Sunday, January 22, 2012

Valentine's Crafting Spree

1 mega-pack of Valentine scrapbook paper
+ Styrofoam wreaths & balls
+ 100 felt squares
+ 2 packages yarn
+ ribbon
+ doilies
+ 3 episodes of Biggest Loser
+ 2 episodes of The Bachelor
+ scissors, tape, glue, & pins
Happy Katie!

Valentine's Day has always been a favorite holiday in our family since my mama's birthday is February 14th!  Growing up, Valentine's Day was a big deal, and I think that's why I like it so much now.
Last week, I went on an all-out Valentine's crafting spree.  Pinterest was inspiring me left and right with Valentine's crafts, and I couldn't choose, so I made them all.  Brent was out of town three nights this week on interviews.  Armed with a glue gun, a glass of wine, and a full DVR, I got to crafting.

Candle Holders:  mason jars, doilies, felt, & yarn
{inspiration here}
Wreathstyrofoam ring, felt, pins, & ribbon
{inspiration & tutorial here}
Felt Flowersstyrofoam balls, felt, & pins
{i loved the wreath so much, i created these flower balls using the same technique}
Valentine Frameold frame with glass taken out, scrapbook paper, & adhesive glitter letters
{inspiration here}
Heart Banner:  scrapbook paper, glue, & ribbon
{inspiration here}
Lovebird Art:  cheap frame, scrapbook paper, & glue
{inspiration here}
Argyle Hearts Wreath:  styrofoam wreath, yarn, pins, & felt
{inspiration here}
Heart Tree: white vase, branches, & heart ornaments (from Michaels)
{i saw these ornaments and got the idea of a rustic Valentines tree centerpiece}
Just in case you need more inspiration to decorate for Valentines Day, here's a conversation that happened at our house last night:

B:  Oh, by the way... I made reservations at ____ (fave restaurant) for Valentine's Day!
K:  What?  Seriously?!  Like you already called and made a reservation?
B:  Yep.
K:  That was so incredibly sweet of you. Thank you!  Wow.  You are like the best husband ever.
B:  I know.
K:  Did the Valentine's decorations make you think of it?
B:  Yeah, I guess they kinda did.  I was like, "Oh, I guess she wants to celebrate Valentine's this year!"

:-)  Love him.

Happy early birthday, Mom!  I think of you when I look at all my new Valentine's decor!

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Winter Weeknight Wonder

This week, I made a delicious dinner that was healthy, savory, and comforting.  What a combo, right?  It also has very little prep time since you get to let your oven do all the work.  Not to mention, the leftovers were completely dreamy.  Just because it's a weeknight doesn't mean you can't have an awesome, nice (and easy) meal.

Asian Spiced Pork Tenderloin
I know there are a lot of ingredients in the marinade, but I find that I usually have 80% of these ingredients on hand on any given day, so it's pretty easy to throw it all in a Ziplock bag.  Truth be told, you don't even need to measure exactly.  It's a marinade, so I just throw stuff in and approximate.  The tenderloins can marinate as little as 30 minutes or as much as 12 hours.  I think an hour is optimal, so throw them in the fridge to marinate when you get home from work, and they'll be ready to cook at dinnertime.

Marinate 1 or 2 pork tenderloins in a big Ziplock bag with:
3 cloves crushed garlic
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
3 tablespoons canola oil
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons grated fresh ginger (dried will do in a pinch)
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
1 tablespoon brown sugar
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
pinch of salt & pepper

After tenderloins have marinated, sear them over high heat in a skillet, browning on all sides.  Place on a rimmed baking sheet and roast at 405 degrees until desired doneness (totally depends on the size of your tenderloins) - It's OK to use a knife to check inside and see if it's done.  Let rest on a cutting board for 3 -5 minutes, then slice.

Maple Roasted Brussels Sprouts
Growing up, I hated brussels sprouts.  Just recently, they have become chic and trendy, so I decided to try them again.  They are SO GOOD.  I eat them right off the baking sheet like candy.  I think the trick is roasting instead of boiling.  These are salty, crispy, and sweet.  And healthy.  Love.

Bag of small organic brussels sprouts
Olive oil
Maple syrup

Slice brussels sprouts in half vertically.  Toss sprouts with a drizzle of olive oil, salt, and freshly ground pepper.  Roast at 405 degrees for 10 - 15 minutes.  Toss once with a spatula during cooking.  Some little leaves will fall off and become deliciously browned and crispy.  This is a good sign.  When the sprouts are ready, take them out of the oven and drizzle a little maple syrup over the top (just a little!)  Toss.  Return to the oven and broil for about a minute.  Oh, yuuuuuuuuuuuum.

Onion Rice
My mom used to make this a lot growing up, and it smells absolutely WONDERFUL in the oven - like a big pot of onion soup.  I have changed the recipe a bit since the original called for a whole stick of butter and a ton of salt (Yipes!).  It's just as good slimmed down.

1 cup regular white rice - not instant. (I used jasmine rice)
1 can Campbell's french onion soup
1 can water
1 tablespoon butter

In a small baking dish, stir together rice, can of soup, can of water, and butter.  Cover tightly with foil and cook at 375 for 30 minutes covered and about 30 minutes uncovered.  Toss and serve!

Monday, January 16, 2012

January Gems

Here are some things making my cloudy, cold January a little brighter!

Coconut La Croix
I've always been one of La Croix's biggest fans:  delicious sparkling water with no calories, no sugar, and no sodium.  It's magic.  I love all of their flavors, but they just came out with coconut, and it's to die for!  It is soooo good.  If you have it with a salad lunch, it feels decidedly tropical. Like a mid-day pina colada.

Illy Capsule Espresso Machine
This lovely gem was my Christmas gift to Brent.  If you are a coffee lover, you will LOVE this!  We went to a hotel in Miami where they had one of these in every hotel room.  I immediately looked up how much they were.  Usually espresso machines are easily $400 or more.  Not this one... waaaaay less, and it comes with coffee capsule delivery!  You don't have to do all the levers and steam and jazz like they do at Starbucks.  It's a capsule system.  So when you want an espresso, you simply put in an espresso capsule and press a button.  It's magical.  Sometimes we have coffee dates in the middle of the afternoon because, why not?

Homesick Texan Blog
I just recently discovered this blog.......oh my goodness.  It's a lady who grew up in Texas, then moved to New York City and missed "Texan" food so much, she couldn't stand it.  Her whole blog is how she makes Texas favorites for her NYC friends - everything from BBQ to chicken fried steak to TEX MEX!!  She has recipes for fajitas, queso, puffy tacos, I mean everything.  This could be dangerous.

Apparently brights are full force in style right now.  I love it!  I've seen such great color combos on Pinterest.  I'm really loving yellow with gray, hot pink belts, colorful jewelery, and bright denim.  I really want some teal skinny jeans as shown above. 

Target "Lugg" Boots
Yes, Target has a line of boots called "Lugg".  I laughed out loud in the shoe aisle.  Then I bought two pairs.  Black and tan.  Let's see........$150 for the "real deal", or $25 for just as cute and just as warm and looks exactly the same?  The choice is yours... You know what I picked.  Nice work, Target.

Tazo Tea
A friend gave us a Starbucks gift set around Christmas, and it had some Tazo tea bags in it.  I used to be a big tea person, but I haven't been on a tea kick in a while.  I am loving Tazo "zen" and "calm", and I have at least one cup a day.  I read that drinking a cup of green tea increases your metabolism by 12%!  Hey, it can't hurt.

Watermark Church: The Journey
I don't live in Dallas, but if I did, I'd go to Watermark Church.  I like to visit when I'm home, and I love the online Bible study they are doing this year - reading through the New Testament in 2012.  Each morning, a new devotional gets emailed to you so you can read and follow along no matter where you are.  You can join the journey with me if you want!  Click here to check it out.

Kenra Volume Spray
I got this tip from another blog - Amber Massey's blog here.  She was extolling the virtues of this spray and we all know that my hair could use some volume.  I picked up some at Ulta and WOW!  Love it!

Nine West Yellow "Cyndi" Flats
Speaking of brights, I'm relatively sure that I need these Nine West flats ASAP.  They also come in adorable bright orange and teal.  I want to wear these with a navy skirt I got at Banana Republic on clearance for $15 and a coral cardigan from Target.

Made to Crave by Lysa TerKeurst
I just started this book yesterday, and I love it.  It's not about so much about dieting but about finding peace and satisfaction with your body and learning to crave God instead of other things.  It's about changing the dialogue in your mind and replacing it with scripture to battle cravings for things other than God.  I'm doing an online Bible study about this book through Proverbs 31 ministries, and it's free! You can check it out here if you're so inclined.

What's brightening up your winter?

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Mountain Getaway

This weekend Brent and I pooled all of our Christmas money & gift cards and took a trip to Asheville, North Carolina!  We've been wanting to go there for a while.  We did miss the fall leaves and the Christmas decorations, but January means off-season prices and fewer people!  We had a great weekend staying at a bed & breakfast, visiting the Biltmore, relaxing and reading, and eating really nice food.  As a bonus, we picked a place that welcomed dogs, so little Blazer got to join us.  I'd say he enjoyed himself.  In other news:  I discovered "Instagram" on the iPhone this weekend (as you can tell), and I'm in LOVE.  All these pics were taken on my iPhone, and Instagram is a very fun app to play with.  If you like pictures on blog posts... you're in luck!

Road trippin!
Blazer says, "I am smiling because I am the most spoiled dog in all of North Carolina.  Make that the whole South.  I stay at bed & breakfasts and ride on my daddy's lap.  Whatcha gonna do about it?"
We arrived at our bed & breakfast, and it was lovely.  Thanks, Julia & Darrell, for the gift card!  Blazer checked it out, and it met his approval (he has high standards).
(This basket of locally made dog treats might possibly have swayed his opinion.)
But really, the room was lovely for people and dogs alike.
Yes, please.

Gotta have the front porch rocking chairs.  It's pretty much required.
On Friday night, we enjoyed a wonderful meal at The Marketplace.  The atmosphere was amazing - dim lighting and cozy decor with a live musician playing jazz (but not too loud!)  We stayed for almost 3 hours talking and having a great time.
Oh... just some beef tenderloin, duck fat fries, creamed spinach, and homemade thyme ketchup.
Brent's Parmesan mashed potatoes, braised greens, and glazed pork chop.
I think a little champagne with Limoncello was called for, don't you?
We managed to get up the next day and be fed a three course breakfast.  Then we headed out to the Biltmore!  I have been really excited about going to the Biltmore for a while now.  When you live in North Carolina, there are commercials for it all the time.  It was touristy, but tasteful. 
I'm quite sure the gardens are beautiful anytime but January.  Ooops, it's January.  They were ugly, sorry.  I know they can't help it.  They did have the foresight to plant these "flame" plants.  This is not photo-shopped - they are actual sticks that grow neon orange and yellow.  It was pretty much all there was to see in the gardens.
We did find some green in the greenhouse.

Oh North Carolina, how I love thee.

The tour of the actual house was much better than the gardens.  The house was pretty much amazing.  It's FOUR acres under one roof - over 200 rooms.  I usually get disappointed on these kinds of tours because I feel like they don't show you everything, but I really felt like I got my money's worth on this one.  We walked around the house for a good 3 hours - basement, main floor, bedrooms, servant's quarters... we saw it all.  I think we saw and heard about 40 rooms in all - everything from the most AMAZING library I've ever seen to the indoor swimming pool to the butlers pantry to the regal bedrooms to the laundry facility.  It really was fascinating how all this was built for one man and his family back in 1895.  We got pretty interested in the Vanderbilts after that and spent the rest of the day reading about them on Wikipedia.  Pretty cool stuff.  No photography allowed inside the house.   Bummer.  But the outside is pretty spectacular too!
On Saturday night we ate at Cucina 24, and I ate one of the best pasta dishes I've had in my life.  Didn't take a pic - sorry!  Sunday morning we came on home - relaxed and refreshed.  It was just right for a getaway.  All in all, it was a WONDERFUL weekend with my sweet hubby and puppy. 

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Salad Head

I don't know about you, but about this time of year, I am completely over heavy holiday food.  I start craving vegetables, and salads sound really delicious!  Growing up, my Aunt Robyn was (and still is!) the salad queen.  In fact, she used to call herself "Salad Head".  I could eat bowls and bowls of her salad - it truly tasted better than salad made by anyone else.  I still think it's magic.  I found this picture from when I visited Aunt Robyn for the weekend back when I was about six.  We did art together, and here you can see our creations.  I made a fish in an aquarium, and she made (what else?) a "salad head" self portrait - can you see the lettuce head with the carrots hanging down?! 

Aunt Robyn has always been my salad inspiration, and I've been channeling her lately since my goal has been to have a salad for lunch most days of the week.  Salad making is an art, so here's what I've learned, mostly from my salad muse:

Salad Head Tips:
  • Always toss the salad in the dressing rather than drizzling dressing on top.  This is the ORIGINAL salad head tip.  My Aunt Robyn ALWAYS tosses the salad with the dressing, and it just tastes so much better.  This actually allows you to use less dressing, and it ensures that all the ingredients are mixed and there is a bit of dressing on every piece.  Don't be lazy.  Toss it in a big mixing bowl, then put in your salad bowl.
  • Include some sort of protein on your salad.  A little chicken, lean beef, shrimp, or chick peas is key.  If I don't have protein in my salad, I'm going to be hungry in approximately ten minutes. 
  • Be creative with lettuce.  Lettuce is the common denominator in most salads.  I find that I like my salads so much more if I vary my lettuce.  For example, I buy romaine hearts and thinly slice them into ribbons.  I also like the "butter lettuce" variety.  Or.... don't use lettuce at all!  Make a whole grain salad with quinoa or bulgar or use green beans instead of lettuce like I did here in my Tuscan tuna salad.
  • Be creative with veggies and fruit.  I look around the produce section and imagine new salad ingredients.  I use eggplant, zucchini, asparagus, squash, bell peppers, strawberries, raspberries, apples, pears... there's more to life than carrots and tomatoes.
  • Be picky about dressing.  I know it's convenient to buy salad dressing, but most of it is just not that good (and not that healthy).  I take the time to either make my own dressing or buy a nice, fresh, natural, and/or organic brand.  (I like the ones refrigerated in the produce section.) 
  • Mix raw and cooked; hot and cold.  A salad doesn't have to be all cold and raw.  Why not roast some veggies and put them, still warm, on your salad?  Similarly, warm grilled shrimp goes great on a cobb salad. 
  • Make sure every salad has something "good".  Veggies are great, but I'm just going to be honest with you... I am never going to get excited about a bowl of lettuce and carrots.  If I'm going to make salad eating a habit, there has to be something delicious in there.  That's why all of my salads have something "good" like cheese or salami mixed with a healthier meat like turkey.  It's not going to ruin the health factor.  I'm still eating at least 70% veggies and 30% meat and cheese, but that small amount of "good stuff" makes the salad infinitely more appealing.
Here are three salads I've made and loved lately!  Hope they inspire you!

Italian Antipasto Salad:
Thinly sliced romaine hearts (there's a bunch of lettuce under there... promise)
Sliced tomatoes
Sliced cucumbers
Chopped deli turkey
Sliced salami
Chopped provolone cheese
Spicy banana pepper rings
Hoagie hot pepper spread
Balsamic Vinaigrette

Roasted Veggie Salad:

Butter lettuce mix
Roasted asparagus
Roasted butternut squash
Roasted eggplant
Half of a sauteed chicken breast
Crumbled goat cheese
Balsamic Vinaigrette

Steak Salad: (sorry, it was so good I forgot to take a picture!  Here's an example of what it might look like.  Just imagine that it is not on a piece of bread and there are strawberries on top)

Romaine leaf lettuce
Sliced cucumbers
Sliced lean grilled or broiled steak
Low fat blue cheese
Sliced strawberries
Sliced pears
Balsamic Vinaigrette

Love you, Aunt Robyn!  Hope you can make me a salad and maybe do art sometime soon!

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