Archive | August, 2012

And the opposite of awesome is…

27 Aug

Your refrigerator dying. Yeah… so that happened to us yesterday.

My husband actually noticed on Friday evening that the fridge didn’t seem very cold. He went to a bachelor party that night and wasn’t home again until Sunday and he brought it up again. Clearly I didn’t notice it getting progressively warmer while he was away…

The milk had gone sour, and it was a similar sight in the freezer – ice cubes (aka wine cubes, broth cubes, lime juice cubes… all the things I freeze in ice cube form) were melting! So off to Home Depot we went (we don’t mess around!). When we bought the house in March we had plans to slowly upgrade all of our appliances (none of them match, are of varying ages, and this fridge is straight up old school white), so I mean it’s not REALLY that big of a deal that we had to buy a new one so soon. The only thing I’m worried about is losing the food! Have I mentioned I freeze everything? Have I also mentioned that I asked for and got a basement freezer for my birthday 2 months ago?? Um, yeah, THANK GOD FOR THAT! Our freezer is now only as cold as a refrigerator, and our refrigerator is as cold as… well, nothing really. All that’s left in there are beverages and produce. I moved all the refrigetator items to the freezer half of the non-functioning refrigerator, and all the freezer items are in the basement. And when I say “moved” I mean “frantically threw everything” into the basement freezer.

this WAS only half full before yesterday…

Not to fear – I saved the wine cubes!

refusing to let the wine cubes die

Oh, right, and I put all dairy products into a cooler. We bought it this summer and just noticed yesterday the label says “guaranteed to keep contents cool for up to 5 days!”. Let’s hope so!

(Our new fridge is being delivered tomorrow.)

-C

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Meals From the Salvage Yard (aka my fridge) – July

10 Aug

I have been pretty impressed with my “salvaging” abilities recently. What I mean by this is my ability to use up all the half eaten or about-to-go-bad things that are in my refrigerator/freezer/pantry. I think we should all shoot for zero waste! So in addition to composting and giving my guinea pigs the tops to the strawberries, green parts of cauliflower, and carrots that don’t look appetizing anymore, I love opening my refrigerator door and just staring until I find “the one”… or ones to plan my meal around.

Here’s a roundup of things I’ve salvaged this month (and then I’ll tell you what I did with them):

– Frozen stuffed shells (just the shells, not stuffed, I froze the extra from a meal I didn’t need them for)

– Frozen leftover cooked ground beef and onions (I cooked up a bunch of ground beef and froze the extra for a future quick weeknight meal)

– Frozen chopped green peppers (I buy a ton of green peppers at a time and chop them up and freeze them – they’re so easy to just toss into meals!)

– Cream cheese – one that had been opened and you know how air gets to it and it starts to not look so appetizing? Yeah. And another that was nearing its expiration date.

– Half eaten bag of raw spinach (I always seem to have a half eaten bag of spinach in the fridge.)

– Red onion that needed eating

– Strawberries leftover from making this awesomeness for 4th of July

– Feta cheese that needed eating

– Goat cheese that needed eating

– 1/2 an avocado

– Leftover barbecue chicken

– Leftover barbecue sauce

– Smokey gouda cheese that needed eating

As you can probably tell, I’m huge into freezing things. If you look in my refrigerator you would probably assume that we order out a lot, but no! Just look in my freezer…s. That’s right, I have two! I asked for one for my birthday because the one we had was just not cutting it, and I loooove it! It’s funny the different reactions I get when I tell people I got a freezer for my birthday – younger than me tell me that I’m old for asking for a freezer. Same age and older go “that’s so awesome!” or “I’m jealous!” Yeah, you should be. Because it’s AWESOME 🙂

Anyway… here are a couple of meals I created out of my salvage yard:

Strawberry Feta Wraps
– chopped strawberries
– handful of feta cheese
– chopped red onion
– about a cup of spinach
– whole wheat tortillas (pantry staple)

Dressing: Balsamic Honey Vinaigrette (yes, I googled Strawberry Feta Salad to find a suitable dressing!) 1/3 cup balsamic, 1/4 cup honey, 1/8 tsp garlic powder, 1/8 tsp salt, 3 tbs oil

Strawberry Avocado Salads
– chopped strawberries
– handful of goat cheese
– 1/2 avocado, chopped
– chopped red onion
– spinach for salad base
– chopped cashews (from the pantry)

Dressing: Garlic Dijon Red Wine Vinaigrette (again, I googled strawberry avocado salad for a suitable dressing!) 1/3 cup olive oil, 3 tbs red wine vinegar, 1 tbs dijon (I used brown because that’s what I had) mustard, 1 1/2 tbs sugar, 1/2 tsp salt, 1 clove minced garlic

Salvage Yard Meaty Pasta

YUM

– 1 tbs olive oil
– 1/2 cup chopped green peppers
– defrosted precooked ground beef/onion mixture
– jar of pasta sauce
– garlic powder
– Italian seasoning
– defrosted frozen non stuffed, stuffed shells
– cream cheese, softened (I used about 6 oz.)
– shredded mozzarella and parmesan cheeses
– basil

Preheat the oven to 375. Cook the peppers in a bit of olive oil in a skillet, add in the beef and onion mixture to heat it up. Pour pasta sauce in a sauce pan, add the beef mixture. My secret weapon is garlic powder. It gives sauce a zestiness that I love (I also figured out that’s the main ingredient in the “spaghetti sauce” packets at the store)! So I add a couple tablespoons of that, and some italian seasoning as well. Cook for about 10 minutes or until hot enough. Meanwhile, mix the cream cheese with a handful of mozzarella (and maybe a bit of parm) and about a teaspoon of basil. Stuff the shells with this mixture, lay each shell in a baking dish. When the sauce is done, pour over the shells. Sprinkle mozz and parm on top to your liking (the more the better for me!). Cook on the middle rack for about 25 minutes, or until cheese is golden (move it up a rack at the end if you like it crispy like I do!). Let stand for 10-15 minutes.

Barbecue Chicken Pizzas

before going in the oven

– whole wheat tortillas
– olive oil
– dried chopped garlic
– leftover barbecue chicken
– 1/4 cup chopped green peppers
– 1/4 cup chopped red onion
– leftover barbecue sauce
– ranch dressing (I always have homemade ranch dressing in my fridge!)
– small hunks of smokey gouda or white american cheese (I had both on hand)
– shredded mozzarella cheese

Preheat the oven to 375. I make tortilla pizzas a lot. It doesn’t hurt that they’re my husband’s favorite. No, I’m not kidding. I always start by shaking on some garlic and a tablespoon or so of olive oil onto my tortillas. I spread it around with a spoon until it covers the surface. I think it just gives the “crust” a bit more flavor. Add the chicken, peppers, and onion. Mix barbecue sauce and ranch dressing in a small bowl or cup. I do a 1-3 ratio (1 part barbecue sauce to 3 parts ranch), but that’s because I don’t like spicy things and I love ranch dressing! Take a spoon and drizzle it lightly over the toppings on the pizzas. A little bit goes a long way, taste-wise. Throw the cheese on top to your liking and cook until pizzas are golden and crispy (which usually takes tops 10 minutes).

White Bean Pasta Bake
– 1 box your choice pasta (I used tri color rotini)
– olive oil
– 1/4 cup red onion
– 1/2 to whole chopped green pepper
– 2-3 garlic cloves, minced (I always have a jar in my fridge… and get it from… the dollar store!)
– 2 cups raw spinach
– 1 can cannelini or white beans of your choice, rinsed
– shredded parmesan cheese (I always have a bag of parm, mozz, and cheddar in the freezer – you don’t even need to defrost them to use them on something hot!)
– cream cheese
– panko bread crumbs (pantry staple)

Cook the pasta 1-2 minutes less than recommended (because it’s going in the oven). Preheat oven to 375. Heat oil in a skillet – add onions and peppers and cook for a minute or two (a minute longer if the peppers were frozen like mine). Add garlic and spinach, toss until spinach is wilted. Remove from heat, toss in beans and pasta; add a handful of parmesan cheese and the cream cheese (I had a tub with some left in it, I probably used about 4-6 oz.). Toss until everything is mixed, pour into a baking dish. Sprinkle panko bread crumbs and more parmesan cheese on top. Cook for 15 minutes and then 2-3 minutes under the broiler.

===================================

Obviously salads and wraps are pretty easy to make with leftovers. I do pizzas a lot, too! And clearly my new favorite thing to do is add cream cheese to pasta. I stared it down in my refrigerator one night until I decided it wouldn’t taste weird in a pasta dish and it was delish!

Also – I made 8 lbs of pulled pork for the party and in addition to eating it on sandwiches, I put it on pizza and actually made it into a shepherd’s pie! Oh, and froze some. We probably still have 4 lbs of pulled pork in our freezer for when we someday can stomach the thought of eating it again.

Got any ideas for other salvage yard meals? I’d love to hear ’em!

– C

Baby Proofing Our House

9 Aug

My friend Lela is coming to visit this weekend with her baby/toddler. I keep calling him a baby, but he’ll be 2 in October, so that makes him a toddler… right? I think? You’ll find out in a minute just how baby clueless I am.

My family had no young children for like 18 whole years. Well, I mean my family that I see most often. First cousins. Second cousins and beyond there were probably some young’ins, but I was never really around them. My brother was the youngest of all us cousins for I think it was 18 years. Now there are two little ones, one who’s almost 3, and one who’s 2 weeks! But I still don’t get to see them that often. And, I’m racking my brain here, but I think the only (close) friend I have who has a child is the one coming to visit this weekend.

I don’t know anything about anything when it comes to kids. How old are they when they start walking? Talking? Driving? What do they eat? What do they watch on TV? Do kids still know how to get to Sesame Street?

So I’ve been bombarding my friend with emails concerning what he will eat and what kind of baby proofing I may need to do. Lol. Lucky for me, we have the puppy, so we already have some baby gates in place and there’s pretty much nothing on the floor or her height that she can get to, which, to me, can only be a step in the right direction for a 2 year old… right? Oh right, but my dog doesn’t stick her paws into electrical sockets (according to Lela, her son doesn’t either, but I did think about it – and obviously asked her). I also realized last night my dog also doesn’t reach for things (it’s that lack of opposable thumbs thing, I think) or open cabinet doors. We have lotttts of cabinet doors.

Lela said to just try to move things 3 feet off the ground. Which is kind of impossible in our guest bedroom unless I take everything off the book shelves. So I decided to just leave things I wouldn’t mind getting tossed around a bit, if it came to that. I do have the bookshelves covered in lace, so maybe that will deter him? Or maybe not. She also says that he doesn’t seek out to destroy things. Really?? Not all boys are like that? Because my brother sure as hell was! I’m pretty sure that’s why I am the way I am with all of my things. I keep my belongings nice because my brother always ruined his (and sometimes mine). Anyway, I started moving breakables up higher, but then I was like, OH NO, what if he reaches up for it and it falls on his head? Oh god. So basically I’ve kind of given up, because I don’t feel like installing 5 foot high floating shelves all around my house in order to keep things from breaking and/or being reached for. Lol. I seriously don’t know how parents do it – how do you permanently baby proof your house?? I’m literally going to have to do just that (the 5 foot high shelf thing) when we have kids. I can’t think of any other possible solution to keeping a child (not a visiting one, but a live-in one) from A – destroying things and B – not hurting themselves on things. LOL but not really because I’m serious.

Food! I asked around and got some suggestions on food he would eat. Lela said he’d “eat anything” which was totally unhelpful because OBVIOUSLY I was going to go out and buy things for him. This is the first baby/toddler/child of any sort that has EVER been in my house (let alone any of the apartments I lived in before). Just like I like to be accommodating for my guests, I need to be baby accommodating, too. Well, to an extent. I’ll let him play with my stuffed animals, but I’m not going to go out and buy him any toys or anything… ok really the only reason I’m not doing that is because I have no idea what’s age appropriate.

Otherwise I totally would.

But I digress. Back to food. As I was shopping for kid friendly foods (according to my research), I realized something interesting: My husband and a 2 year old pretty much have the same taste in food. I ended up buying things that I would buy for my husband if I were going to be out of town and he had to fend for himself. Mac n cheese, yogurt, and cereal. I was going to buy those smilie fries they make, but decided they were disgusting and if he didn’t like them I didn’t want to be stuck eating them. Plus we already have sweet potato fries in the freezer, so I figured he’d probably eat those. Maybe? I think the only thing I actually ended up buying for him, that wasn’t just an excess for my husband’s stockpile, was apple sauce. Oh, and cheese when she told me he’d eat cheese for hours.

Do 2 year olds drink kool-aid? I keep buying packets of kool-aid and don’t think I’ve made a pitcher in like 5 years. So really I’m just looking for an excuse to make me some kool-aid.

Also, I was way too happy when I realized I still have my rubber ducky towels from college. Go me! Kid friendly towels. Oh, and matching nightlight. Score. He better be all “I love these towels and nightlight!”

Or wait, maybe he can’t speak full sentences yet. I guess I’ll take “ducky”.

-C

Theme Parties Are Awesome – Christmas In July (Post Party)

1 Aug

 

banner made last minute… the “happy birthday” part never made it out. oh well!

Sorry.

SORRY. I know. I say “stay tuned” and then get busy… and… ok fine, A LITTLE lazy.

So you want to know how the party went, right?

Well, in true MY HUSBAND fashion, it did not go off without a hitch. Let me just tell you the whole story:

Our ruse was that our friends Cassie, Sarah, and Stevon were coming up to visit another friend of theirs Friday night for his birthday, but that they were going out of town the next day so they were going to stay with us Saturday night. My husband is seriously the hardest person to get out of the house. EVER. No joke. Nothing we came up with would have worked without him being suspicious. The best thing we got was him taking Stevvy to yoga, but I knew he’d be super embarassed coming back all sweaty to a bunch of people at his house. So… basically I just told him that when they got there, us girls needed to go to the store to run wedding errands (Cass is getting married SO SOON!), and that when we got back we had to do wedding crafts and that the boys needed to leave the house at that point. When I first told him this plan, he didn’t question it, because he had just come home from having drinks with a friend, and was just tipsy enough to not care, lol. But then, of course, he started questioning it. “What are we going to do?” “Why can’t we be here?” “How long do you NEED?” I am kind of a really bad liar, so when he asked these questions I was just like “I don’t know” “I don’t know” “I don’t KNOW”. Which actually worked to my advantage because eventually he came to the conclusion that we were helping Cass do a super secret wedding craft for Stevvy. So, I went with that, because it meant Stevvy absolutely couldn’t be around.

What I wanted to happen, was them to hang around the house while we did our errands, and then leave when we did our crafts. Since I know how hard it is to get my husband out of the house, I knew I wouldn’t have long, so I knew he wouldn’t be able to stay out for BOTH things. Just before we were leaving he asks Stevvy if he wants to go to the bar for a few beers. WHAT? NO! (was my actual response) And then I asked what he would do when we came back, if he went to the bar now. He said “walk the dog”. Ok, my husband takes the dog on long walks, but no more than 45 minutes. “How long do you think crafting takes? You need to be gone longer than it takes to walk Stevie.” He seemed to agree and accept what I was saying, and now, remember, HE thinks HE’s the one keeping Stevvy out of the house. When, in reality, it’s Stevvy keeping HIM out of the house. Win-Win, right? Off we go to run errands.

Then Cass gets a text saying they’re at the bar. SONOFA– are you kidding me?? So when we get home, I text my husband asking where he is, and when he says the bar, I say you better text me when you leave because we have to hide all the crafting stuff. Oh, btw, we told Stevvy to keep my husband out until 6pm. They probably went to the bar around 3.

They BOTH text us at 5:30 saying they’re on their way back. Because of course they do.

I literally RUN down the street (we live in a small little area between two dry towns, so all the bars are in walking distance), and try to intercept them. If they get down our street, game over. I’m running, in flip flops, because we have like nothing set up at this point. We had like a table and a cooler. I see them from afar (luckily Stevvy wore a red shirt that day) and quickly decide to run back and get the dog and make them walk her. I do this and tell them both they can’t be back until 6. They reluctantly agree and mumble something about coming back earlier if they have to go to the bathroom. Oh great. Just what I need. OK FINE TEXT ME IF YOU HAVE TO GO TO THE BATHROOM. Geez.

Off they go, back to the house I go. Ok we have 30 minutes. I’m lucky to have such helpful friends, let me just say that! Chopping fruit and veggies, running to the store for ice, setting up tiki torches and christmas lights. Oh, remember those duffel bags of decorations I prepped? Yeah, they never even saw the light of day. *sigh* The Christmas tree didn’t even get set up. I really wanted to do that! But luckily I had gone overkill on the food and chose things that were Christmassy, so they made up for it. Also the Christmas lights. Those were essential.

I didn’t even have time to put makeup on. I think I’d put on eyeliner earlier in the day?? And maybe (hopefully) deodorant?? I hadn’t even thought about what I was going to wear.

They texted us as they were walking up the street, and we pretty much just had to stop doing everything and get ready with our noisemakers when my husband starts walking up the driveway. He sees me, and has this confused look on his face. Even though we had just squealed our noisemakers at him, and I am now wearing a green dress versus the shorts and tube top I was wearing 30 minutes ago when he saw me, all he wants to know is why there’s an extension cord in our driveway (for the lights). Really?? Not why all these people are here, or why there’s all this food outside… just why there’s a GD extension cord in our driveway? Lol. To say the least, he was confused. Then he got it, and was really happy. I felt bad because there were a lot of people who couldn’t make it, but he was really happy that all the people that did were there. It also may or may not have had something to do with the fact that he and Stevvy had had FOUR beers while they were out. Way to go getting him drunk before his own party Stevvy!

Ok all that stress put aside, it turned out to be a good time. We had yummy food, pretty lights, and perfect weather. It had been close to 100 degrees here in the days leading up to the party, but it was only mid-80’s on Saturday. We got to sit in our back yard with our firepit for the first time since moving in (I love a good firepit!), and people got to see the house and meet the pup.

Ok now for the pics.

 

Christmas tree shaped veggie tray and Christmas shaped pizzas! Tree, candy cane, and Santa (I see it now, but totally couldn’t that night, lol)!

 

 

boom

 

bread bowl “wreath” – note the red pepper bow at the top!

I think I mentioned that I had to do some cooking at my neighbors – yeah, my 8lbs of pork in a crockpot at their house! Well my awesome neighbors also were truly awesome enough to pull off a couple ideas I threw their way – which were the Christmas shaped pizzas (although they came up with Santa on their own!), and the bread bowl wreath. I mean, how cool are our neighbors?

So, uh, I also had decided we were having beef and black bean burgers (we had a couple vegetarians)… and was inside prepping those things for quite a while since people were probably getting a bit hungry at this point. Anyway, my point is that I didn’t have much time to snap photos, and sorry this is blurry, but here is where we spent most of our night:

yay firepit and tiki torches! bugs be gone!

It may have been his “birthday” party, but that didn’t mean he got off the hook for cooking the burgers.

MIL – remember that apron? I was lucky enough to find it in the basement at the last minute!

Have I mentioned how much I love having a Christmas Tree Shop right by my house? We ran there on our “wedding errands” (aka liquor and tiki torch run). How perfect are these plates?

flamingoes wearing santa hats = awesome

I really wanted to do a lot of things, but one that actually got done was a holly in a mason jar with cranberries and candles project. It turned out super cute – we have holly in our backyard and even though I was unable to find cranberries in the store, pulled some sort of other red berries off one of the many unidentifiable plants in our backyard. Thank you Cass for putting it all together for me!

I’m not mentioning any names, but somebody was exhausted the next day.

it’s hard work being a puppy.
PS: she snores.

Also, I’d bought her a Christmas bandana to go on her collar and totally forgot to put it on her. So then I made her wear it for 3 days after the party until my husband made me take it off. Stevie and I decided she needs to have one for every holiday.

yup, still sleeping

-C