31 October 2014

Five on Friday

Happy Halloween! This week has been exhausting, so I'll be playing the part of grumpy witch tonight. Instead of dressing up and/or handing out candy tonight, I plan to be curled up on the couch in my PJs eating take-out sushi with the porch lights turned off. Good thing there aren't a lot of kids or teenagers in our neighborhood, or I might be waking up to a house covered in eggs tomorrow...

1. Great article on the inimitable Wes Anderson. #hatersgonnahate

2. Will be picking Halloween M&M's on clearance this weekend and making this popcorn-marshmallow-candy confection immediately.

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3. I love the way these turkey pheasant and magnolia wreaths look. The perfect wreath for this time of year.

4. I wrote about army coats and military parkas, so Elements of Style and Habitually Chic wrote about army coats and military parkas. You guys, I am obviously a MAY-JAH (that's "major" in Victoria Beckham speak) trendsetter. Word to the wise, I got that Gap coat and it runs HUGE.

5. My laptop is officially dead. We've had a good run these last 7.5 years, but it is dead and the kind folks at Apple informed me that my old Macbook is considered "vintage", which means they no longer make the parts to repair it. That sounds a bit like a rip-off to me, but whatever. My needs are pretty simple when it comes to a replacement: I want something that I can run Microsoft Office on for those rare occasions when I bring work home. I don't want a tablet (I think). Mainly I use it for blogging, online shopping, social media stalking, uploading pictures, and watching the occasional movie. I'm leaning towards the adorably small 11-in Macbook Air. I am not tech-savvy in the slightest bit. I just want something that works and that I can tote around with reasonable ease. What say you, interwebs? What do you have? Do you like it? Do you have it? What do I need that will meet my basic needs and not have me shelling out $$$ for fancy things that I will never use or understand?

29 October 2014

Three Years

There was dancing. 

There was smooching. 
There was pie. 
There were family and friends. 
There was a freak snowstorm the night before.  
But most importantly, there was the beginning of a marriage.

It's been a hell of a journey so far. I love you, M. Thank you for 3 wonderful years and the many more ahead of us.

28 October 2014

Just for laughs

A few weeks ago I tweeted about the weirdo Matthew McConaughey commericals for Lincoln and was relieved to find out that I'm not the only one who just doesn't get it. They are all major strange rangers, but the one with the bull absolutely kills me. They are ridiculous.

And on Saturday night, the genius that is Jim Carrey + SNL writers gave the world a gift:

Jim Carrey is spot on. 

27 October 2014

Menu Monday

Last week we officially turned the corner from glorious fall weather to what I call pre-November weather. November in Vermont is gross. (Clearly I am an expert, having spent all of one November here). But that impression has been confirmed by many others who have seen more than their fair share of Vermont Novembers. It's just gross and cold and rainy/sleety/not-pretty snowy. So what was supposed to be last week's Soup Sunday got bumped to Monday night. It was soup weather and this hit the spot. Note that the recipe only makes one serving, so I doubled and found that the soup actually made more like 3 servings.
Gina can do no wrong in my eyes. This was easy and delicious. I used finely chopped Trader Joe's sweet chicken apple sausages because it seemed extra fall-ish. Only complaint is that there wasn't enough stuffing. I would double the stuffing next time (although that would clearly negate some of the skinny status).
The Best Lasagna Ever (Pioneer Woman)
 It really is the best lasagna ever. I've written about it before. M pretty much always requests this for his birthday dinner. So when we had 3 of his players over for dinner last week, this was what I made. Normally I split the recipe into 2 8x8 pans: one for us to eat now, one to freeze for later. Even then, we typically have leftovers (it's so rich and heavy). I made a full pan this time and we had one tiny piece left. Not pictured is the two boxes of garlic knots that they demolished, an overflowing bowl of Caesar salad that disappeared in record speed, and last week's peanut butter pie. College athletes eat a ton of food.

Vegan Red Beans and Rice (Budget Bytes)
 I feel like including vegan in the title of this recipe may scare people off, but it really shouldn't. There's no frankenfauxmeat or any funky ingredients involved. It's just a naturally vegan recipe when you leave out the sausage and use vegetable stock. I made this last year for Mardi Gras and honestly it's kind of shocking how much meat-like flavor the smoked paprika adds. It seriously tastes like there's some sort of delicious smoked pork product in there, but it is completely animal free. I highly recommend you take up Beth on her suggestion to add a little bit of coconut oil to each serving.

This recipe was huge in the preppy blogosphere in 2009. It's an old fall favorite in our house. I struggle to get the right balance of spice. If you leave in all of the jalapeno ribs and seeds, it's a little too spicy for me. But if you take them all out, it's not hot at all. I'm still trying to figure out the perfect amount. I use half of a rotisserie chicken here.
Also, I apologize for the gross picture, but WARNING: do NOT use Trader Joe's canned pumpkin for this. For some reason, their canned pumpkin has a lot more liquid than other brands and it made for a really soupy sauce. Hence the gross picture. Normally the sauce is much thicker. Lesson learned.

24 October 2014

Five on Friday

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1. An unfortunate kitchen incident yesterday AM resulted in the untimely death of my beloved slow cooker. As I slooooooowly move through the stages of grief, I need to replace this baby ASAP since we are entering prime soup/stew weather. I need recommendations! I know I can just buy another one of these, but since we have to buy a new one anyways, I'd like to upgrade to a programmable one. I am leaning towards either this oneor this one. I'm leaning towards the Hamilton Beach, because that's what I had and I know the quality will be good. I am not interested in the Rolls-Royce of crock pots (I'm looking at you, All-Clad) and ones with too many bells and whistles kind of terrify me. If you have a stripped down programmable one you love, do share!
2. I have finally come to accept the fact that I am just not a Halloween person. I love fall and all that it entails, but Halloween is just kind of snooze city for me. I have zero interest in decorating for Halloween outside of a glittery raven I bought at Michael's a few years ago (and with a Baltimore-born husband, the raven typically hangs around until the end of football season). I don't have much of a sweet tooth, so other than the excuse to buy harvest-color wrapper mini Reese cups, the candy doesn't excite me. I love the idea of dressing up in costume in theory, but the actual execution just seems exhausting. Honestly, I think the only part of Halloween that I'm into is the nonstop loop of Hocus Pocus and It's The Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown on TV.
3. We haven't seen a movie in an actual movie theatre in over a year. We have not set foot in a single movie theatre since we moved to Vermont. I could not tell you the last movie that either of us wanted to see badly enough to actually go to a theatre. My 16-year old self is shaking her head in disappointment right now. I used to LOVE to go to the movies, but now there are just so many other ways I would like to spend a date night. That said, we will ABSOLUTELY be seeing Unbroken in theatres. I cried when Louis Zamperini died this summer. It is one of my all-time favorite books. If you haven't read it yet, start now and give yourself time to finish it before the movie comes out.
4. Any day now (but hopefully not for another week or two), I will be an auntie! My sister-in-law is due with twins, one boy and one girl. Obviously Aunt Sarah has already made sure the D and M both have a Sophie...can't have my niece and nephew go without THE baby toy. I want to get them something when they're born and I am kind of dying over these little Baltimore onesies. So perfect! Mom readers, what gifts did you really appreciate for your newborn (or what gifts did you wish you could take back)?  
1 // 2 // 3
5. A recent examination of my wardrobe alerted me to the fact that I am down to one pair of sweatpants. I have owned said sweatpants since the 8th grade. I'm not really sure how I let the situation get to this point...what on earth was I wearing around the house all of last winter? I'm working on adding all 3 of the above pairs to my closet ASAP. The first two would be strictly around the house wear, but I feel like the Nike pair have the potential for cute weekend errand wear.
That's all for this week. I have a very glamorous weekend of house cleaning and closet switching planned. Thrilling. Hope your weekend plans are more exciting!

23 October 2014

Weekend Sweets

Per last week's Five on Friday, I bought the pumpkin loaf pan at Williams-Sonoma and got to work on a batch of my favorite pumpkin bread recipe*. (Actually, I made a double recipe and baked 3 ADORABLE mini loaves that we delivered to our neighbors.) I had grand plans of actually buttering and flouring the loaf pan, but I like to live dangerously (read: I'm lazy) and just sprayed the heck out of it with Trader Joe's coconut oil spray. It came out perfectly!  This stuff never lasts long at our house, so I will be giving the new pan a workout for several weekends to come.

*I use pumpkin puree in place of pumpkin pie filling. Would be way too sweet with the pie filling methinks.
This is all that remained after hosting 3 of M's players for dinner last night.
 So this is probably M's favorite dessert that I make. It is a frequent birthday request and it has also become the pie I make for Meal Train occasions (baby, illness, etc.) The last time I made it for new parent friends, I got in big trouble for not making a second one for us. So when we delivered dinner to some new parent friends on Sunday, I made a double recipe and a very happy husband. The recipe comes from my mom's friend V and it is dangerous. Make at your own risk.
Peanut Butter Pie
1 9" chocolate crust
8 oz cream cheese, room temperature
3/4 cup creamy peanut butter
1 cup powdered sugar
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
3/4 cup chopped Mr. Goodbar
1 cup semisweet chips*
Beat cream cheese, peanut butter, and powdered sugar until blended.  Beat in 1/4 cup cream.  In a medium bowl with clean beaters, beat 3/4 cup cream until stiff.  Stir 1/4 of the whipped cream into peanut butter mixture.  Gently fold in remaining whipped cream.  Pour half of filling into pie shell and spread evenly.  Sprinkle on 1/2 cup candy bar.  Pour on remaining filling, spreading evenly.  Freeze until firm , about 3 hours.
*In a small saucepan, heat remaining 1/2 cup cream over medium-low heat until hot.  Add chocolate chips and remove from heat.  Whisk until melted and smooth.  Set glaze aside to cool. 
Before serving, spread chocolate glaze over pie.  Sprinkle with remaining candy bar.  Refrigerate 30 min or until glaze sets and pie softens slightly. 

*I don't ever add the chocolate glaze. I think it takes away from all of the glorious peanut butter-ness of the pie.  

20 October 2014

Menu Monday

I had some ricotta in the fridge I needed to use up and I pretty much always have a loaf of Trader Joe's whole-wheat Tuscan pane on hand, so this ended up being pretty inexpensive, in addition to being easy, quick, and tasty. Meatless Monday winner.
 I've had Kate's recipe for chicken with mustard cream sauce bookmarked for ages and I've never made acorn squash before. No time like the present! The sauce was unreal. So, so good. For what looks like a relatively fancy meal for a weeknight, this was pretty quick and easy to put together, once you manage to slice the acorn squash without losing a few fingers. 
 One of my all-time favorite fall meals. I normally make this with ground Italian pork sausage, but in the interest of calorie-saving, I used sliced Trader Joe's Italian chicken sausage instead. I also used a mix of whole-wheat and regular penne, and I used half-and-half instead of heavy cream. I actually first made this recipe out of the Rachael Ray 365 cookbook (same cookbook as my zucchini pizza), and that recipe includes wild mushrooms and slightly different liquid measurements. I've found both version to be equally delicious.
Mushroom, Green Pepper, and Onion Pizza
Most Friday nights are pizza nights around here. Sometime we get fancy, other times it's pretty basic, but it's always on Smitten Kitchen's lazy pizza dough (I usually do half whole-wheat flour, half regular all-purpose). This is our favorite pizza topping combo when we order take-out, although I would prefer to add olives (which M doesn't like) and M would prefer to add sausage (which my pants zippers don't like). So our compromise is just to stick with the toppings we agree on.
Not pictured is Skinnytaste's Crockpot Turkey White Bean Pumpkin Chili. Another fall favorite. I only use 1 lb of turkey; I think 2 lbs makes it way too thick.
I spent pretty much all weekend in the kitchen whipping up some sweet treats which I will be posting about later this week. Happy Monday!

17 October 2014

Five on Friday

1. OMG YES. The morning after our wedding we invited people to join us for brunch at one of my favorite restaurants in my hometown, Thelma's Chicken and Waffles. Last year when we spent a weekend in Montreal, we noticed that Southern food was kind of trendy there (weird, right?) and went to a little hipster dive for brunch that served us cheese grits, beignets, and, you guessed it, chicken and waffles. A former colleague and I have bonded over a shared love of chicken and waffles and spent a not-insignificant amount of time debating the merits of the Lay's Chicken and Waffles-flavored potato chip.

All of this is to say, I freaking LOVE chicken and waffles and will be making this cake at some point. Would it be weird to bake my own 30th birthday cake? Because this is the perfect birthday cake. Can you imagine it using Chick-fil-a chicken nuggets?!? Oh. Em. Gee. Next level deliciousness.

2. It's the time of year to start thinking about Christmas cards! Or at least it is for me anyways. And of course my annual goal of having somebody take a picture of us and the dogs to use for the card remains unaccomplished. I know there's still time, but we're going on 3 years of marriage and this has yet to be done. I'm doubtful. Anyhoo the past few years I have used LivingSocial or Groupon to purchase our cards. Or more accurately, I've purchased deals through them to get our cards. While I do love all the pretty paper happening over at Minted, I do not love all the $$$ they require for something that, at best, will be on someone's fridge for 3 weeks. The first year we did this, I got a Shutterfly deal, so it was a company I was familiar with and I had no hesitations about the quality or customer service. Last year I bought a Groupon to a company I had never heard of and I was a bit nervous, but our cards turned out great! The company was super nice and easy to work with.
This week, LivingSocial is running another deal. It's another company I haven't heard of or worked with, but a.) using the EXTRA10 promo code got my purchase of 70 cards down to about 37 cents a card and b.) the company has some seriously cute card offerings. I'm willing to take the risk. If you're willing to take the gamble as well, would you pretty please use my link so I can maybe get my cards for free? And then share the love with your peeps and get some free cards for yourself!

3. Pure Barre is coming to Burlington! I realize we're about 5 years late to this party, but I'm so excited to start classes when it opens in November. Any Pure Barre fans out there? Tell me how it has magically transformed you into a Victoria's Secret model so I can justify the price + early AM wake-up calls.
4. The most perfect scene from a walk with the dogs this week. Vermont fall is awesome. Sometimes it is very surreal to me that we actually live here. (Remind me of this feeling of awe and gratitude in 3 months when it's below zero out.)

5. Has anyone ever bought/used one of these molded loaf pans? I'm normally not a fan of kitchen things that can only be used to make one thing specific to a season or holiday, as storage space is at a premium in our teeny tiny kitchen. But pumpkin bread is one of my favorite fall treats to make and I've wanted one of these pans for years. A friend gave me a Williams-Sonoma gift certificate for my birthday and I'm thinking about pulling the trigger, but if they are a total pain in the ass to use (i.e. no amount of greasing and flouring gets the bread to come out looking like it's supposed to), I could still be talked out of it...

14 October 2014

Army Coats

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So I have what you might call a coat fetish. For some women it's shoes, for others it's handbags...for me it's coats. I LOVE coats. When I told my parents we were moving to Vermont, I think both of them immediately responded with something along the lines of, "Oh good, now you can justify all your coat purchases." It's a problem.

Anyhoo, lately I've been obsessed with finding an army coat...or military parka...whatever you want to call them. I saw one on a woman last year and she just looked so cute and cool and I've been on the hunt for one ever since. By the time I started looking last year, all of the cute affordable ones at Zara, ASOS, etc. were long sold out, so the only models left were either only available in like XXS or XXXL or were designer-level $$$. 

This year, I have found 3 very cute, very affordable versions. I realize none of these is going to take the place of my everyday, heavy-duty Vermont winter coat, but I can see this coat being great on some of the "warmer" days here (ha!) and during the weird transitional fall-to-winter weather and winter-spring A.K.A. mud season weather.
First up is this guy from J.Crew Factory. It appears to be selling out quickly online, but I have found that both J.Crew and J.Crew Factory will go to great lengths to find it in a store for you if it's sold out online.
Next up is this guy from Gap. This one is my favorite (it's the only one with water-resistant fabric) and a little bird told me that I may be receiving it as a gift (thanks, Mom!) because it is on sale right now, which also makes it the cheapest of the bunch.
Then we have this version from Zara. Probably the most fashion-y of the bunch, not surprising given the source.

Any other coat fanatics out there?