Friday, November 12, 2010

25 Books in 2010: Book 11

I'm never going to make it to 25 books in 2010! But that's okay because I do realize that I've had a LOT going on in my life this year. Also, I've been kind of unlucky with my choice of books this year....nothing has really been a page turner for me, until now....


1. The Gastronomy of Marriage by Michelle Maisto {click here for my review - 5 stars}

2. Shelter Me by Juliette Fay {click here for my review - 3.5 stars}

3. Dear John by Nicholas Sparks {click here for my review - 2 stars}

4. Dead as a Doornail {Sookie Stackhouse/True Blood, Book 5} by Charlaine Harris {click here for my review - 4 stars}

5. The Mercy of Thin Air by Romlyn Domingue {click here for my review - 1 star}

6. The Year of Fog by Michelle Richmond {click here for my review - 2 stars}

7. Definitely Dead {Sookie Stackhouse/True Blood Series, Book 6} by Charlaine Harris - 4 stars

8. All Together Dead {Sookie Stackhouse/True Blood Series, Book 7} by Charliane Harris - 3.5 stars

9. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson - 2.5 stars

10. The Story of Edgar Sawtelle by David Wroblewski - 2 stars


11. Sarah's Key by Tatiana deRosnay - 4.5 stars
I really enjoyed this book....FINALLY a book that I can rave about!
It's the story of a young Jewish girl in France, in the midst of Nazi roundups during World War II, and also the story of a modern day American journalist who is investigating the events surrounding the French roundup.
I loved the combination of historical fiction and a modern day (fictional) story. I can't always get into historical fiction, but this one kept me hooked because there were two storylines, both equally enthralling.
Highly recommend Sarah's Key!
I wish I could add a 12th book to this list but I gave up halfway through on my 12th book: Suite Francaise. I'm sure it's a great book but I just couldn't get into it at this time. It was boring me to tears so I gave up on it and moved on to the next Sookie Stackhouse book in the series because I know those books are always light, easy reads for me. C'est la vie!

Operation: Pantry & Freezer Clean Out

Earlier this week we had our pre-moving consultation, where a representative from the packing/moving company came to our house to make note of our items that will be moved.


During this consultation, the woman mentioned that the moving company "will not pack or move any opened food items, any liquids of any kind, flour, sugar, rice, etc."


Crap. Crappity crap crap.


Our pantry currently looks like this:
You better believe the shelves behind the swivel shelves are all full too...yes I have a problem.

And our deep freezer currently looks like this:
Lots 'o Food piled in there.

This doesn't even take into consideration the full fridge and regular freezer! Apparently, I have a serious problem with overbuying food, and yet, somehow, I still always feel like "there's no food in the house" unless I've gone to the grocery store that week. Maybe my problem is that I buy useless food.


Either way, it's officially time for Operation: Pantry & Freezer Clean Out. The packers come on December 6th, which means I have less than a month to use up stuff.


I'm morally opposed to throwing out perfectly good food so I'm using up as much as I can and then either donating it to a food pantry or taking it with us and using up valuable space in our cars. More likely the latter, since I'm cheap and I hate the idea of not using food that I paid good money for!


I'm probably still going to go the grocery store once a week, but I'm going to try reeeeeeally hard to limit my purchases to things like milk, eggs, bread and fresh fruit & veggies to supplement our pantry meals.


I'm also planning on baking up a storm to use up all the baking supplies I have. (Remind me again why I JUST replenished my huge-ass flour container? Sometimes I'm really smart.)


So if you're my friend and/or coworker, be prepared for me to probably pawn off huge amounts of baked goods on you.


Or maybe I'll just take care of them myself. It is practically the holiday season, right?!? Gaining weight is a natural part of the season! ;-)

If I was a good blogger I would have already made several example freezer/pantry clean-out meals and have pictures and recipes to share with you, instead of just rambling on about what I'm planning on making.

But I'm not a good blogger. So you'll have to wait and see what creations I come up with. :)

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Blogging in the Dark

I really hate that it gets dark so soon now.

When I left work tonight at 6:15, it was PITCH BLACK outside. That pretty much made working late suck 10 times more because it FELT like working til 9pm.

Then I come home and cook a delicious Mexican casserole, plate it up, and take some very mediocre photos of it due to the little issue of not having any natural light. Fudge.


Luckily, with the magic of Picasa, I was able to infuse a little bit more life into the photos, but they're still not great.

Stupid daylight saving time.

Anywho, this casserole was delish and definitely is not done justice by the photos. It also makes a great freezer meal. In fact, I divided mine up into two square pans (instead of one rectangular) and froze one for later.

Mexican Casserole
Source: Seen on Meals & Moves

Ingredients:

1 lb ground turkey, chicken or beef
1 green bell pepper, diced
1/2 red onion, diced
1 packet low sodium taco seasoning
2 cups cooked brown rice
1 (15 oz) can black beans, drained
2-3 tomatoes, diced (I used a couple of canned tomatoes)
1 (11 oz) can green enchilada sauce (I used red enchilada sauce)
1 (4.5 oz) can diced green chiles
1 cup 0% plain greek yogurt (can sub sour cream)
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
avocado or guacamole for garnish
serve with whole wheat tortillas (We served with steamed broccoli, since the rice was enough carby goodness for us)

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a large, deep skillet, sauté your onion and bell pepper over medium-high heat. When the vegetables are tender, add the ground meat (turkey in our case) and cook until it's cooked through. Add taco seasoning, rice, black beans, tomatoes, enchilada sauce & green chiles and combine well. When the mixture is heated through, turn off the heat and stir in greek yogurt.

Transfer the mixture into a greased baking pan (either one 9x13 or two square pans). Top with cheese, cover with foil, and bake for 20 minutes at 350 degrees. Remove foil and bake for another 10 minutes. Remove, let cool for a few minutes, and serve with avocado or guac.


Monday, November 8, 2010

I love my...

...new cognac boots!


I've been searching for the perfect pair of cognac boots for a while now. My requirements were this:
1) Must be flat...I hate wearing boots with heels.
2) Must be big enough around the calf for my giant calves....seriously they are huge and I hate that it's so hard to find boots that allow wiggle room in the calf.

I stumbled upon these boots at Kohl's this past weekend and almost squealed with joy when I tried them on and realized there was plenty of room in the calf. SUCCESS!!!

I got them on sale for $45 plus an additional 15% coupon. Heck yeah!

Here's a link to their online listing, if you're interested.


Paired with a charcoal sweater dress and grey tights, I felt like quite the fashionista today!

(Please excuse the randomly placed computer chair in the background....we were doing some organizing in the study and needed to move it out for extra moving room.)

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Homemade Almond Buttah

I've always wanted to try making my own nut butter, and today I did!


I must say, it was wildly successful!

I chose this recipe for Pumpkin Spiced Almond Butter from a blog called Edible Perspective. The flavors all sound delicious so I was sure this would be a winner...and I was right!

This recipe was a little more labor intensive than just tossing some roasted nuts and oil in a food processor, since you actually roast the nuts yourself, but it's still pretty easy. Timewise it takes about 45 minutes to an hour but most of that time you can just walk away and let it do its thing.

Pumpkin Spiced Almond Butter

2 cups raw almonds
2 Tbsp maple syrup
1 Tbsp maple syrup
1.5 Tbsp molasses
2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp ginger
1/8 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 Tbsp canola oil

Disclaimer: I edited some of the instructions to read the way I made this. If you want the author's original instructions go to the link.

Preheat your oven to 300 degrees
Combine 2T maple syrup, 1T molasses and almonds in a bowl. Stir well to coat.
Spread the almonds on parchment paper, on a baking sheet.
Roast for 30 min, stirring once every 10 min. The nuts will get stickier the longer they cook.
Take out of the oven and let cool for about 30 min. At this point the nuts will have a brittle molasses/syrup coating around them.
Dump into your food processor and turn on.
Keep processing and scrape down the bowl as needed, until it butterizes and becomes smooth and liquidy....about 10-15min. [Past the stage where it has formed a large ball of dough]
Add in 1/2 T molasses, 1 T maple syrup, 1 1/2T oil, all spices and salt.
Process again until smooth consistency is met about 5 min. [If you want it even smoother, add another 1/2-1T oil]

This is what mine looked like when I was finished:


Then I just dumped all the nut butter into an almost-empty almond butter jar that I had and stuck it in the fridge for future snacking. :)


Definitely worth trying this recipe! The best part is that you know exactly what all the ingredients in it are...no guessing about weird processing ingredients!

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Victory Soup

I foresee myself being forced to make this soup again 3 more times in the next 3 weeks.

Reason being, my husband is extremely superstitious about Aggie football.

For example, as we were watching the A&M vs. OU game tonight, he refused to take off his shoes and socks until the end of the game because he was afraid it would change the tide of the game. Um, what?

Another example, he was drinking Shiner Bock beer during the first half when we were winning, then during the 3rd quarter he switched to St. Arnold and we started sucking, so he switched back to Shiner. Interesting coincidence? Nope, not to my husband.

And since we did end up winning against #8 OU tonight (WHOOP!), I foresee him demanding I make this same Chicken Taco Soup for the final 3 games of the season, in order to avoid "jinxing" our beloved Aggies.


Luckily, I will have no objections to this request, since this soup was delicious AND easy. That's a winning combo in my book!

This recipe was given to me by a coworker, which I tweaked to better suit our needs a bit. Trust me when I say, it is SO good! My favorite part is the extra flavor that the ranch & taco seasoning packets add to it.


Chicken Taco Soup
Source: no idea who the original recipe comes from, but I got it from a coworker

-1 tsp Olive Oil
-1 Onion, chopped
-2 Bell Peppers, chopped
-1 can Ranch-style Beans
-1 14.5 oz can Stewed Tomatoes
-1 can Rotel with Green Chiles
-3-4 cups of cooked, shredded Chicken (you could use any leftover chicken for this but we roasted 3 whole, bone-in chicken breasts at 425 degrees for about 45 minutes)
-1 packet reduced-sodium Taco Seasoning
-1 packet Ranch Dressing mix
-4 cups reduced-sodium Chicken Broth
-1/2 cup Frozen Corn

Toppings: plain greek yogurt (or sour cream), sharp cheddar cheese, chopped avocado, Fritos corn chips (or tortilla chips)

Heat oil over medium-high heat in a soup pot. Add bell pepper and onion and saute until tender.

Add all the rest of the ingredients and stir well to combine. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer for 30-45 minutes. (Side note: You could also easily adapt this for a slow cooker....just toss all ingredients in and cook on low for 6-8 hours)

Serve soup with toppings as you please. Enjoy!

Recipe makes enough for 6-8 servings, at least. We have tons of leftovers!

Oh and before I go, I just have to share this pic of my pup.


Lately, with the sun going down so early, I've resorted to taking food photos in our mud room, since we get the best bright light in there. In that room we have a little doggie door and my pup likes to stick her head through and check on what I'm doing when I'm in there.

You know, cuz she's too lazy to come all the way through the door.

And one more thing, these:
Are amazing. They're from Target, if you're wondering.

That is all.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Vote for Soup

Other soups want you to believe that they are the best choice for your Fall comfort meal, but they are liars.

Other soups say that they are quick and easy, but the facts are that they are not.

This soup may seem simple and plain, but it is actually very flavorful and delicious.

But most importantly, this soup is emphatically endorsed by The Hubster.

So please, vote for White Bean Soup with Kale & Sausage tomorrow. You won't regret it!

This message brought to you by Cupcakes & Combat Boots.

:)

Anyone else sooooooooooo tired of all the election commercials?? Geez...I'm glad tomorrow is election day because I've had ENOUGH of them.

This recipe was adapted from one for White Bean Soup with Kale & Chorizo in the latest edition of Cooking Light. The major change that I made was subbing in smoked Italian hot sausage for Spanish chorizo, since my grocery store doesn't carry Spanish chorizo.


I honestly couldn't believe how much the Hubs loved this....he kept complimenting it over and over. I thought it would be a little too "light" and "kaley" for him, but I was clearly wrong!

And the very best part of this recipe, it came together in less than 30 minutes! Score!

Seriously, make this soup. It's really surprisingly awesome!


White Bean Soup with Kale and Sausage
Adapted from Cooking Light

Ingredients

-4 ounces any smoked sausage (we used hot Italian), finely chopped
-1 cup onion, chopped
-4 garlic cloves, minced
-5 cups lower-sodium chicken broth
-2 (15-ounce) cans organic cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
-5 cups kale, stripped from stems, rinsed and torn into pieces
-1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
-1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
-1 teaspoon smoked paprika

Preparation

1. Heat a soup pot over medium-high heat. Add sausage to pot; sauté 1 minute. Add onion and garlic to pan; sauté 5 minutes or until tender.

2. Add broth and beans to pot; partially mash beans with potato masher. Bring to a boil. Stir in kale and spices; cook over medium heat 10 minutes.