Sunday, April 24, 2011

Weekend Wrap-Up

This was no Spring Break, but a four-day weekend was just what I needed.  I didn't get as much school work done as I would have liked, but it was nice to just be home with Ian...and Booper and Betsy.  Here's what my weekend looked like...

Why didn't anyone tell me how totally awesome spaghetti squash was?!?!  Something about rock hard veggies has always intimidated me.  I bought a squash a few years ago, couldn't cut into it, and it ended up in the compost.  So recently, AKA a little over a month ago, I bought a spaghetti squash.  There it sat, on my counter...mocking me.  I was so nervous to make the darn thing!  I don't know why. 

So yesterday I decided to follow the directions on the little blue sticker.  I pricked the rind all over (this was scary as the rind was tough and my fork kept sliding all over the place...I definitely feared for my poor hand).  Then, I microwaved it for about 6 minutes until the rind was "soft."  Well, the sticker said it would be soft...I just found it to look greasy.  At this point I thought I had already ruined it.  I popped it in the oven at 375 degrees for 1 hour.  When it was done cooking, I cut it in half and just as all of those low-carb recipes promised, inside was all of that great stringy squash!  I removed the seeds and twirled out all of the "spaghetti." I was surprised by how much spaghetti was actually in there!  I wasn't sure what to do next so I tossed it with a can of fire roasted diced tomatoes and some Parmesan cheese.  YUM!  Lunch for the week!

After I loong day of helping Ian around the yard (PS, I'm trying to like yard work, but I reeeally hate it), and some heavy duty whining, Ian knew he had to get me out of thouse!  So, he surprised me with a day trip to Jim Thorpe.  We were thrilled to realize that we are less than an hour away from this charming town!  Not quite as many antique shops as we remember, but it's a beautiful drive and there's still plenty of little shops to catch my attention.   Yesterday, in our favorite shop, we bought a great piece of art.  I'll be sure to share it, soon.  If you do make it to Jim Thorpe, you must eat at the Hotel Switzerland!  I think it's just called Molly Maguires, now.  We recommend the french onion soup, hands down!

Oh yeah!  While we were there, we went into one book store with the most friendly woman working the register. She was excited to tell us that she hid Easter eggs all over the store filled with candy and discounts.  She told us to bring one up if we bought anything.  What a great idea!  I quickly found myself bored with book shopping and was looking for all of the eggs behind books, under shelves, cozied into nooks!  It got me thinking...I really miss Easter egg hunts!  I remember going to Seaside with my cousins...and hundreds of other kids...looking for colored eggs on the beach.  We really need a grown up Easter hunt.

Today we're spending Easter with family.  It has always been a Burley tradition to walk the fields on Easter before dinner.  The boys used to go out and search for prehistoric treasures...rumor has it, they always found something spectacular on Easter Sunday.  Now, their interest has turned more towards metal detecting.  I might sneak out with them, but I'll be looking for arrowheads!  I guess this is our grown-up Easter egg hunt.

Happy Easter everyone!

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Buffalo Chicken Mac n' Cheese

 You've got to smell it to believe it!  No kidding...this dish is incredible!  It wasn't a pleasure to make.  I always freak out a little when making a rue and then turning that into a cheese sauce.  The timing is just too much pressure!  Despite my mini-panic attacks, this came out delicious!

First, I bought a family size rotisserie chicken and shredded it up.  I saved the legs for our lunches.  I also took this opportunity to cook up 1 pound of elbow macaroni.

Then, I melted 3 tbsp of butter and cooked 1 small chopped onion and about 3 stalks of celery. 
Once the onions and celery were softened, I added 3 cloves of mined garlic and the shredded chicken.  After it all heated through, I added 1/2 cup of Frank's wing sauce, stirred, and transferred to a bowl.

In the same pan, I melted 2 more tablespoons of butter.  Careful not to burn it!  At this point the pan is pretty hot and the hot sauce residue can burn.  I added 2 tbsp flour and 2 tsp of dry mustard and stirred it until it turned into a paste...cue panic attack!  I added 2 1/2 cups of half and half and whisked.  Then I added about 1/4 cup of more hot sauce and continued to whisk.  Once this thickened (continue panic attack), I added 1 pound...yes 1 pound...of shredded cheddar cheese and 8 oz. of shredded pepper jack cheese.  I whisked this until it got smooth.  I didn't looove the texture, but I added 2/3 cup of sour cream to loosen it up.

Into a 9x13 buttered baking pan, I added half of the macaroni, all of the chicken mixture, the rest of the macaroni, and topped with all of that thick and creamy cheese sauce.  In a separate bowl, I mixed together 1 cup of panko breadcrumbs, 2 tbsp of melted butter, 1/2 cup of blue cheese crumbles, and about 2 tbsp of chopped parsley.  Then I topped off my delicious mac n' cheese!

This went into the oven for about 40 minutes until the panko got brown and crispy and the cheese was nice and bubbly.  I even topped it off with some more buffalo sauce for color and Ian's passion for hot and spicy food. 

 Delicious!  A little spicy...but what good is a buffalo wing if it isn't spicy??? 

PS...these pictures are awful!  The picture does not accurately represent the how amazing this meal actually was.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Console Table Woes

Ian and I bought the most fantastic drop-leaf table.  The trouble is, I can't decide what to do with it!  Katie Bower offers some great ideas, like her Short-Tall Combo and Decorating With Clusters, but they can't help me decide on decorative pieces!  I want to decorate it with cottage-y accents without going too country.  I know the lamp needs to go, but I can't buy anything without a vision.  For now, we've got this icky silver lamp and a hodge-podge of other stuff we've accumulated.  Nothing seems to work!  

So here's some inspiration...

I think my favorite pieces are the lamp and the wooden bowl.  Scratch that...I love the whole things.  Those suit-case basket things are awesome!  And that mirror...incredible!  Rustic, but not overly country.

Maybe the trick is to bring frames down to the table's level.  Ian and I have discussed planning out a black and white photo wall for this space...hmmm...  I also love all of the glassware! 

I think I like this...although I might be getting eerily close to country.  Hard to say.  I always have to laugh at some of the things people use to decorate in these staged shots.  Maybe that's why I get a kick out of Catalog Living.  I don;t know if I can do such a big lantern, but I do have a piece of slate on my table now...only mine is holding a candle and not a bunch of pears.

 As I was looking for inspiration, I realized how unoriginal I am!  At Simply Natural, Catherine already did this post.  I love all of her examples.  Here are some of my favorites...

This picture makes me realize I absolutely need to go with a large, glass lamp!  I also love the tray of bottles and the baskets underneath.

I am have been on the hunt for a birdcage just like this!  I don't want to be impulsive so I am waiting to find the right one...but this could work!  I like the white vessels long as they don't cross the line into country motif.

This design is from Pottery Barn so it's no wonder that it caught my eye.  Also, those are our house colors!  I love this pitcher, but again, it may be too country.  The wood pieces are great, but I'm not sure they will work with our table. 

 So I tinkered around with Olioboard for a bit and here's what I came up with.  Some nice baskets underneath, rustic candle holders, an old bottle collection, and a spin on the traditional photo wallI could definitely see a hanging clock off to the side, and I live the old lamp!  Stay tuned for updates!


Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Definitely Not Paella

The best laid plans...  I had my mind set that I was going to make paella for dinner this week.  I was excited about the chunks of meat, mussels, shrimp...yum!  And then, slowly, everything fell apart. 

First problem, my paella pan was in the basement and I saw a spider, freaked out, and never looked back!  Second problem, I couldn't find any saffron at my local food store.  And I realized I didn't have an paprika.  Sooo...plan B.  The was definitely not paella anymore.

First, I cooked up some chorizo and then set it to the side...PS, I love chorizo! Then, I tossed in some chicken thighs that I seasoned with salt, pepper, oregano, and cayenne (in place of the paprika).  I start by cooking skin side down until it browns and gets slightly crispy. 

In a deep pan, I heated some olive oil and then tossed in garlic (lots of garlic), onion, and red pepper flakes.  This is when the kitchen starts smelling amazing!  In that same pan, I tossed in 2 cups of long grain rice and coated in the oil until it started to turn golden in color.  Then, the appropriate amount of chicken broth, a can of fire roasted tomatoes (for fun), bay leaves, and fresh parsley.  This needs to come to a boil, cover, then turn down the heat and let sit for about 20 minutes, then remove from heat and let sit for another 10 or know the routine.

At this point I realized I forgot to add chopped red pepper to the pan.  Instead, I threw it in the chicken pan once the chicken was done.  I figured this was better anyway because I didn't want the red pepper to overpower the taste of the rice.   I let these get all cooked up and tasty in the juices that cooked out of the chorizo and chicken. 

Then, I set aside the pepper, added in shrimp, and de-glazed the pan with some white wine...I think this was when I declared that this was definitely not paella. 

So once the rice was cooked, I stirred it up, added the sliced chorizo and white wine shrimp, stirred it up some more, and added the chicken to the top...ready to serve!
This was delicious!  And it made so much food that it made enough for two nights and a lunch! 

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Scavenger Hunt Sunday 4.10.11

It's been a looong time since we did one of these, but I took a lot of pictures this weekend and found a few snaps that meet this week's themes.  So here it goes...

1.  Motion

One of my favorite places on the Boardwalk is the carousel.  I remember riding it as a kid...though it seems to move faster than I remember!  I wanted to practice snapping motion shots and thought the carousel would be the perfect subject!

2.  Waiting to Click

Second favorite place n the boardwalk...the shootin' saloon.  Let me just say that I am not a supporter of guns.  But one of my greatest childhood memories is going to the Boardwalk with my dad to shoot fake guns at little targets that make things come to life!  I think the whole thing used to remind me of the George Harrison video, I Got My Mind Set on You.

3.  In Fashion

This weekend was my sister's wedding!  After a minor shoe crisis, I ended up wearing these fabulous heels!  The cutest flower girl you've ever seen was so excited about our fancy shoes that she wanted me to snap a picture.

4.  Animal's Perspective

I'm really trying to learn more about our Nikon3100.  I was walking with Booper (our kitty) across our wooden bridge and thought it might be neat to see the walk from his perspective.  I think I definitely could have done better with this picture...I wish I would have focused on something more clearly.   Better luck next time.

5.  Many

For my sister's wedding favors, she gave her guests a bottle of Verdi.  These were also her place cards so that guests could find their tables.  Great idea!