Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Leaping from the Weekend to Midweek

Happy Leap Day everyone!  I hope your extra day of the year is treating you well.  The weather here isn’t that pleasant, raining and gloomy.  We’re expected to get nearly 1.5 inches of rain today!   It has me wishing that we were back to last weekend, despite the high winds.  I’ll take wind over rain any day!

Over the weekend J and I wanted to take advantage of both of us having the day off from work.  We decided to take a day trip into Philadelphia, but didn’t know what to do.  We knew it was going to be windy so we decided to find somewhere we could be indoors for a while.  Initially we were going to head over to the Franklin Institute for their dinosaur exhibit, but after looking at the prices to go (there were separate costs to enter the museum and then the exhibit!) we decided that it was too expensive.  So we opted to a less educational spot and off to IKEA we went!

We left the apartment to a crazy flurry!  It was awesome, but then half-way down the street it became misting and then all of a sudden it was all gone!

J and I had fun walking through and thinking of ideas for our house one day.  I could spend all day in IKEA if you let me!  Unfortunately for us the store was in transition with their winter and spring displays so there were a lot of empty areas, which are usually filled with fun goodies.  We ended up purchasing a set of wine glasses (only $4.99 for 6), 2 wooden cutting boards, and a bookcase/table to put in our entryway.

Our stomachs were rumbling as we left the store so we ventured over to Reading Terminal Market to get some lunch and see if there were any yummy goodies to bring home with us.  After walking around for a bit J and I ended up getting cheese steaks (his steak and mine chicken) at By Georges.  They were delicious, not overly greasy and just the right amount of cheese.  We both only managed to eat half of our meals and brought the rest home with us (we later decided to just eat our leftovers for dinner instead of cooking).

Afterwards we walked around deciding if we wanted to purchase some seafood, meat, or fresh produce home with us.  This market has the biggest shrimp J and I have ever seen!  In the end we did not bring any groceries home with us, but stopped for ice cream on our way out.  We bought ice cream at Bassetts: J had a creamsicle shake and I had a grasshopper shake.  MMmm.

After arriving home J and I decided to go right into putting our new entryway table together.  The piece did unfortunately have a couple nicks here or there, but we managed to piece it together so that those edges would be against the wall.  Now all we need is better wall décor and a basket to throw our keys in.

In the end we hadn’t really done much over the course of the day, but it felt like the perfect Saturday.

Friday, February 24, 2012

New Recipe: Indian Chicken Wraps

I apologize for the lack of posts this week, well only kind of!  I had four day weekend from work and I fully enjoyed it.  I got caught up on some things around the apartment, but also managed to have fun time with J and my friends.  It was a great turnaround from last week where I felt like I could not get a single thing accomplished.

I haven't had a chance to try any new recipes or projects yet this week, but I remembered that I never shared one of the new recipes J and I tried last week with you!  This recipe came from (surprise, surprise) Food Network Magazine.  I did change it up a little to fit what we had in the apartment already(I HATE running to the store for 1 or 2 items because I always come home with like 10 more items than I meant to).  
My changes to the recipe:
  • No cumin or ginger.  However, I will say that next time I would absolutely add the ginger and cumin as it would have added a lot of flavor to the dish that I think it needed, we just didn't have it in our apartment at the time.
  • I did not use rotisserie chicken.  We had chicken at home and instead buying a chicken I just baked two chicken breasts and shredded them myself.
  • No naan or pita bread. I had some sandwich wraps in our fridge so we just used those instead and the wraps were still really delicious.
  • Greek yogurt instead of low-fat yogurt

Indian Chicken Wraps (From Food Network Magazine)

What you need:

  • 1 1-inch piece ginger, peeled (I omitted)
  • 1 chili pepper, chopped and seeded
  • 1/2 small onion
  • 1/2 tsp cumin (I omitted)
  • Kosher salt
  • 1/2 cup plain greek yogurt
  • 2 tsp lime juice
  • 1/3 cup chopped fresh cilantro
  • 1 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 2 cups shredded chicken
  • 2 medium carrots shredded
  • 2 or more wraps
What you'll need to do:
  • Put the ginger, chile, onion, cumin and dash of salt in a food processor and pulse until it is a thick paste.
  • Mix the yogurt, lime juice, and cilantro in a bowl then refrigerate until ready to use.
  • Warm the vegetable oil up in a large frying pan and add the paste you made initially and cook until  lightly toasted.
  • Stir in the chicken, carrots, and 1/2 cup water and cook until the entire mixture is warm.
  • Fill the wraps with the chicken mixture and spoon on some of the sauce that you placed in the fridge.
These wraps were really good!  Like I said before I definitely would make sure to add the ginger and cumin the next time we make it, but this is definitely a recipe I'd make again!


Thursday, February 16, 2012

Will you be my Valentine? (Red Velvet Cake Roll Recipe)

I guess it is a little late to be asking that question since it is the day after Valentine's Day...  I'm not a huge Valentine's Day fan and so J and I usually do not exchange gifts, this year was no exception.  This does not mean that we don't celebrate it though!  I planned a nice dinner for us to enjoy at home because I'm would not even consider going close to a restaurant on Valentine's Day, going to the grocery store was enough of a pain!

On my way home from my interview (I think it went pretty well!! Crossing my fingers that I get the job!) I stopped by the store to get ingredients for a new dessert recipe!  It was funny to see people who were definitely grabbing last minute flowers and cards for their loved ones.  When I got home I changed out of my suit and into baking clothes.

J really likes red velvet cake and I've never had any so I decided to try yet ANOTHER Food Network recipe this week!  I decided to make a Red Velvet-Cherry Cake Roll.  I've never made a cake roll before, but was definitely up for the challenge.

Red Velvet-Cherry Cake Roll by Food Network Magazine

What you need for the batter:
  • Butter (to butter the pan with)
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups cherry soda
  • 2 tablespoons Dutch cocoa powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 1/3 cup buttermilk (I made mine by taking a cup of milk and adding a tbsp on vinegar)
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 tablespoon red food coloring (this will turn it BRIGHT red!)
  • 2 teaspoons almost extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • Confectioners' sugar, for dusting
What you need for the filling:
  • 4 ounces cream cheese, softened
  • 1 1/2 cups cold heavy cream
  • 2 teaspoons almond extract
  • 1/3 cup confectioners' sugar
How to make the cake (Directions are from Food Network):

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter an 11-by-17-inch rimmed baking sheet and line with parchment paper; butter the parchment and dust with flour.
Bring the cola to a simmer in a medium skillet over medium-high heat and cook until reduced to 1/2 cup, 10 to 12 minutes. Let cool.

Whisk the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a bowl. In a separate large bowl, whisk the granulated sugar, vegetable oil, buttermilk, eggs, food coloring, almond and vanilla extracts, and the cola syrup.
 Stir the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients until just combined. 
 Spread the batter on the prepared baking sheet; bake until the cake pulls away from the pan, about 15 minutes. Let cool on the pan on a rack, 5 minutes.

Dust a kitchen towel (not terry cloth) with confectioners' sugar. Invert the cake onto the towel and peel off the parchment. Trim the cake edges. Starting with a short end, roll up the cake around the towel; let cool completely on a rack.

Make the filling: Whisk the cream cheese, 1/2 cup cream and the almond extract in a large bowl. Beat the remaining 1 cup cream and the confectioners' sugar with a mixer until soft peaks form; gradually fold into the cream cheese mixture. Chill until ready to use.

Unroll the cooled cake. Spread with the filling, then gently reroll the cake and transfer to a platter. Dust with confectioners' sugar.

This probably cracked because I didn't let the cake cool completely in the towel
While I was in the process of making the cake these arrived for me!

We enjoyed our delicious dinner of Salmon, rosemary potatoes, and cauliflower, and after letting ourselves digest a bit I pulled the cake roll out of fridge, sliced a piece for each of us and surprised J with some delicious cake!  For my first time experience with red velvet it was good, but I definitely enjoy other cake flavors better.

Hope all of you had a pleasant Valentine's Day!

Monday, February 13, 2012

Case of the Mondays? (Cajun Mac N Cheese)

Whoops! Forgot to hit post yesterday! Here is my post that was meant for yesterday!!

Typically Mondays are my least favorite day of the week, but to be honest with you today was pretty great.  At work a substitute was in for the main teacher I work with and I felt like a rockstar getting to take charge in the classroom.  My other classes were fun and interesting, my boring periods went by quickly.

J had some appointments today, but one of those was canceled so we were able to workout together which is a rarity now that he's back at work.  No one else was in our complex's tiny gym so we were able to talk and not annoy anyone else working out.  Fantastic, even though it was a tough workout!

I needed a tough workout however to workout the nerves I'm starting to get for my interview tomorrow.  Yes, you read that right! I have an interview for a teaching position tomorrow!  It may only be a long term substitute position, but it could be a step in the right direction for my teaching career.  While we worked out I went through a list of possible interview questions and answered them in my head to prepare myself for tomorrow.  Excited and nervous, but hopefully it goes well!

Something else that helps out my nerves is cooking.  Tonight I'm trying out a new recipe to share with all of you later on this week (hopefully this week isn't as hectic as last week).  But to tide you over here is a recipe that I tried last week and tweaked it to our preferences.

I recently got Food Network's March issue, "The Chocolate Issue" and everything looks pretty darn good, but I tried one of the few non-chocolate recipes: Cajun Mac N' Cheese.  Why did I want to try this?  Purely for the fact that the nutritional value was overwhelming. I"m sorry but 794 calories per serving...whhhhattt? And all the fat, but all that protein?  I adapted this recipe to try to make it healthier:

Cajun Mac N Cheese (adapted from Food Network Magazine)

  • Kosher salt
  • 1 box wagon-wheel pasta (Ours was a 1lb box)
  • 1 package ground turkey (ours was a little over a pound)
  • 2 bunches scallions, thinly sliced
  • 1 green pepper chopped
  • 1 tablespoon Cajun spice blend
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1.5 cups whole milk
  • 8 ounces sharp cheddar cheese (we bought ours already shredded)
You can pop over to the link above to get the cooking directions (mostly because I'm too lazy to type them up for you today when they are right there on the website!).

The main difference between their recipe and what I did was that I used more pasta, turkey instead of sausage, no olive oil and slightly less whole milk and mine yielded WAY more than 4 servings.  I would definitely say this recipe yields at least 8 servings.  I had a bowl and a half, J had 2 full bowls and we STILL managed to fill two tupperware containers full of this mac and cheese.  The only other thing that I would change about this recipe is taking out the flour and taste testing the whole thing before adding it because I felt like the pasta had an after taste of flour, which was kind of gross.  Other than that I would definitely make this meal again but split it in half and freeze the other part for a future meal.

Thats it for today!  Back to preparing for my interview!

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Weekend Happenings

This past weekend was a blast enough though I didn't get many things done around the apartment!  Saturday morning  J, my parents, and I had breakfast at a restaurant buffet in a few towns over expecting to eat something delicious only to be pretty disappointed in our meal.  The only food I really loved was banana bread french toast.  It was so good and because of all the flavor in the banana bread no syrup was necessary.  However, we've definitely decided it is is better to hit up one of the many delicious NJ diners for breakfast next time.

Onward we went to the Philly Auto Show.  We met up with my aunt and uncle who also happened to be at the show.  It was fun looking at all of the new models even though J has a relatively new car and I cannot afford a new car right now (my little car is going on 11 years this year!).  There were some really awesome old fashioned cars there and some trucks that J and I would consider if we were actually in the market to buy.

Afterwards we went to Reading Terminal Market to walk around.  We picked the worst time ever, however, because the place was packed with people trying to get some lunch.  On our way out we stopped at Bassetts for some ice cream, but since I still wasn't feeling all that great from being sick all week I only got a water.

On Sunday J had to work until close to game time.  My mom picked me up from my apartment and we headed home to spend the afternoon making pierogis.   For those of you who don't know, I'm half Polish and grew up on these delicious potato and cheese filled dumplings.  My mom, dad and I each taste tested one because we tried a new recipe for the dough, but also made a couple batches of my Babci's (polish for grandma) recipe.  While we cooked, the crockpot was cooking up my dad's delicious stew and the dogs were hanging around hoping for scraps.

Another day I will share this recipe with all of you.  It is a pretty simple process of making the dough and filling then creating a shell with the dough and filling it.  You seal the edges shut and boil the pierogis until they float to the top of the pot.  You can either fry them up to eat right then or put them in the freezer to eat later. We made a lot to freeze for later use.

When we were finished it was just about game time and J had finally arrived from work.  We sat down to eat and a lovely cold cat decided she wanted to curl up next to me for some warmth.  When the game was over the cat was not happy that I had to get up to head home.

Monday night J and I enjoyed our first batch of pierogis with grilled pierogis and asparagus.  They were delicious!!

Hope all of you had a great weekend and beginning to your week.  I'm happy we've hit the halfway point, but I still have so much to accomplish this week.

Friday, February 3, 2012

DIY: Decorated Vases, Jars, Etc..

It is unfortunate that while we’re getting warmer weather here in NJ, I’m developing a bit of a cold.  I started with the sniffles Monday, but Tuesday it was a full-fledged cold and even now I’m not feeling much better.  Unfortunately since I get paid per diem I’ve had to go to work each day even though I’d rather be in bed all day.  It is a good thing then that I finished my wall art décor this past weekend and another fun DIY to match my wall art since I haven’t accomplished much of anything this week.

This DIY idea was something I came across while seeing what was on sale at Michaels this past weekend.  I saw a link to a Martha Stewart project.  This cute vase was something that looked simple enough to do and required many of the same products that I was already purchasing for the wall art.  My intention was to only buy one vase, but at only $2.50 a piece I decided a second vase and a jar would be a good addition to my purchase.

In the end I purchased the following (Items from my wall art decor project are also in this image):
-2 Vases
-1 Jar
-Paint (same paints I used for my last project)
-Quilters and Electrical tape (1/4” and ¾” respectively) *Side Note: I wanted to purchase painters tape but could not find it in ¼” length
-Same sponge brushes as my wall art project just cleaned and dried from previous use
-Fake daisies (Especially since the vase I was going to put them in was going in our bathroom which gets no sunlight during the day, fake seemed the way to go)

First things first, make sure to wash and clean the vases and jar with soap and let them dry thoroughly.  My acrylic paint also said to wash the glass with alcohol, but I skipped this step (it probably would've helped a bit more as I was removing the tape because some of the paint started to come up with the tape).  

As with my wall art project, this requires you to tape the glass up before you paint.  I recommend you really think about what design you want on the item you are painting.  The more you criss-cross the tape on the glass, the tougher it can be for clean lines to appear on the glass.  That being said don't be afraid to experiment with different designs!

My recommendation is that if you are doing a couple of pieces like I did, that you only work with items that are using the same color at the same time.  Working with too much paint can cause accidents when painting and also requires fewer paint brushes and palates to work with.

I did three layers for all of the colors I used in order to make them totally opaque (the red I almost considered a fourth layer, but when the paint dried after the third I was happy with how it looked).  I let the paint dry until it was dry to touch before taking the tape off.  I only had a few problems where  the paint tried to come up with the tape, mostly with the tiny stripes that I made. 

What I love about these is that they now match other things that are in the same room without being overly matching.  I put the fake daises in the vase meant for the bathroom and I will fill the jar with ear cleaners when I get a chance.  As for the red vase for our living room, I put our tv remotes in it so we don't have to worry about searching for them anymore.

I absolutely love how these turned out!  If you try this yourself please leave a comment with pictures of your work!!