Friday, December 31, 2010

Happy 2011 Part 1

Well not quite yet but soon! I will be in the year 2011 before a majority of my readers, due to currently living in Japan...oh wells, I can tell you that it has been wonderful so far! (by wonderful I mean full of sleep!)

So, for my New Years Eve post, I think I am going to do something different...

A my year in PHOTOS!! (And some words)
Note: All of these photos I took. Photography has been a past time of mine since college.

So, lets start this new year post!


  • Moved back to Minnesota from North Carolina (Hubby deployed to Afghanistan in Dec 2009)
  • Started working at Nordstroms Rack, again

New shoes from work


  • Made awesome Valentines Day cookies
  • Colored my hair from blond to brown
  • Turned 23
  • Partied in Minneapolis
  • Took a sushi making class
  • Went snowmobiling and crashed (my friends dad was on the back. I totally lost control on some ice and the snowmobile sped up into the woods, it flipped on its side. I crashed into a tree with my thighs. My friends dad flew off. I was majorly bruised and my friends dad had to get stitches on a cut on his elbow
Valentines Day Sugar Cookies

Crazy Cake with cool whip frosting and raspberry filling

Spicy tuna spring roll

Spicy tuna hand roll

Yamaha Enticer circa 1980

Bone Lake winter sun


  • Went skiing with my bother-in-law and sister-in-law


  • Made Easter rice krispy treats
  • Celebrated Easter in WI with family and in-laws
  • Celebrated my 3 year wedding anniversary (sadly alone)
  • Made my first ever theme cake = Baseball stadium! (Red velvet cake)
Rice krispy treats decorated with white chocolate

Storm Stadium (Our store is called the Storm) Cake


  • Found out I was moving to JAPAN!
  • Took my mother to the Conservatory for Mother's Day
  • Took the younger in-laws to the MN Zoo
  • Went to Franconia Sculpture park and took way to many photos
  • Went to the cabin in WI for "dock" weekend (we put in the dock and boats)
  • My college roommate and good friend got MARRIED!!

Sea Dragon

Bone Lake sun rise

Bone Lake grass

Night after hotel

Decorated bed!


  • Babysat my new second cousin
  • Went to the cabin with family
  • Work, work, work
  • Find out when Hubby is coming home (YES!)
Robin eggs



  • Quit my job at Nordstroms Rack (so sad, I will miss working there)
  • Have an adventure with my "sisters" (read: in-laws) Eat massive amounts of fro-yo and ice cream, shop till we drop!
  • Spend the 4th at the cabin and watch the best fireworks display right in front of our dock
  • Drive from Minnesota to North Carolina
  • Hubby comes home!!
  • Visit Arlington National Cemetery in Washington, DC
  • Fly to California to visit Hubby's grandparents, sister, aunt, uncle and cousins
  • Spend some time in Napa (lose a diamond necklace Hubby gave me for X-mas a while back)

Pilot Mountain in western North Carolina

Day before Hubby came the beach reading a book

North Carolina Sun

Arlington Cemetery


Thursday, December 30, 2010

It's a First & Some Veggies

Guess what!? I WON something! I entered my name for a drawing over at Campfire Chic and I was picked by the random generator! I am

Well, what did I win? I won a wonderful e-book called "Better Blog Content: How to draw in your readers and develop your Blog." It is written by Amy Schubert at Lemon & Raspberry. The e-book covers various questions like:

  • Why is your blog content important?
  • What is your blog niche?
  • What do you blog about?
  • Who is your ideal blog reader?
It also gives you time, resources, information, worksheets, and other wonderful goodies to help get your blog a goin'! Check out Lemon & Raspberry for more information and some other goodies!

I would also like to give out a THANK YOU to Campfire Chic for this wonderful giveaway.

Now, on to the good stuff! Well, the veggies....but they are GOOD if you prepare them this way!

~Spicy Cauliflower w/ Sesame Seeds~
1 1/2 tbsp. olive oil
1 tsp. ground cumin
2 med. yellow onions, finely sliced
pinch of tumeric
1 med. cauliflower, chopped
4 dried red chiles, stemmed and halved
1-2 tsp. sesame seeds, toasted
1 tsp. minced garlic
1 tsp. ground ginger
Basil for garnish

Heat the olive oil in a lg. skilled over med.-high heat. Add in the onions and cumin and the tumeric and a few pinches of salt. Cook, stirring, until the onions caramelize a bit and turn lightly golden, about 7-10 min. Add the red chiles, sesame seeds, garlic, and ginger. Continue to cook for another min. Add the cauliflower and stir well. Cover the pan and cook the cauliflower over low-med. heat for 3-5 min, until just tender. If you need to, add some water to help cook the cauliflower.
When the cauliflower is nearly cooked, remove the lid, increase the heat a little to "char" the cauliflower a bit. Salt to taste and sprinkle with basil. Move to serving dish and serve.

This dish was okay, I would really like to come back and tweak it a bit though. That is why I have posted it here!

I served it with a simple baked pork loin. I believe that it was garlic and herb flavored. Mmmmm I loves me some pork!

That is all....I am excited to get my new e-book.

In other news...I have started on a painting project. Actually many projects. I will post about them soon!

Have a great night and ENJOY!

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Glorious Granola

Granola is glorious, and it makes some great holiday gifts!

This first started when I made some granola and protein bars for my Hubby and his men when they were out in the field training. Then I had the idea to just make some more granola and use it as holiday gifts! Its a little better than baking cookies or sending cookies or bars in a jar (those are awesome ideas though!) especially for the heath conscious, granola seemed like a good bet!

I made some protein bars and granola bites for my Hubby and I made regular loose granola for gifts. All three were very easy and the recipes, after adapted, don't call for crazy hard-to-find ingredients either. Score!

~Chocolate Peanut Butter Granola Bites~
Makes about 24 bites
2 c. dry rolled oats (not quick cooking)
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 c. wheat germ*
1/4 c. ground flaxseed (by the oats in the store)
1/3 c. chopped almonds
1/2 c. chopped peanuts
1/3 c. chocolate chips, chopped
1/2 c. natural peanut butter
1/4 c. honey + a bit more

Preheat the oven to 325 F. In a large bowl combine the oats, flax, wheat germ, salt, nuts and chocolate chips and stir to combine. Add peanut butter and mix with 2 spoons, coating as much as you can. You can do this with your hands so it creates more of a "dough". Add in honey slowly and mix to coat thoroughly. If the granola will not stick together, add in more honey, 1 tsp. at a time until it does. Be sure to really mix the granola together as best you can.
Spray a mini muffin tin** with non-stick spray. Using an ice cream scoop, cookie scoop, or tbsp., scoop balls of granola into the tins, making sure they stick together as best they can. Bake for 25 min., checking every 10 min. or so to make sure it is not burning. Remove from oven and let cool completely - this is a must to ensure the granola sticks together. When completely cool, gently twist or use a spoon to remove the granola from the tins.

*I may have used all wheat germ or all flaxseed. I can not remember. So, it would have been 1/2 c. of either wheat germ or flaxseed. Use whatever you have on hand.

**At the time I did not have a mini or regular muffin tin so I just used my cookie scoop and scooped out the granola onto a sprayed cookie sheet. I made sure they were really close together so that they kept their shape. It worked out well.

These were good, you could really taste the peanut butter and the chocolate chips. My type of granola if I am going to eat some! Hubby said they must have been good because they disappeared quickly.

~Chocolate Pumpkin Protein Bars~
(Adapted from Snack Girl)
1/4 c. whole wheat flour
1/4 c. ground flaxseed
2 c. rolled oats (no quick cooking)
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 c. peanut butter
1 tbsp. cocoa powder
1/4 c. maple syrup
1/4 c. canned pumpkin
1/4 c. sugar
2 tbsp. pumpkin seeds (pepitas)
3 tbsp. prunes, chopped

Preheat the oven to 350 F. Coat a 9 in. x 12 in. pan* with cooking spray. Combine the flour, flaxseed, oats, baking powder, and salt in a large bowl. In a smaller bowl, add the maple syrup, pumpkin, and sugar. Mix the peanut butter with the cocoa powder in another bowl, then add to the pumpkin and syrup mixture. Stir to combine. Add the wet into the dry and stir until well combined. Stir in the chopped prunes and pepitas. Evenly press the granola batter into the prepared pan. This may require some work as the batter is on the dry side, you will have to press and distribute the batter evenly in the pan to ensure even cooking.
Bake the bars for 15 min. and no more! The will be done after the 15 min. Allow to cool, then cut into bars with a sharp knife.

*I used a glass loaf pan to make my bars and it worked nicely.

This were very chocolatly and you could taste the peanut butter as well. They were a little more filling than the granola bites for sure! They were also less crunchy. Very different, but good none-the-less. Again, Hubby said they were gone in a flash!

I did make one other recipe to send with Hubby, but they were not very photogenic and they were probably my least favorite of the bunch.

Now, onto the granola that I sent as gifts to the family! I made two different types...

~Maple Pumpkin Granola~
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp. pumpkin pie spice
1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 c. maple syrup
1/2 c. raisins
1/2 c. craisins
1/3 c. sliced almonds
1/3 c. pecans, chopped
1/3 c. macadamia nuts, chopped
3 c. rolled oats (not quick cooking)

Preheat oven to 300 F. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper. In a large bowl add the nuts, fruit, and oats. Sprinkle over cinnamon, pumpkin pie spice, and salt. Mix to combine. Pour maple syrup over the oat mixture and stir until well combined. Spread out on the baking sheet and bake for 30 min. Remove from oven and break up the mixture with your hands. Allow to cool completely then place into sealed containers. Can be kept at room temp. or in the fridge. 

This granola was my favorite. I love me some fruit in my granola. I like anything sweet in my granola for that matter! The maple and the pumpkin flavors come out quite nicely.

~Nutty Vanilla Granola~
(From Noble Pig)
4 c. old fashioned oats (not instant)
1/2 c. sliced almonds
1/2 c. walnuts, chopped
1/2 c. pecans, chopped
1/2 c. sunflower seeds
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 c. brown sugar, packed
1/2 c. honey
1/3 c. vegetable oil
3 tsp. vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 375 F. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper. In a large bowl mix the oats, nuts, sunflower seeds, cinnamon, and salt. Set aside.
In a saucepan, combine brown sugar, honey, and oil and bring to a boil over med. heat. Remove from heat and slowly stir in vanilla. (not to quickly or it will burn) Pour the hot liquid over the oat mixture. Stir and toss until thoroughly mixed. 
Spread granola evenly on the baking sheet and bake until golden brown, 18-20 min. stirring occasionally  to ensure even baking. Really watch it carefully so it does not burn. Transfer granola to a large bowl and let it cool, stirring occasionally. Once cool, place in a sealed container. 

Again, another good granola. This one was Hubby's favorite so I made a little extra and kept it so that I could use it as a quick breakfast paired with some greek yogurt. Hubby is not a fan of dried fruit, so this one was right up his alley! It has a very nice flavor and the nuts give it wonderful crunch and texture.

The packaging....complete with a bow on top!
These two loose granola recipes were packed in plastic containers, labeled with cute labels, tied up, and shipped out to my family, Hubby's family, and Aunts and uncles as Christmas presents. I sure hope they enjoyed them as much as we did!


Monday, December 27, 2010

I did it because I can!

I did it, just when I thought I was done...I made another cookie.

For Christmas, I got my very own cookie press. So, for a party on Sunday night, I made spritz cookies. It just seemed fitting!

~Spritz Cookies~
(Old family recipe)
1 c. salted butter, room temp
1/2 c. sugar
1 egg
2 tsp. almond extract
2 1/4 c. flour
Food coloring

**You will nee a spritz gun for this recipe**

Preheat oven to 350 F. In a large bowl, beat butter and sugar until light and fluffy.  Add in the egg and beat until incorporated. Add the almond extract and beat to combine. (You can also beat in food coloring at this point if using just one color) Slowly beat in the flour until just combined. Divid the dough into equal portions and color as needed, mixing the food coloring in until distributed evenly. 
Fill the cookie press with the first color and press onto an ungreased, unlined baking sheet. Repeat until all the dough is used. (You can mix the remaining colors to make "tie-dyed" spritz) Bake for 8-10 min. or until the edges are just starting to brown. Remove from the oven and immediately transfer to a wire rack to cool. 

*Note: If you have never used a spritz gun before, it can be a little tricky to get the hang of, but once you do it rocks! You need to "shoot" it a few times to get the batter to come out of the shape ring you have chosen, then, place it on the baking sheet and squeeze the trigger and "shoot" it once for each cookie. If you do it twice, its okay, the cookie design will just get squished a little. Practice, its really easy once you get the hand of it!

Here is what a squished star looks like.

I loves me some spritz! Buttery, light, and flavorful....they are ALWAYS on my family's cookie tray for Christmas. I did not use them in the 12 Days of Cookies because, at the time, I did not have a press! This time I made 3 different designs: trees, wreaths, and stars. Well, 4 if you count the one I used for the left over dough.

For this party, I also made an hors d'oeuvre that I saw on a blog not to long ago. It sounded very yummy and easy, and something different than the same old party foods.

~Feta, Walnut & Apricot Wantons~
(Adapted from Carrots n' Cake)
1 pkg. Won Ton wraps
1 8 oz. pkg. feta cheese, crumbled
1 c. walnuts, chopped
10-12 dried apricots, chopped
2-3 tbsp. milk
Small glass of water

Preheat oven to 250 F. In a large bowl combine the cheese, nuts, and apricots. Add in 2 tbsp. milk. Stir until combined. You are looking for the filling to come together slightly, if it does not, add more milk until it does. Spray baking sheet with non-stick spray. Hold one wanton wrapper on the palm of your hand, place 1 tsp. or so of filling in the middle. With your other hand, outline the edge of the wanton wrapper with a bit of water and fold it over. Pinch it together until it sticks together. Place on the baking sheet. Repeat until all the filling is used. (This can be done in batches while others are baking) Once the baking sheet is filled, spray the top of the wantons with a bit more cooking spray. (this gives them some color) Bake for 12-15 min. or until golden brown. Let cool slightly, serve warm. 

This were yummy! The flavor complex was very interesting, and I would like to experiment with different filling ingredients. The wontons got wonderfully crunchy as well. And, they are much better for you than the fried version ;-) I highly recommend trying them for your next get together!

After baking up the wantons, I assembled two plates of cookies and off we went!

Well, the party went off without a hitch! We drank, we ate, we played some games, ate and drank some more...typical party with great company! The hubby and I got home super late, or early? So the next morning we slept in. I made brunch: BLAT sandwiches. Bacon, Lettuce, Avocado, and Tomato sandwiches. BLA for me, I'm not a raw tomato fan... They were yummy and easy!


Saturday, December 25, 2010

Christmas: 12 Days of Cookies Round-up

Its here! Christmas is here! A Child is born....

Well, the Hubby and I spent Christmas eve relaxing. We watched some movies, baked some cookies, ate lots of food, popped a bottle of bubbly, opened gifts, and just enjoyed each others wonderful company!

Signs of a good night!
We also had to deal with some sort of fire damper alarm going off in our apartment...but thats just our luck to have it happen on Christmas eve! It took us about an hour to figure out what number to call. We did not want to call the fire department, because it was not an emergency, but who else would you call? So we called the base operator and they transfered me to about 2 other people and I let them know what was going on, and they said they would be over and lo and behold, it was silenced at about 10:00 or so. Finally!

Well, back to this post. Here is the Round-Up of all the cookies that I made for the 12 Days of Cookies Countdown - Christmas 2010!

CHRISTmas! The hubby and I woke up early and just relaxed. He played his new game, and I plinked around on the internet. Then I made breakfast! We had maple pancakes with fried eggs and canadian bacon, and boy was it yummy! For the pancakes I just used a bisquick base and added in some maple extract and some cinnamon-sugar. You could really taste the maple! Very different and very yummy!

After breakfast, we lounged some more, watched Tron, Get Carter (old one), and then went to the gym. Its been a rainy day so we laid worries though! We are truly enjoying each others company!

Hope your Christmas celebrations went well!