Conflicting seasons

Posted April 15, 2014 by dakotalizzie
Categories: baking, cooking, dogs, food, weather

As with most communities, we’ve had our fair share of contrasting weather. One of my co-workers joked on Monday morning that we experienced all four seasons in the course of about 24 hours. Maybe that’s what prompted my food cravings and baking endeavors this past weekend.

When I found the recipe  for a smoked sausage and potato bake, it seemed like it might be a good winter dish (though I didn’t intend to make it for that reason). The changes I made to the recipe actually ended up making it a great summer dish, though it’s likely because of the alterations I made to the recipe.

Instead of smoked sausage, I ended up using Italian sausage (it was on sale and it’s one of my favorite summer splurges) and red potatoes. Although I nixed the peppers, I decided to throw in asparagus and carrots, in part because one of the comments on the blog mentioned throwing in more vegetables. I also threw in onions for flavoring. The combination of additions almost made it feel like a pot roast.

So really… I used the recipe as a starting point and created my own summer pot roast.

roast

Even as leftovers it’s a relatively simple and delicious dish. I’d probably minimize the butter (which I initially did to begin with) and perhaps cook the sausage separately so it wouldn’t drain as much. But otherwise the vegetables cooked well and all the seasonings blended through the baking process.

On Sunday night, with the cold weather and snow, I decided it was the perfect time to bake bread (prompted by the middle asking me last weekend why I hadn’t baked any delicious bread like I used to feature consistently on my blog).

Initially I found this recipe for blueberry oatmeal bread. The frustrating part is that the recipe didn’t mention how long the bread needed to cook (though I assumed it was about an hour since that’s what other recipes have been for me). I know baking tends to be more of an exact science, so I went in search of comparable recipes. I ended up making this one since it didn’t require the oat flour.

With my trusty companion (it’s been awhile since I’ve had a dog that tall so I really had to watch him…), I had the batter whipped up in about 10 minutes. I have to admit I was a little lazy in some of my measurements (like cinnamon and vanilla), though the one that concerned me a little was only using 5 ounces of the greek yogurt. The recipe called for a full cup, but I didn’t have a way to get exactly a cup without having to throw the rest away or eat it (neither of which appealed to me).

Thankfully the bread turned out to be great. It was a little too sweet (probably from the full cup of sugar…) and I’m not entirely sure what the greek yogurt does. And in my distracted state of, “Oh my goodness, why is it snowing?!” state….I forgot to take a photo. But suffice it to say, it looks very similar to my other blueberry breads and tastes just as delicious.

Perhaps if I start making spring dishes it will start acting accordingly? One can only hope…

It’s a boy!

Posted April 13, 2014 by dakotalizzie
Categories: 30 before 30, big girl pants, daring, dogs, family, favorites, love

Today I crossed a BIG item off my 30 Before 30 / life goals list.

You’re looking at the proud mama of a very adorable yellow labrador. Meet Hurley, an energetic, affectionate almost five-year-old.

Hurley1

When I started housing hunting for my move two months ago, one of my priorities was finding a place that would allow dogs. And not just any dog, but a large dog (my sighs of exasperation grew louder with each rental property that would only allow dogs that were less than 25 pounds). To say I lucked out with my current rental house is an understatement, and once I moved it was only a matter of time until I found a dog to call my own.

About two weeks ago, the woman who found the middle’s dog contacted her. She knew I was in the market for a dog and put a bug in the middle’s ear about a yellow lab who needed a home. I swooned over the photo of Hurley and put in my application the next day.

A couple days later I got an update that it sounded like the family was going to go with an applicant who was going to turn him into a therapy dog. My heart broke a little, but as the middle reminded me, at least he was going to a good home. I continued on with my search, scouring various shelters in the area.

Imagine my surprise when I got a call on Thursday that the owners wanted to meet me! We set up a time to meet yesterday afternoon, and I made sure the middle and my little doggie niece were there to make sure it was a good fit. Two hours later, I called the parents to let them know they now had a grandson pup.

My heart is breaking a little for his previous owners. I can only imagine how hard it was to give their dog to another home. I’m just so thankful they picked me to take extra special care of this sweet labrador who thinks he’s a lap dog.

Hurley

I’ve probably got my work cut out for me, but he will undoubtedly be worth it!

Copy-cat alert

Posted April 11, 2014 by dakotalizzie
Categories: crafting, DIY, home decor, organization, pinterest, sisters

I failed to mention (although it was intentional since the post was already getting pretty lengthy) that while the middle and I were making over the entertainment center about three weeks ago, we also started upgrading a pallet (lots of squats, people).

Awhile back the middle turned a pallet into a media stand. Naturally, I wanted to do the same. Not only is it functional, it’s beyond super cute and matches my home decor taste. She was able to get me a pallet that already had shelves built in and I happily took it back to Columbia nine months ago. And there it just sat. Unused. Unpainted.

Since I was already sanding, priming and buying paint for the entertainment stand (and more importantly, had the help of the middle…), it made sense to (finally) get the pallet done as well. Or at least started, since I ran out of steam nearing the end of that weekend.

pallet

(In retrospect, I should have taken a photo of the other side of the pallet since that side had the shelves…)

The middle and I were able to sand and prime, and the following weekend is when I got it painted. And once again the paint sprayer proved to be a lifesaver. It took no time at all to paint — it was the drying that took up a bulk of the time that afternoon.

While I was tempted to go with another color that popped (I was leaning toward a turquoise and for some reason I’ve been obsessed with orange lately), I figured I would need something a little more neutral. Plus I was much more likely to keep this piece in the coming years compared to my entertainment center, and gray was likely to be a pretty universal option.

To say I was eager to get it into my living room is an understatement. It’s a little larger than the angled wall it sits against, but it makes things feel so put together. And it looks so homey and fantastic just a few feet away from the entertainment center.

Painted shelf

It doesn’t have much on it yet (I’d been holding off on blogging about it since I thought the nester in me would have it filled up within a day or two) and I’m sure once it’s full it will look even better. Part of my struggle is that while I intended to put my DVDs on it, I love the line of movies on the bottom shelf of my entertainment center (which I’m still obsessed with). I don’t have too many knickknacks either, so we’ll see what I’m able to come up with in the coming weeks.

In the meantime, I’ve already diverted my attention to strategizing a few other DIY home decor projects. This fabulous weather may distract me from wanting to work inside, though!

Canceling that workout…

Posted April 9, 2014 by dakotalizzie
Categories: cooking, food, gym

Can I just mention briefly that I really enjoy my commute (or lack thereof) to work? In the morning I’m five minutes away from the office.

The afternoon/evening is a bit slower with all the traffic. Even then, though, I’m home in time to throw something in the crockpot, run to the gym (I’m converting the middle to love group fitness classes!) and return to a wonderful smelling house (and at a reasonable time, no less).

Last night’s fare was slow cooker beef and broccoli. The prep time literally took ten minutes, which was incredibly convenient. It was a little tricky with timing in that my crock-pot only has one setting (which I assume is high) but all in all it worked out well. I thought about steaming the broccoli so it would look a little more green, but that seemed like a lot of extra effort and the broccoli turned out perfectly anyway.

Beef and broccoli

The final result, even after adding the corn starch, was a bit soupy. But let me tell you, I can handle that better in this dish than I can a casserole. Plus I was able to save some extra juice, if you will, in case the leftovers dry out a bit.

The double perk is that I also have pad thai noodles from when I made pad thai my first week here. Should be a fun way to mix up the leftovers so it’s not just rice. I’d surprisingly make this recipe again — and you know that’s the true seal of approval from me.

Safety in numbers

Posted April 6, 2014 by dakotalizzie
Categories: cooking, family, food, sisters

Tonight the middle and I decided to team up for dinner. I had a recipe in mind as a main dish but didn’t want it to turn out like my broccoli cheesy rice from last week. Instead I turned it into a side dish to something she was planning to cook.

I made a rather substantial modification to the honey-lime quinoa stuffed sweet potato recipe. Knowing baked sweet potatoes are hit or miss with me, I opted to make roasted potatoes instead and treat it like a casserole. The quinoa part remained the same, and I used that on top of the small pieces of sweet potatoes. With the monterrey jack cheese melted on top, it actually looked quite good.

Potatoes

As the middle said, it’s interesting in a good way. I did like the roasted potatoes more than I would the baked potato, but it made for a lot of interesting flavors and textures. It almost felt like the quinoa and cheese portion could be used as burrito or taco filling (and I’ve probably done that before).

The middle made chicken salad but replaced mayo with avocado. A-mazing. I’ve always been a fan of chicken salad sandwiches and this is a much healthier alternative.

Chicken salad

Dinner was a success, and what’s even better is that we were able to split the leftovers (which I always seem to struggle with, especially with dishes like this). Plus I got to snuggle with my little doggie niece. Double win.

Mocha

 

Recipe fail

Posted April 1, 2014 by dakotalizzie
Categories: cooking, food

After last week’s hamburger helper recipe, I knew it was time to get back on the health bandwagon. I found I really enjoyed the blog where I found last week’s recipe, and after perusing for awhile, I found a skinny cheesy chicken and broccoli rice casserole that I thought might make for great leftovers.

I’m not sure where I went wrong, but this was not my finest cooking venture. Blame it on feeling rushed or having a visitor stop by as I was broiling. It was not promising even before that, though.

Believe it or not, I followed the recipe almost exactly (I only nixed the green onions because I forgot to grab them at the store). It was a little hard to juggle the three different “sections” if you will of the cooking process. When I finally mixed it all together prior to broiling, I started to get nervous:

Mixed

Surely broiling it would have some effect, though. Maybe it would absorb more of the liquid, or at least the cheese on top would make it taste great.

Unfortunately I thought wrong. It didn’t look too much more appetizing after the broiling process.

Broccoli cheese rice

I will say it was less runny as leftovers today, but I’m still not overjoyed with it. I think I just need to throw in the towel on recipes that call for the flour/milk creamy mixture as a thickening agent. It just never works out for me, and I can’t quite figure out why. I actually would have been fine with just brown rice, a bit of cheese and the chicken/broccoli added.

At least I tried to be a bit healthier, right? If only I would have thought to cut the recipe in half so I wouldn’t have so many leftovers. Lesson learned.

Old stomping grounds

Posted March 27, 2014 by dakotalizzie
Categories: cooking, de-stress, food, gym, health, pinterest

What. A. Week.

It’s been a good week, mind you, but it’s exhausting to acclimate to a new job, new building (where my cousin apparently works, as I found out when we ran into each other Wednesday morning), new gym and new community.

Given my brain overload, my creativity in the kitchen has been minimal. I’ve made old favorites to at least have leftovers for lunch, but nothing hit the spot. After three nights of cereal for dinner, though, I decided enough was enough. Plus I get restless when I don’t get to try new recipes.

I’m not ashamed to admit (primarily because it was pre-pinterest days when I didn’t really have income) that I used to be a pro at Hamburger Helper. I hadn’t thought about it, much less made it, for quite some time. Yet for some reason when I came across the homemade cheeseburger helper recipe on pinterest, I couldn’t resist.

I should throw in the caveat that the original blogger did — this isn’t healthy Hamburger Helper. It’s just a bit heathier. Thankfully my kickboxing class tonight helped me feel a little less guilty about the indulgence.

The recipe is really straightforward. Just based on my own preferences, I used a bit more milk and noodles to have a more balanced noodle-to-meat ratio. I’d also decided to only use a bit of the cheese. I’m normally not a fan of pasta leftovers since the sauce generally dries up, so my solution is to minimize cheese in the initial recipe so I can use a bit extra on the leftovers.

Helper

It was what I remember, but therein lies the downfall. The first few bites were good and then it started to lose it’s appeal. Part of that is because (at least in my opinion) the noodles are rinsed, making the dish seem a little too starchy for me.

But it was a new recipe and was much-needed comfort food after a long week. There’s always next week to try something a tad bit healthier…


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