Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Here we go...again?

Well I have been thinking about jumping back into this again, so here we go! No commitments to frequency, but I have been considering items to blog about. Since my life has flipped upside down recently I figure this is a good way to keep myself productive and contributing to, well...who knows what, but it will make me feel good about what I'm doing.

Here goes nothing! Cheers to what's ahead!

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Carrot Cake w/ EASY Cream Cheese Frosting

This has been one of my favorite baked good challenges. Every year I've been trying to perfect my carrot cake and frosting; I think I have finally done it. I took my favorite aspects of each recipe I used in the past, pieced them together, and created this:

it is so moist, so dense, so delicious. Now since there is ALWAYS room for improvement, next time I plan to split the cake into 2 9x13 pans and make a double layer 9x13 cake with icing in the middle. Not that this one isn't good, but let's face it, there's always room to improve!

  • 6 cups grated carrots
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 1/2 cups white sugar
  • 1 cup applesauce
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 - 20 oz can crushed pineapple
  • 3 cups flour
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 4 tsp ground cinnamon
  • Combine grated carrots and brown sugar, let sit together while you make the other parts of the recipe
  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees F, grease 9x13 pan (one or two)
  • Beat eggs, slowly add in sugar, applesauce, vanilla, and pineapple.
  • Combine flour, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon; add to the wet mixture and mix until all is moist. 
  • Stir in the carrot mixture, mix well, be cautious to not leave clumps of brown sugar
  • Bake for 45-55 minutes, or until cake is done, in preheated oven
  • Cool and frost with easy-peasy cream cheese frosting
Calories: 232 calories per serving (18 pieces)

Easy-Peasy Cream Cheese Frosting
  • 8oz neufchatel (cream cheese)
  • 4 cups powdered sugar
  • 2 tsp vanilla
  • Blend all together using electric mixer, do NOT add more of anything until you have combined it all; the powdered sugar absorbs rather quickly, but may start out looking clumpy and chunky. 
Calories: 137 calories per serving (18 servings)

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Banana Cream Pie Bars

One can only eat so much banana bread before realizing that there must be a more inventive way to use up overly ripen bananas. Bring in the banana cream pie! But in trying to watch calories and still enjoying treats, I wanted to find a way to make the banana cream pie healthier. This recipe originated from kraft, but tweaked to be healthier (and in my opinion, tastier). 

  • 3 overly ripe bananas (frozen or thawed)
  • 20 vanilla cream cookies, crushed (about 2 cups)
  • 2 boxes of vanilla pudding (use SF if you're looking to cut calories)
  • 3 cups cold, skim milk
  • 1 container light cool whip


  • Preheat oven to 325 degrees F, grease 9x13 pan
  • Mix together crushed cookies and bananas to create the crust (I used my kitchenaid mixer for this, which helped to make the process much easier)
  • Press into bottom of dish until evenly distributed
  • Bake for 8 minutes, let cool for 10
  • Beat pudding mix and milk with wire whisk for 2 minutes
  • Pour roughly 2 cups of pudding mix onto cooled crust and spread evenly across crust
  • Combine cool whip into remaining pudding, spread over top of pudding
  • I left mine in the fridge overnight, but the recipe says it should be ready after 3 hours. 

To create the perfect squares I used my perfect brownie pan insert to outline where the cuts should go. I tried to push down into it to cut it, but since the dish is curved it didn't work as well as I would have liked. But I did get perfectly sized bars, which I was very pleased about! 

Calories: 182 per bar (18 bars)

If you use sugar free pudding and vanilla wafers like the original recipe recommends (I didn't have vanilla wafers, so I worked with what I had) you'll be saving about 40 calories per bar! 

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Hello April!

April is a good month. I'm not too sure what makes it good, but it is good. Easter, spring blooms, a few steps closer to summer - all very good things. Did you know that April and July always start on the same day of the week? Just a little fun fact for you!

April also starts the wedding season. I haven't blogged much about my wedding planning and such, and I don't really plan to...mostly because it's not as exciting for you as it is for me, and quite frankly it really isn't that exciting to me. Please don't misunderstand, I'm enjoying the process of wedding planning, and I am SO looking forward to being married, but what is enjoyable to me about the planning process is the time Keith and I spend together deciding how we want to celebrate our day. Those moments together are treasured.

There are so many fun little holidays in April: earth day, arbor day, april fools day...April is also poetry month, and I LOVE poetry. Mostly short, fun poetry; the longer stuff isn't as appealing to my taste buds.

But what I love most about April is Easter. The time spent together as a family remembering and commemorating how we gained our freedom. No matter how many times I hear the story there is something about hearing it again that makes the hairs on my neck stand up and think "wow, THAT was done for me." Tonight at Church we played a word association game and as the pastor started listing different days (Christmas, good Friday, Easter) and asking us to say the first thing that came to mind after hearing the word, he would then whisper "Jesus"; what a good, simple reminder it was for me to not lose sight of what this celebration is all about. In a sense, tonight feels like Christmas eve...the people so many years ago didn't even know what was in store for them tomorrow!

With all of that said here's a big "Happy Easter!" from me to all of you...and a reminder not to forget what this day is all about!

Friday, April 6, 2012

Strawberry, banana, chocolate ICE CREAM

I've seen many recipes using frozen bananas to create an "ice cream" treat; since ice cream is one of my favorite treats I decided to give it a try. I started off using my mini food chopper, but halfway through I realized that wasn't going to work and switched to my magic bullet. 

          • 1 frozen banana, chopped             
          • 3 strawberries, chopped
          • 1 tbsp cocoa powder

Blend it all up together

It didn't turn out as ice creamy as I would have liked, so I tried to freeze it, but then it was too hard. Overall, I think it was more of a smoothie like consistency, and not as sweet, but I think if I added a packet of splenda/truvia this could have helped to make it sweeter. I also think next time I will blend the bananas, then fine chop the strawberries and add them in because I like to have little bits of goodness in my ice cream.


  • 1 banana, frozen
  • 3 strawberries, halved
  • 1 Tbsp cocoa powder
  • 2 Tbsp water
  • 1 packet of sweetener (optional)


  • Blend banana, water, cocoa powder, and sweetener until smooth
  • Chop strawberries into small pieces and fold in; if you like little bits of goodness in your ice cream, otherwise blend in with the other ingredients. 

Thursday, March 22, 2012


Inspired from this recipe, and the desire for something spicy, I whipped up some shrimp-less jambalaya this week. 

I'm not going to post the recipe, because there isn't much I changed. I will say that the recipe says to cook it on low for six hours (or something around that) but I cooked mine for ten since that is how long I am gone and it turned out just fine. 

I shredded the chicken in my kitchenaid mixer at the end, tossed it back in, gave it a stir and served it up! It was a delicious dinner, but I don't think I'll make it again. It used a lot of meat and I didn't feel like it was worth it. Meat is expensive and I like to try and make it last, using one main meat per night and filling up on veggies and sides. 

Wednesday, March 21, 2012


I love bacon. I love wrapping things with bacon, I love putting bacon on my food, sometimes I just like to sit and eat it. There is something about this unhealthy, salty meat that just makes my belly say "YUM!"

However, cooking bacon is a mess. I always set off the smoke alarm, I always splatter myself with grease, and I always have a yucky stove to clean at the end of the day. I realized that you can make bacon in the OVEN! Yes, people, there are directions directly on the package of how to do this. HOW DID I MISS THIS!?

So I tested it out last week, and it worked great! I still set off the smoke alarm (go figure), but the mess was SO much easier to clean! I lined my baking sheet with foil which allowed me to just peel the foil off and toss it at the end of the baking session. The bacon came out delicious! I would have liked it to be a little crispier, so next time I'll leave it in longer. But it still turned out tasty and was great on my pizza, in my jambalaya, and for the homemade bacon bits for my salad.

Do you have any tips for cooking bacon? Mostly, how to not set off the smoke alarm. I thought using turkey bacon would make a difference, but it doesn't. I keep the fan on the oven running, I open the windows (even in the middle of winter), and still off they go! Any pointers would be great! 

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

A couple of quick, simple tricks

Who am I to say if you will be as excited about these minor revelations I experienced this week, but I was too excited not to share them! Since Keith only gets vaguely excited about these life changing tricks, I needed to share it with others who may understand a little more.

I have a love-hate relationship with onions. I love them in my food, I hate preparing them. I heard a trick once (on a Brady Bunch episode actually - haha!) that if you cut them under cool water they don't burn your eyes. My eyes are ridiculously sensitive. No, really, it's utterly ridiculous. They water with any irritation, they burn if the sun is too bright, it's just obnoxious. The combination of my overly sensitive eyes and desire to have onions lead me to be willing to try anything, even a trick off some "old" sitcom. I wasn't really sure how I was going to go about doing this...the big question was - how do I cut in my sink? SO I crafted this little contraption:  

I found a cutting board that fit the width of my sink and tucked it in until it was secure. I turned on the cool water and began to cut. I was apprehensive at first, waiting for the burning to start, the obnoxious watering, and then the sharp pain...but none of it came! NONE. Not one single tear, not one single sting, burn, or irritation!! IT WORKED! I will never doubt the Brady Bunch ever again. NEVER.

The second exciting revelation I made this week you may be able to see underneath that cutting board in the picture above. I don't have a disposal in my sink. After growing up with a disposal, and having one at my apartment, I came here and just didn't know what to do with myself. It has been quite the transition, including a lot of clogging, picking, and some simply disgusting moments of my life.

here's a closer picture in case you can't see it as well.

it's a bowl, just a simple plastic bowl. And when I put it under the cutting board, I push it towards the front. Then, I put the water so it is drizzling more towards the back. As I peel and cut various veggies or what not I am able to put the scraps of trash into the bowl and the water doesn't get into it. Once I'm finished chopping I simply take out the bowl and trash the contents! It's not disposal, but it certainly gets the job done for now!

So there you have it, my minor life-changing revelations. Were they as life changing for you as they were for me?

Monday, March 19, 2012

Sleep Sack

Step 1:  the edges

  • Measure 25 inches down the middle and 24 inches down each side (about 3 inches in from the side. I used a brown paper bag for my pattern template, it was 16 inches across. 
  • Once you have each dot measured, play connect the dots and make a curve
  • To ensure each side is even, fold the bag in half and trim the bottom curve

it should end up looking something like this

Step 2:  the armholes

so initially, I measured a 4 inch arm hole, but didn't feel like this was enough at the end, so I trimmed it down and made it a 5 inch arm hole. To eliminate all this, just measure a five inch angle, draw a line and cut across.

Step 3:  the neck

  • measure in 2 & 1/4 inches from the arm hole cut and make a dot. Do this on each side. This should give you enough room to put your protractor down. Trace the outside of the protractor

it should end up looking something like this

  • Cut out the neck along the line. This makes the front of your sleep sack. 
  • For the back of the sleep sack, take the cut out from the neck and trace the inside of your protractor on it. 
  • angle your lines and cut it out

it should end up looking like this

You now have a reusable sleep sack pattern!

Step 4: Using your pattern

  • Trace the pattern on your fleece, don't trace the neck. Cut out 2
  • Trace the front neck on one of the pieces and the back neck on the other
  • Cut out the neck line on each piece, make sure your fabric is separate!

it should end up like this

Step 5: Sewing

  • using your zig zag stitch, serge the edges that will not be sewn. This is basically the whole top - start at the bottom of one armpit and work your way around the neck to the bottom of the other armpit. Make sure your two pieces of fabric are separate for this step and do this to each piece. 
  • Once this is finished, turn your pieces right sides together, so it looks inside out. 
  • Starting at the bottom of one armpit sew a straight stitch down, around the bottom, and up to the other side ending at the bottom of the other armpit. 
  • Turn right side out

it should look something like this

  • you can choose whatever fasteners you would like...I like to keep things easy so I did some velcro on the shoulders. 

VOILA! A simple cozy sleep sack! 

Sunday, March 18, 2012


I've had four blog posts started and drafted since Monday night. It seems that each time I went to start one of the posts, something else would catch my attention and I would drift away from the blog, giving in to the thief of my attention.

Most of it was good stuff, okay all of it was good stuff: Skype dates with friends, real in person friendship dates with friends from far away (Lima and Kansas City!), snuggles on the couch (my favorite!), a Bulls' game, a new recipe, a quick project, etc. Needless to say it has been a busy week, and the weekend was packed as well!

We are in the process of building a house. Well, we have been in the process of building a house for sometime now, but as the wedding date approaches so does the finalization of the house. This weekend we headed to an auction at the Kane County Fairgrounds, one that we go to each time it's in town, with the hopes to purchase a few more things for the house.

Let me list for you what we already have:

  • exterior stone (bought at last year's auction)
  • kitchen cabinets and counter tops (bought off a showroom for a FRACTION of the cost)
  • bathroom vanity and laundry room cabinetry (from same showroom)
  • 14 windows and a door (purchased at the auction this weekend)
  • steam dryer
  • microwave oven
  • warming drawer (for the kitchen, odd, but it was a good deal)
  • stove (all 4 above purchased from an auction)

Where is all this stored you ask? Well, if I had a picture of Keith's garage, I'm not sure I'd want to show you. It's packed. There is a walkway to get from the door out and to the deep freezer, but that's about it. The dryer, microwave, warming drawer, and stove are at my parents' house...have I mentioned they live in Texas? Not to mention the rubbermaid bins filled with decor and supplies, the shelves with boxes of random things, and interior & exterior lights, all stored in the basement.

I am extremely excited about the new house, and am even more excited about all the deals we've been able to find. What I am not excited about is how cluttered and chaotic it makes me feel. So this morning I started to purge. Since I can't get that stuff out of here (not that I want it gone, I just want it where it belongs), I began to cleanse myself of things I really don't need. Anything that I didn't wear this winter (with the exception of professional clothes since this season didn't require much professional wear) was put in a donate bin. Anything I felt just "meh" about, anything that doesn't fit (big or small), anything that didn't go with anything I currently own; all of it was purged.

Then, I sat down for a break and hopped on pinterest. Initially it was to look through my dinner recipes board to decide what should be for dinner this week, but after a few minutes of going through my boards, I started purging my pins. Holy smokes did I have a lot! And a lot of pins that, while they were great ideas, or cute things, they were things I did not need to covet. Things I will never make, things I will never eat, things I will never try, or things I will never do. While I like to THINK I will, I won't, and holding on to these pins allows me to covet what I do not have, and that is unnecessary.

After all this purging, fresh air, a walk outside, and a good (finally) relaxing day, I am ready to get back into the swing of things - blogging included. I promise to have more blogs this week than last (not hard to do!), and I hope to keep up with it all. The weather is beautiful though, so if I don't get to you as soon as you would like I apologize...but 80 degrees in March is rare and I am taking full advantage of it, so you're just going to have to be okay with it.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Cookie Cake

I. Love. Cookie. Cake. 

Did you hear me? I LOVE IT!!!!

I especially love Jewel's cookie cake. I try not to buy it because it's a little pricey, and a lot unhealthy. With that said, recently, I have been craving it like crazy, and the answer to the craving has been NO. So, when Keith requested chocolate chip cookies this weekend, I decided to use half the batter to reinvent the cookie cake I love so much. I changed the recipe up a bit to try and make it more cake-like and it turned out so yummy!

I followed the original Nestle Tollhouse recipe, except I replaced the butter with applesauce. I also cut the recipe in half and it was enough to make a dozen cookies and this cake. 

To get the size and shape, I poured it into a round cake pan and filled it up about 3/4 of an inch. I cooked it for 13 minutes (but kept checking it after 10), until a knife came out clean.

I had read a trick on pinterest that if you whip your frosting from a jar (yes, I know, frosting from a jar is cheating, but I have some left over and need to use it up!)  it doubles. I can't vouch that it doubled, but it definitely seemed like there was more, and it made it easier to decorate with!

 Final product:

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

No Sew Scarf

I originally saw this scarf idea on a morning news segment, but was slightly intimidated by how to make it. I've never been a very good cutter...as in, I can't cut straight to save my life and my hands are about as steady as a girl on a first date (can you imagine how trembly they were on my actual first dates!?). So I put it off for a while, and just figured I wouldn't make it. Then I found a tutorial on pinterest and thought "okay, maybe I CAN do this."

But I avoided it for another few weeks. Then, last weekend, I finally did it. I mustered up the courage, put my best foot forward, and gave it a try. I started with some leftover scrap fabric from JoAnn's ($3), a lamp shade, shears, and a washable marker. 

  • Trace lampshade onto fabric - some tutorials say use a paper plate, I do not have said paper plate in my office that is two floors above the basement, where we keep the paper plates, so I went for something similar in shape and size...and something that wasn't all the way in the basement (I may exercise, but I'm still lazy!).
  • I was really, really paranoid about messing this up, so I measured one inch increments across the diameter of the circle. As I started cutting I did my best to match up with these lines so that each strip was about one inch wide. 
  • I cut about 4 pieces of fabric at a time (brave, but it's easier to cut a few at once than one...the thicker it is the more stable it feels to me).
  • Once finished I wrapped around my neck and tied off with a scrap piece of the same fabric. You can tie the scarf however you like, this was just the way I chose to do it the first time I wore it.  
I didn't give much of a detailed explanation because there are so many tutorials out there that I'm sure you can find one if you want. I'm just excited that it turned out as cute as it did, and love the outfit I matched it up with! I also had a pair of grey boots on, which you can't see in the picture, and would like to point out that I have cleaned the bathroom since this post (hence no dirty mirror ;)). 

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Taco Casserole: A way to use up the crumbs at the bottom of a tortilla bag

I don't like to waste, especially when it comes to food, since I work so hard to purchase only sale items, clip coupons and stick to a budget. With that said there are some things that get left because I'm just not sure how to enjoy them; one of the big ones is the bottom of a bag of tortilla chips. You know, the crumbly crunchies that aren't good enough for dipping, but too good to throw away? The last two bags of tortilla chips have sat in the pantry about 1/8 of the way full with crumblies, I just didn't have the heart to let them go. Then I remembered about a recipe I had seen on pinterest, but hadn't pinned (I hate when I do that!); with a little googling and searching through blogs, I was able to find a good starting point for a tortilla casserole. 

This recipe is adapted from here. I like to give credit where credit is due, and since I did not 'create' this recipe, I want to offer you all the original creation, as well as my variation. 

  • Bottom of the bag crumbs from bag of tortilla chips
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 Tbsp red pepper flakes (add more if you want more of a kick, I'll be adding more next time!)
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 bell pepper, chopped
  • 1 tomato, chopped
  • 1 cup mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 pound turkey
  • 2 Tbsp taco seasoning
  • 1 can kidney beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 cup salsa
  • 2-3 cups mexican cheese
  • Heat oven to 350
  • Heat oil and red pepper flakes in large skillet
  • Add onion, peppers, and mushrooms; sauté until soft
  • Add meat and seasoning, cook thoroughly
  • Add beans, salsa, and tomatoes; simmer for about 5 minutes
**If your skillet is small, remove the veggies once soft, cook the meat, then add beans, salsa, and tomatoes to cook. Mix altogether in a bowl before pouring over chips.
  • Line the bottom of baking dish with crumbly tortilla chips. 
  • Spread the meat and bean mixture over the chips and top with cheese. 
  • Bake for 18-20 minutes until cheese is melted.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Ruffled Scarf - under $2!!

I am loving the new fashion scarf trends lately, the only problem is I can't justify spending $12-$15 on one of these things! So off to JoAnn's I went, and thank goodness for that remnants bin! I found quite a few different goodies in that bin, but one was this gorgeous burnt orange cotton. There was just under a yard of it, which cost me $1.80. 

Step 1: cut into 6" wide strips. My fabric was 45" long, the standard length of fabric when you buy it on the roll. 

Step 2: Using the zig zag stitch, attach all 4 pieces together so you have one very, very, very long piece. 5 yards long to be exact. 

 Step 3: I started off pinning the ruffle, but this was too much work, so I ended up just pinching and sewing slowly.

I used a zig zag stitch set on it's longest stitch length. I sewed from top to bottom using this technique, backstitching at the start and finish. 

And ended up with this: 

It looks a bit like a lion's mane in this picture, but after playing around with it for a bit and tying it more loosely I made it look less like a lion's mane and more like a cute accessory! 

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Mini Chicken Pot Pies

There are a thousand things you can do with a crescent roll. Actually, I'm sure there are more than a thousand things you can make with these wonderful things, but I can only think of a thousand (kidding) so I'm sticking with that number.

Chicken pot pie is one of my favorite comfort foods, but the ones you buy in the store are over 600 calories and ridiculously high in sodium; the only time I eat chicken pot pie is when I make it from scratch, which isn't often since it's a bit tedious. 

But then I found this. 

do you see where I'm going with this? 

Initially, I had followed this recipe and wrapped it up in a crescent roll. But let me tell you at the end when it says add only a tablespoon of flour, it means only add a tablespoon! I added more because I didn't think it would thicken up, not thinking about how it would thicken up as it sat! Silly me!

So, when it came out of the oven, it was not as runny as the normal pot pies are...so I ended up heating the soup up and pouring it over the mini pot pies...which lead me to the  idea of just using the soup to make these little tasties! I haven't tried it yet, and I think if I did I would add some chicken to the soup, but I think it would work -- don't you!? 

Monday, February 20, 2012

Homemade Granola Bars - NO BAKE!

I love granola bars. They are a great snack that are simple to throw in my lunch box for the afternoon starvation that overtakes my body at work around 5:00pm...when I still have an hour and a half left to go and don't feel like I'm going to make it...

When I started looking up recipes for this I found a lot that you had to cook, and I found a lot of great recipes for making actual granola...but that all seemed like quite a bit of work that I wasn't ready to invest for something I wasn't sure I was going to like. Then I came across some that I really liked, but didn't have all the ingredients. SO I took the basics of each recipe and pieced it together to create something that resembles a granola bar. 

I made 2 variations, trying different add ins and such. Each recipe made about half a 9x9 pan. The second recipe tastes the best, but it didn't firm up quite like the first. I think if I added less applesauce and maybe a smidgen more peanut butter it would allow for it to be a bit stickier and firm up better. I ended up putting the second pan in the freezer which helped it firm up, but I'm not sure how they will hold up in my lunch box.

Chocolate Craisin
  • 1 cup oats
  • 1/3 cup craisins
  • 1/2 cup applesauce
  • 1 tbsp cocoa
  • 1/4 cup peanut butter

Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip 
  • 1 cup oats
  • 1/2 cup applesauce
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1 tbsp peanut butter
  • 4 tbsp chocolate chips
Directions: for both recipes melt peanut butter mixed with applesauce in microwave for about 30-45 seconds. Mix all additional ingredients into bowl and press down into greased pan to desired thickness using wax paper. Let it set in fridge for about 2 hours. 

I've also thought about using marshmallows instead of peanut butter to make a s'more granola bar. The applesauce I used was with cinnamon, because that is what I had, but in the future I think I will use plain. I used the applesauce in place of butter which the other recipes called for. Since part of making my own granola bars is to control what is going in them, I didn't feel like putting a stick of butter into them was very beneficial. Plus, the applesauce adds a little bit of healthy sweetness to the bar.

Each bar had about 100 calories, which is what the chewy granola bars have, BUT my granola bars have only ingredients you can pronounce!