so I threw in some coconut instead)
1/2 c golden raisins
pistachios for garnishing

In a saucepan over medium heat, combine rice and evaporated milk.  Bring to a boil, lower heat and simmer until slightly thickened, about 5 minutes.  Add half and half, cardamom, nutmeg, sugar and coconut.  Cook until mixture begins to thicken.  Remove from heat and add raisins.  Transfer mixture to ramekins or other serving dish.  Cover the tops with plastic wrap to avoid a "skin" forming on top of pudding while cooling.  Serve chilled or at room temp.  Top with pistachios before serving.  YUM!

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Spicy Tortilla Soup with Shrimp and Avocado

Make that:  Spicy Tortilla Soup with Shrimp and Avocado Scallops

I saw this recipe in Cooking Light magazine (one of my FAVORITES, btw) and I had to make it!  Reece and I love spicy food and I especially love Mexican spices, especially cumin.  So, of course I always change my recipe according to what I have on hand, and I only had about 4 oz. of shrimp instead of the 12 oz. that was called for.  I did, however, have some bay scallops in the freezer, so I ended up throwing them into the pot.  Much to my dismay, my avocado was extremely UNripe...and I couldn't have the avocado tonight.  So, here's the recipe straight from Cooking Light.  It was delicious, quick and easy.  I'd like to try it with chicken sometime too.  Anyway, here it is!  Enjoy!

Total: 20 minutes
Yield: 4 servings (serving size: about 1 3/4 cups soup, 2 tablespoons chips, and 1/4 cup avocado)


  • 1  tablespoon  olive oil
  • 1  cup  prechopped onion
  • 1/3  cup  prechopped celery
  • 1/3  cup  chopped carrot
  • 1  tablespoon  minced chipotle chile, canned in adobo sauce (I also added 1 tsp of the adobo sauce for extra spice)
  • 1  teaspoon  ground cumin
  • 1  teaspoon  chili powder
  • 2  teaspoons  minced garlic
  • 4  cups  fat-free, lower-sodium chicken broth
  • 1  (15-ounce) can white hominy, rinsed and drained (I think sweet corn would be good too)
  • 1  (15-ounce) can no-salt-added fire-roasted diced tomatoes, undrained (I think it's worth it to get the fire-roasted, you can taste the difference I think)
  • 12  ounces  peeled and deveined medium shrimp (I added scallops too)
  • 1  tablespoon  fresh lime juice
  • 1/8  teaspoon  salt
  • 1/2  cup  lightly crushed baked tortilla chips (about 1 ounce)
  • 1  cup  diced avocado (about 1/2 pound)
  • 2  tablespoons  fresh cilantro leaves (optional)


1. Heat a Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add oil to pan; swirl to coat. Add onion and next 6 ingredients (through garlic); cook 6 minutes or until carrot is crisp-tender, stirring occasionally. Add broth, hominy, and tomatoes; bring to a boil. Cover and cook 6 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add shrimp; cook 2 minutes or until shrimp are done.
2. Remove from heat; stir in juice and salt. Divide shrimp mixture evenly among 4 bowls; top evenly with chips and avocado. Garnish with cilantro, if desired.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Comfort Food

The Food Network Channel often gives me inspiration for meals.  Today Reece and I watched "The Best Thing I Ever Ate: Bacon" and "Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives", and we were craving bacon!  So, we set out to make "fancy" BLT's and found a recipe with pesto-mayo and fresh mozzarella.  Then, we needed something for a side dish, and smoked gouda mac and cheese was the choice.  It was amazing to say the least.  Oh, I also forgot about the strawberry shortcake we made for dessert!  This was comfort food at its finest and I just had to are below.

Fresh Mozzarella BLT with Pesto (recipe by Tyler Florence)
1 4-inch piece
2 slices low-sodium applewood-smoked bacon
1 1/2 teaspoons store-bought pesto
1 1/2 teaspoons low-fat mayonnaise
1 spear
romaine lettuce
2 thick slices heirloom tomato
1 thick slice fresh mozzarella
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper

Slice the baguette open, leaving one side attached to form a hinge. Cook the bacon in a skillet over low heat until crispy; drain on paper towels.

Combine the pesto with the
mayonnaise and smear on the bottom part of the bread. Layer the romaine on the bread, then the tomato, bacon and mozzarella. Season with salt and pepper; close the sandwich and wrap in parchment paper.

Triple-Smoky Mac and Cheese (recipe by ME!)

5 strips of bacon
2 cups elbow macaroni
4 T butter
2 T flour
1 1/2 cups milk, warmed in microwave 1-2 minutes
1 tsp smoked paprika
Salt and Pepper
6 oz. smoked gouda cheese, shredded
6 oz. sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
1/4 c bread crumbs
1 T Parmesean cheese, shredded

Bring pot of water to boil.  Cook macaroni about 5-6 minutes so it is still al dente (slightly undercooked).  Cook bacon in a saute pan, drain on paper towels, and crumble into bite size pieces.  While macaroni and bacon are cooking, melt 2 T butter in a sauce pan.  Add flour and whisk to combine.  Whisk in warm milk slowly to avoid lumps.  Add smoked paprika and salt and pepper to taste.  Bring to a simmer to thicken.  Remove sauce pan from heat and add smoked gouda and cheddar cheese.  Combine macaroni, cheese sauce, and bacon in a baking dish.  Melt remaining 2 T butter and combine with bread crumbs.  Top macaroni and cheese with bread crumbs and parmesean.  Bake at 350 for 20 minutes or until top is golden and bubbly.

Strawberry Shortcakes

2 cups Jiffy baking mix
3 T sugar
3 T margarine, melted
1/2 c milk
1 pint fresh strawberries
sugar to taste
half and half

Combine first 4 ingredients.  Using two spoons, form 6 drop biscuits on a baking sheet.  Bake at 400 for 8-10 minutes or until golden brown on top.  Meanwhile, slice strawberries and add sugar to taste.  To serve, break a biscuit in a bowl and top with strawberries and half and half.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Our First House

So we've been in our first house for 7 months now and we've done a bit of work to the place.  The only room on the main floor we haven't touched yet is the bathroom (and there are plans for that...hopefully happening this summer!)  Here's what we've done so far.
Living Room:
We painted and added new window treatments.  Roman shades from JC Penney and Chocolate drapes from Ikea.  Also, my favorite chair (where all the colors came from) is from Target.

Kitchen:  This obviously isn't the best shot, but you can see everything we did up close.  We stained the beat up medium oak cabinets to a nice mahogany and added hardware.  Added new countertops and a glass tile backsplash.  We also replaced the stove that was older than Reece and I.  :) 

Second Bedroom:  This room used to be a Minnesota Twins theme with navy blue walls.  While it wasn't terrible, the room was so DARK!  I love the cheerful yellow it is now.  It's MUCH brighter!  I also made the curtains that have a funky retro pattern.

Our bedroom:  I painted the walls a warm medium gray, new window treatments, and bedding.  The painting on the wall serves as our headboard right now and is from Gustav Klimpt's "Tree of Life".  I also have another Kimpt print in our bedroom - "The Kiss"  Since the picture was taken I've added some awesome lamps from Pier 1.  Looking to add some real furniture (like nightstands and a headboard) but need to wait until I find the right pieces.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Ranger Cookies

When I was a little girl, I remember trips to my Grandma Shirley's house always included Ranger Cookies.  This was a cookie that I never had anywhere other than Grandma Shirley's.  You couldn't buy them at just any store, you could only get them at Kevin's IGA in Lake Crystal.  These store bought, yummy creations were the perfect treat.  I never even knew one of the main ingredients was coconut (which I'm normally not a fan of) until I came across this recipe many years later.  The recipe is from a Better Homes and Gardens cookbook, and it takes me back to grandma's house.  :)  Enjoy!

Ranger Cookies

1/2 c butter
1/2 c granulated sugar
1/2 c brown sugar
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla
1 1/4 c flour
1 c quick-cooking rolled oats
1 c coconut
1 c raisins, dried cherries, dried cranberries or mixed dried fruits
(I just made a batch with dried cranberries and added chocolate chips - you can't go wrong with chocolate!)

In a large mixing bowl beat butter with electric mixer for 30 seconds.  Add sugars, baking poweder, and baking soda.  Beat until combined, scraping sides of bowl occasionally.  Beat in egg and vanilla until combined.  Beat in as much flour as you can with the mixer.  Stir in any remaining flour.  Stir in rolled oats, coconut and dried fruit.  Drop dough 2 inches apart onto an ungreased cookie sheet.  Bake at 375 degrees for 8-10 minutes.  Cool on cookie sheet 1 minute and transfer to a cooling rack.

Friday, February 25, 2011

First Post

I've seen some great blogs by friends and family and I thought I have things to share too!  Tonight, I made an amazing dinner with my wonderful hubby and that's when the lightbulb turned on in my head.  I should start a blog with my recipes.  Most of my recipes aren't 100% my own, but truth be told, I almost NEVER follow any recipe directions to a "T".  So, with this recipe, I combined a Guy Fieri chorizo recipe with an Emeril Lagasse calzone recipe, added my own twist and came up with Cheesy Chorizo Calzones.  It was pretty amazing if I do say so myself.  Don't be discouraged by the amount of ingredients, it's mostly spices, and the recipe is super easy.  I hope you enjoy!

Cheesy Chorizo Calzones
1 lb ground pork
1 chipotle in adobo
1 clove garlic
1 T red or white wine vinegar
2 tsp cumin (divided)
1 T kosher salt, plus more to taste
2 T ancho chili powder(divided)
½ to 1 tsp cayenne
1 tsp onion powder
1 tsp smoked paprika
½ tsp dried oregano (divided)
¼ tsp fresh ground pepper
1 medium yellow onion
2 T olive oil
1 14.5 oz can of tomatoes
1 cup montery jack cheese, shredded
¼ cup feta cheese
2 T fresh cilantro
1 tube refridgerated pizza dough

Preheat oven to 425*.
For the Chorizo, remove seeds from chipotle pepper.  To a food processor, add chipotle pepper, garlic, vinegar, 1 tsp cumin, salt, 1 T chili powder, cayenne, onion powder, smoked paprika, ¼ tsp oregano, and pepper.  Add ground pork and pulse until all spices are incorporated. 
Slice onion in strips.  Preheat olive oil in a large skillet to medium high heat.  Add onions, cook for 4-5 minutes until soft.  Add chorizo mixture, cook through.  Meanwhile, puree can of tomatoes.  When chorizo is cooked through, add tomato puree and remainder of cumin, chili powder, oregano and salt and pepper to taste.  Simmer and reduce liquid by half. 
Roll out pizza dough and add chorizo mixture on one side of dough, leaving a two inch gap around edges.  Top chorizo mixture with cheeses and cilantro.  Fold over the dough and pinch edges to seal.  Slice 2-3 slits in the top of the dough to allow for steam to escape.  Bake in middle of oven for 10-13 minutes, or until dough is golden brown.  Let cool 2 minutes before cutting and serving.