I’m a little Snowman
Favorite Christmas Recipes

Happy Christmas, everyone! I love this time of year, especially if there’s snow, and I find myself getting ridiculously giddy at random times throughout the day. I believe the symptoms of being in the Christmas spirit are often confused with early warning signs of dementia. Or vice versa. In conclusion, I either have Christmas spirit or dementia. Lets enjoy it! [*random excited giggling*] Tonight is Little K’s Christmas Concert. (Yeah, I was shocked that one-year-olds have Christmas concerts too.) And he’s singing “I’m a Little Snowman” to the tune of “I’m a Little Teapot.” I’m sure it will be hilarious to watch the teachers try to wrangle the 10 kids on stage. Can’t wait!! I’ll grab a photo of the chaos for ya.

Part of this season is thinking about year-end resolutions. I generally don’t really participate in that tradition – making promises that I often don’t keep or should have vowed to do regardless of the season – but this year I think I’ll partake. I know it’s a little early to make the New Year’s Resolution Declaration, but who the hell cares?

  1. Resolution One:I really do want to write on this blog more often. I use new recipes from cookbooks or blogs nearly everyday, so content isn’t the issue. The issue is the same as it is for 99% of the other negligent bloggers out there: time and interest. As a mom with a full-time job, a kiddo, and a long-arse commute, I don’t have much free time. As a blog still in its infancy, my readership and comment count are both painfully low.Those two items conspire to keep me from blogging. It’s as simple as that. Taking the two minutes to pull photos off my phone/camera or sit down with a computer after we finally put Little K to bed just doesn’t often seem worth it when it feels as though there are a whopping three readers (and two of them share a surname with me.) So, I’m going to make some changes in an attempt to make it easier on myself. Less ratings and less photos. I’m primarily reviewing recipes that come from blogs with photos galore (and stellar ones at that). I don’t need to add my sh*tty smart phone pics to the mix. If there is something interesting or misrepresented (like their finished product looks straight out of a magazine and despite my best efforts mine looks like spam) I’ll show ya, but otherwise lets just skip it, eh? And the rating system was grueling and at the end I don’t know that it really told you whether it was a recipe  worth trying or not. So now, we’ll do an easy overall review (essentially a pass/fail grading system) so you can see whether I say try it or not. Again, if I want to call your attention to something really interesting (like a wonderful recipe with every dish in the house dirty, or a fancy-pants recipe that cost next to nothing) I’ll call up a rating for that area in particular.
  2. Resolution Two: I need a bar of soap to chew. I think this comes from spending too much time yelling at other commuters and listening to angry radio, but I say a lot of expletives. Not necessarily George Carlin’s Seven Dirty words or anything, but enough that I don’t want Little K picking it up. So, much to my chagrin, I’m going to try to class up my vocab. You won’t notice a difference since I generally only use those words on the fly – not in my marginally thought-out written words here.

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Fake it ’til you make it
S’mores Brownies

skipaheadYou know what I hate about bonfires? Smoke. I hate that my hair and clothes and coat all reek of smoke until someone hoses me down with a fire hose and some febreeze. And face it, if you’re having a bonfire, you’re probably going to be out there until the wee hours of the night and who wants to take a febreeze shower after that?

Other than that, I love bonfires. I love the community that always happens when a bunch of people hang around a bonfire. I love feeding the fire and watching the flames grow, shrink back, and finally become nothing more than a white-hot ember. And I love the food. Roasted marshmallows, burnt black hot dogs, and of course – S’MORES!

But, heck, who has time to sit around a bonfire on a Tuesday night? Well don’t worry, Bakerella and I have you covered with some fake out s’mores you can make in your oven. And then, watch, the people will flock to the table and that same sense of community will grow. And all without your hair smelling like smoke (well hopefully…).


S’mores Brownies

Overall: four-star

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These brownies were really yummy and fairly easy to make. I didn’t love what happened with the graham crackers after they baked. They kinda just melted away into the brownies and I couldn’t even taste them. However, these brownies seemed to get better and better as they aged. Gooey chocolate and soft marshmallows. (Recipe here, from Bakerella.)

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It’s Na-chyo Birthday
Ginger Rhubarb Compote

skipaheadSo is this post about nachos or ginger rhubarb compote? Well both.

Yesterday was E’s 30th birthday. Old man. (Give me a month, I’ll catch up.) For his birthday he asked for one thing: the best nachos in town. He always does this, folks. Asks for the moon and then expects me to deliver. I mean, who is he to ask for nachos in Minnesota. That’s like asking for cheese in Wisconsin or seafood on the coast. Oh, Wait.

So I found lots of places with the “Best Nachos in Town.” But after a lot of Yelp reviews and some foodie reviews online I found the golden ticket: Salsa A La Salsa. Ooo, yum. The chips were made fresh and they topped them with refried beans, guac, sour cream, taco meat, cheese, lettuce, and pico de gallo. I know, it sounds pretty standard, but I’m confident it was the fresh chips that made them so delectable.

After a lunch of junk food and an afternoon of sweets (courtesy of his many awesome co-workers), E was craving a salad and feeling a bit like Elaine in this episode:

So I scrapped my plans for cake and instead made E something with rhubarb. You really can’t go wrong, in E’s eyes, when you cook with rhubarb. We had this rhubarb compote (I’m calling it Rhubarb Butter at my house though) on bread, but it would be amazing with some creamy cheese or on a cracker. Or even over ice cream!


Ginger Rhubarb Compote

Overall: five-star

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This was so incredibly easy to make, I felt ashamed telling E. Hey, honey, here’s how much effort I put into your birthday dessert: 10 minutes. It tastes pretty good too. If you don’t like rhubarb, obviously this won’t be for you, but the ginger and cinnamon take the edge off the sour rhubarb.  (Recipe here.)

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Dinner Parties are Dangerous
Vegan Fruit Tart

skipaheadI mentioned that we went to a dinner party a couple weekends ago and hung out with Jenny and Cait, two of E’s friends from his home town. And I think I told you that Jenny is vegan, but what I didn’t mention is that Cait’s husband Steve is allergic to peanuts. Last time we had the group over to our house I was a proud hostess, offering up all sorts of nuts to my vegan friend. Only to find out later that poor Steve was sitting on the other side of the room, not because I smelled, but because of all the nuts! This time I decided I could do better and find a dish that the lovely vegan could enjoy, and the anti-peanut man wouldn’t die from. Reasonable, right?

E had a brilliant idea of looking up Jenny’s Pinterest dessert board and raiding one of the good recipes from it. Unfortunately most of the recipes involved peanuts, or Nutella, or almond milk – or any other variety of nut-related item. I didn’t know Steve’s exact allergy and decided to just avoid the whole nut thing all together. I almost gave up on the idea though, until I came to a pin at the very bottom of her board: fruit tart!


Vegan Fruit Tart

Overall: three-star

Awesome flavor, though it does take a little effort and patience to prepare. Best prepared, immediately baked, and served warm.  (Recipe here, original from A, B, C, Vegan.)

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A Week, in Three Acts
Philly Cheese Steak Sandwiches

skipaheadAct 1: “Is it Friday yet?” So said the girl who enjoys an incredibly flexible work schedule and one or two work-at-home days each week. This week has seemed exceptionally long though. It all began with some news about staff changes at my job. It’s an exciting time, but it also likely means more demands on me and a more rigid work schedule. Since the biggest perk of my job is my ability to work from home as needed and start my day at 10am or leave at 4pm when I can, I’m a little troubled. I know we’ll get back to a flexible schedule again, but as we transition, I imagine I’ll be pulled in a few more directions. It’ll be a fun ride anyhow. Ride along with me?

Act 2: In the middle of the week I attended a conference and flashed a handful of attendees. Ok, not really, but kind of. If you ever plan a conference, please please please make sure you have a spot to direct nursing mothers to. PLEASE. To be fair, this conference did have a spot for me. On the other side of the hotel on the 24th floor. It took no less than 10 minutes to get to. So 20 minutes of travel, plus the time it takes to pump, meant I was missing whole sessions out of my $200 conference. There were only five sessions to begin with, so I was not a happy girl. Even so, I tried to roll with it. But when I went to use the room for the second time that day and found it was in use, I was incredibly frustrated when they didn’t have a back up option for me. Folks, I’ve pumped in storage closets, I’ve pumped in my car, I’ve even pumped in a restaurant after hours. I’m flexible. I really just need a door. I asked the hotel and conference crew if there was an office, a bathroom with a sofa, a closet – anything at all that I could use in lieu of the 24th floor isolation chamber that was in use. No, no, no. With tears welling up – mostly out of frustration – I started counting my options. I told the staff I’d nurse right there in the lobby if that’s what they left me to (fyi – I do have a cover-up, so we’re not talking about extreme indecency here). They said I couldn’t do that, but didn’t give me any other options either. So I walked three steps in the direction of the lobby sofa, saw a plethora of guys in three-piece suits on their blackberrys, and quickly chickened out. Instead I found a corner in one of the meeting rooms that had minimal traffic and a spot to plug-in my pump. It was still humiliating sitting there with my shirt hoisted, my nursing coverup (aka “tent”), and the steady “swish, swash, swish, swash, swish, swash” of my breast pump while conference participants networked and met with one another close by.

(By the way, later that day I found that the bathrooms did in fact have sofas, despite the front desk looking at me with bafflement when I asked that question.)

Act 3: Finally, the end of my week was spent battling a three-day snow storm that veered wildly from sputtering rain, to huge snowflakes, to sleet; and so on. I had watched the weather closely because of an early morning meeting, with participants from all around the state. The meeting went off without a hitch and although I hid behind various types of technology all through the meeting, my struggling social side was drained. I mean it, I was dog tired when I got home. Introvert friends, if you find yourself physically exhausted after meetings or parties, don’t worry – you’re not alone. Read this and take comfort. How to Care for you Introvert is one of my favorite articles. I share it, reference it, and read it often. It gives me comfort and reminds me that I’m not a crazy person (well, that might be an overstatement), but just an introvert.

So, needless to say, easy was the name of the game this week for dinner. I wanted comforting food, fast food (from my kitchen, foo, not from McDon’s), and mostly I wanted easy food. So, consider this the first installment of the “this week can just go right back to H E double hockey sticks” series.


Philly Cheesesteak Sandwiches

Overall: five-star

Go ahead, have some wine! I love this Purple Cowboy Merlot. It’s named Purple Cowboy because the rodeo-loving wine makers always had purple teeth. My cowboy always turns his teeth purple when he has wine too!

This recipe makes me happy. It was so quick to whip up; had the meat, veggies, dairy, and grain all included; was a breeze to clean up; and tasted great! It costs a bit more since it does require steak and if you’re feeding a big family it could add up, but at least a little steak goes a long way in this one! (Recipe here, from Simply Scratch.) Continue reading

When retro is new again
Pineapple Upside Down Cake in a Skillet

skipaheadOver the weekend we celebrated my littlest sister and her 19th year. Yes, my sister is entering into her last teen year. I just can’t believe it. She’ll always be my baby sister though. After all, when I’m 99 she’ll only be 89. Spring chicken!

My baby sister and my baby boy.

My baby sister and my baby boy.

To celebrate her birthday, we went to the zoo and then made any cake she wanted. She could have chosen a chocolate cake with chocolate ganache and chocolate ice cream. Or a lemon infused three-tiered cake with butter cream frosting. But no, she chose pineapple upside-down cake. And when I told her she was being retro and a little bit too easy on me she blinked back at me confused. Apparently 19 is too young to know that a pineapple upside-down cake is old-school.

Happy Birthday, Michelle!

Happy Birthday, Michelle!


Pineapple Upside-Down Cake (In an Iron Skillet)

Overall: four-star

DSCF48701This is such a throw back recipe. It reminds me something that my grandmother probably made as a newlywed. I’d never made it though and it was really pretty good. The flavor didn’t blow me away, but it was easy to make and such a sweet presentation. (Recipe here, from The Pioneer Woman Cooks: Recipes from an Accidental Country Girl.) Continue reading

Sinuses Revolt!
Chocolate Chip Banana Bread

For the love of all things furry, when will I be able to breathe through my right nostril again?! I need balance in my life and thereby, balance in my nose. Either both nostrils need to be plugged or neither. If you hear about some madwoman on the news tonight screaming about “equality for all nostrils”, that was me.

Fortunately I do have some relief when I’m sleeping:

Think I could lay down on my desk and work? Totally acceptable, am I right?

Since I haven’t been feeling great for the past couple of days, I haven’t been in the mood to cook much. I did get around to making some comfort food for myself, though – sadly – I couldn’t taste much of it.


Judy’s Chocolate Chip Banana Bread

Overall: five-star

We have another “total package” recipe on our hands! A very easy quick bread to make, but a nice added sweetness with the chocolate chips. I would say you could even serve this as a dessert with some coffee. (Recipe here, from Taste of Home.)

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Pie on Pi
Five Fruit Pie

Because I’m incredibly original, I give you pie. On March 14th. Which is 3.14, which is also known as pi. Complex stuff.

pie-pi

I have a thing for pie. I love pecan pie, cherry pie, strawberry rhubarb pie, and my Grandma D’s pumpkin pie. (Well really any pie she wants to make, I’ll love. But that’s one of her best.) I love pie so much E and I served it at our wedding. I don’t mean that in an offhanded way. We skipped wedding cake all together and bought 30 some pies from our favorite little pie shop in Wisconsin: the Norske Nook. (Note: I’m not endorsing their food – that’s kind of a mixed bag. But their pies are phenomenal!) It was amazing. I think I had like three pieces of pie that night.

I think most everyone loved having something a little different to choose from and I know people really got into trying the different flavors. E definitely was on board with the pie decision.

If you’re wondering, it’s strawberry rhubarb pie. Now wonder no more. If E has a grin this big, it’s because he’s eating strawberry rhubarb pie.


Five Fruit Pie

Overall: four-star

See? The grin isn't quite as substantial for this pie. It's still there - there is rhubarb and strawberries - but those damn blueberries and raspberries got in the way!

See? The grin isn’t quite as substantial for this pie. It’s still there – there is rhubarb and strawberries – but those damn blueberries and raspberries got in the way!

A great recipe for the indecisive. It has a mixture of berries, rhubarb and apples. The berries kind of all blend together and you can’t pick out a distinct flavor, the rhubarb gives it all a tartness, and the apples are a nice crunch. All together, tasty! (Recipe here, from Taste of Home Magazine.)

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Sugar-Induced Coma
Cream Crowdie Ice Cream

Over the weekend the lovely Miss Rachel, of Rachel Running Wild, and her boyfriend invited us over for ice cream from the book I found for them on my Maklemore Challenge. Five flavors later I was dizzy, lethargic, and probably suffering from sudden onset diabetes. The five pieces of broccoli from the veggie tray were all that saved me from a sugar-induced coma. The ice cream was amazing. They served the best chocolate ice cream I’ve had in a long time, vanilla (I’ll punch you if you say vanilla is plain. Seriously. Watch out.), coffee stout, and cream crowdie. They all were amazing, but the chocolate and cream crowdie were my favorites.

Rachels' cat, Lila.

Rachels’ cat, Lila. She’s much bigger now. The cat, not Rachel. Rachel is still as tiny as she was in junior high.

Because Rachel is super-cool (she’s my sister, of course she’s super-cool), she wrote up a guest post about the recipe and the process to make the ice cream. But first, a bit about her: Rachel is the middle sister of our notorious Wisconsin clan. She went to college in Iowa at Luther College and has a health and environmental studies degree. Rachel is an avid promoter of organic home gardening and upcycling. (When I was a kid I called her a hippie because she had goofy round glasses. She didn’t talk to me for at least a week. Now when I call her that, she beams proudly. #truestory) She also loves the snow and all sports requiring the fluffy stuff, like skiing and snowshoeing. When it comes down to it though, she’ll always be a distance runner at heart. (Wow, typing all that up really drove home how shockingly different we are from one another. All the more reasons why we work so well with each other – not something I could always say!) But there are lots of similarities between us too. She runs her own blog, Rachel Running Wild (go check it out right now, I’ll wait for you.) She’s an animal lover and spends as much time outside as she can. We both go crazy for Parks and Rec and nearly any dessert we can get our hands on. Especially ice cream.


Ice cream never lasts long in our house. It’s the sole purpose for out freezer, really. We have a bag of peas and ice cube tray in there too, but that’s just to keep the ice cream company. We always have several WiLd flavors on hand – from Salted Caramel and Coffee Stout, to Beet. Yup, you read that right. Beet ice cream with Mascarpone, orange zest, and poppy seeds. Crazy stuff.

Where do we get these wild flavors? …well from milk, cream and sugar for starters! We bought this ice cream maker about two years ago and absolutely love it. Until trying your own (or someone else’s!) homemade ice cream, you really don’t know what you’re missing out on. There’s definitely a whole new depth of flavor, creaminess, and just plain deliciousness that you get with homemade ice cream.

So when Krystal gave us her thrift shop findIce Cream: The Perfect Weekend Treat, I was a bit excited. We decided to turn it into an ice cream extravaganza! (And by extravaganza, I mean FIVE flavors of ice cream and nobody’s allowed to go home until they’ve tried them all.)

The recipe we decided to feature for the party was Cream Crowdie Ice Cream. According to the tidbit in our book, “Cream Crowdie is often considered the national dessert of Scotland… consisting of oatmeal, heavy cream, and Drambuie with (optional) raspberries.”  Sign me up!

Cream Crowdie Ice Cream

raspberry goodness

raspberry goodness

Overall:

four-star

This was a easy ice cream to make and had pretty good flavor overall. The oatmeal added an interesting flavor, but took away a lot in the texture department. If you give this a try, leave the oatmeal out! (Recipe here, from Ice Cream: The Perfect Weekend Treat.)

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It came out of right field
Lemon Rosemary Scones

I’m notorious for getting sayings wrong or just using a wrong – but similar – word for something. Last week I told my coworker, “Well that really came out of right field.” He looked at me and said, “Yeah, or left field.” If my good friend, Beth, were there she would have asked me, “Krystal, are you having a stroke?” I’m usually off just enough with these things that I just end up sounding crazy.

Case in point:

Once in an interview at Beth’s company I explained to FOUR managers that, “I’m really over the hill about working with a CMS.” I was trying to say, “I’m really over the moon.” I’m excited, I enjoy it, it gives me pleasure. Instead I said I’m really old and perhaps out of touch when working with a CMS.

Over Thanksgiving dinner this year I was explaining to my entire family how difficult it is to be a working mom who breastfeeds, especially when I have to pump in the middle of a daylong conference. I said, “How awkward to walk of a closet carrying bottles of my own excrement.” Umm, no, that’s not what I meant. Excretion. Excretion is what I meant. Not a whole lot better, but it’s not poop.

The other day I was chatting with E and talking about my ability to care for plants. I said, “It’s not that I’m a black eye, but I don’t want to have a rainforest in my house either.” E just nodded and continued with the discussion, two minutes later I realized what I had just said and yelled out, “Black THUMB!” He knew. He married me, he knew.

Several years ago E and I were walking out to our car at the mall and I said, “Where did we park? I’m so disillusioned.” Well, perhaps. But meant I was disoriented. Can I help it if I was born dizzy?! [name that reference]

I say things like this so often, I have started to avoid certain words because I just *know* I’ll say them wrong.

  • gesticulate: For some reason this word and testicle are all wrapped together in my mind.
  • literally: It literally drives me up a wall when I misuse this word. Ok, not literally.
  • self-deprecating: Am I the only one who thinks that’s just too easy to confuse with defecating. Although I do have self-deprecating humor, I don’t want to misstep and say I’m pooping myself. #awkward
  • sconce vs. scone: Ok, I’m actually throwing this one in here for my mom. She always calls the delightful pastry a sconce, which I find ridiculous.

Luckily I know the difference because I made some to share at a brunch with my best girl friends this weekend.

Kerin, Nicole, and Tara. Nicole hosted and made an amazing croissant ring with eggs and bacon.
So so good.

A couple of our main men crashed the brunch too.

Little K and Colin, best buds.


Lemon Rosemary Scones

Overall: four-star

These took a bit longer to prepare because of the glazing process, and in my opinion it made them way too sweet. So I think this could very easily be a five star recipe. (Recipe here, from The Pioneer Woman.)

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