Homemade Gift Wrap

Pre-move, while I was half packed, I went to wrap a gift I was sending to my mom for Mother's Day and realized that all of my wrapping supplies were already in boxes. Oops! However, I still had about half of my craft supplies out including stencils and ink, as well as a roll of kraft paper that I'd kept from something or other. So I pulled out my stencils, my Ranger blending tool, and some ink pads and made my own wrapping paper.

IMG_3090I used the Rose Window and Border, A Rose by Any Other Name, and Circle 9 stencils, all from StencilGirl.

I just added a little tag to the front and stamped sentiments from the Papertrey Ink Women of Life stamp set and a little flower sticker from my embellishment drawer.

IMG_3091It works! I'll probably do this again, even though my I've got all my stuff ready to go again. This was fun, and my mom really liked it!

While I'm at it, I'll also share the birthday card that I made her for her birthday in early May.

IMG_3056I used the Papertrey Ink Rosie Posie stamp set with a variety of inks (Papertrey, Studio Calico, Tim Holtz) and then the sentiment was from Think Big Favorites #12, and the stamps on the inside were from the Tremendous Treats set. The strip of glitter tape on the front is from American Crafts.

IMG_3057When she opened it, my dad thought I had bought the card, so I'll take that as a compliment!

I'm almost done catching up with crafty posts from the last month... a few tangles to share at some point, but now I'm back and puttering in my studio.

Today I went out and did a little exploring in the area near me, found my local Blick (for when I don't want to shop in the Loop and then haul things home on the train) and bought myself an awesome convertible easel as a house warming gift (because I was tired of leaning over to get in close on my work table.) I got it put together and have already started using it and I'm loving it so far!

New easelAnd yes, that is a new finished canvas on my new easel, but no... not going to share it yet! It's a bit of a tease, but I promise I'll share it soon :) I love that this easel can work with smaller canvases like I usually use, but also great big ones if I get ambitious. It also converts to lay flat, and fortunately for me and my small studio, it folds so I can store it out of the way. I have a feeling it will be sitting out a lot, though. Best part? It was a steal... I think I saw the same easel for over $250 at Jerry's and this was like a third the cost (plus I had a coupon!) Score!

And finally, I hope all my American friends had a lovely Memorial Day! Aside from my little shopping trip, I didn't do too much special... although I did cook, and that's a big deal lately! In honor of the unofficial start of summer, I got out my grill plate and made a pretty spectacular burger, if I do say so myself.

I topped it with sharp cheddar, tomato, avocado, candied bacon, and chipotle mayonnaise all on a pretzel roll. I know, you're thinking I'm nuts to put candied bacon on a burger. But I'm telling you... this was a genius idea. It was soooooo good. It added a new level of texture and just a hint of sweetness, so it balanced really well with the chipotle and the sharp cheddar, and the texture was awesome with the burger and avocado. I will definitely be doing that again. And not just because I have leftovers. lol.

And now I'm off to do some more playing before my holiday is over. TTFN!

More Zentangle & Father's Day Pie

Just popping in on this lovely Father's Day with a few more zentangle projects to share. Here are a few of the bigger pieces I've done over the last month or so.

Zentangle Peacock Feather - Gwen Lafleur
Zentangle Flowers 1 - Gwen Lafleur
Zentangle Flowers 1 - Gwen Lafleur
Zentangle Flowers 1 - Gwen Lafleur
I got a little crazier than planned with the color on that last one, but aside from the spot where my Copic burped a bit, I really like it.

And today for the first time, I got to take part of a tradition in my ward. Right after church on Father's Day, the ladies bring in pies. They set up everything in the gym and the men come in and get first dibs, but then everyone else gets to go through and have some too. I made a pie and brought it in, but I probably didn't need to!

Sea of Pie - Father's DAy
Here's mine - it's a vanilla dreamboat pie, adapted from this recipe on Pinterest. It made enough for me to make two pies, but I'm glad I only took one to church - it would have been a waste with so much already there.

Vanilla Dreamboat Father's Day Pie
And some of the setup - they did a cute job with the room - and I love the can of whipping cream on every table.

Father's Day Setup
It was fun to just hang out, chat, and eat pie! Now I'm just waiting until my family is home from their church so I can call my dad.

And I'm excited because yesterday, I met up with a new friend that I met in some of the classes I've been taking at the scrapbook store. We went in to sign up for the Donna Downey workshops next month - we wanted to be there right when registration opened, because we knew the classes we wanted were going to go fast, and we weren't wrong! I'm only taking the Saturday classes. One called The Big 4-0 that has 40 mixed media techniques, and one called Paint Like an Artist that will show you how to paint using stencils on a canvas. I'm super excited! I took classes with Donna years ago at a convention in Paris, and she's such a fun teacher. And now I have people to meet up with so it's going to be twice as fun!

National Cookie Day!

How did I not know this existed before this year? It was yesterday, and I first heard about it on the radio (I think) when I was getting up yesterday morning. Of course, I knew it had to be celebrated (duh! Cookies!) and I was pretty excited when Ryan brought me a delicious cookie when he came back from lunch at La Cuisine.

As delightful as that was, I felt that in order to truly pay homage to the day, I needed to actually bake some cookies. So I looked for a recipe and decided to try a red velvet cookie recipe I had pinned a little while ago. I modified it a bit since I didn't have any regular chocolate chips - I went with Andes peppermint pieces to make them a little more yummy / seasonal.

They were delicious.

And that's the subject of yesterday's December Daily entry.

December Daily 2012 Day 4

(I knew those food / eating themed stamps from Kelly Purkey were going to come in handy. Love them!)

And now I need to ignore the siren call of the rest of those suckers and take them to work so I don't cave and scarf the lot. Mmm. (Good thing it's a cookie day and not a whole week or month!)

Project Life - Week 25

Just doing a little catching up with my Project Life layouts... I was able to get week 25 finished up and ready to go. Now I just need to do last week and I'll be back on track!

Here's the week before last:

Since I covered my drive out to California and my time there with my family in my travel journal (yesterday's post), I'm just touching on some highlights in my Project Life layouts and referring to my journal.

And those yummy looking things in the top right corner? I was trying to use up all my produce before leaving for vacation and had a bunch of blueberries. I also had some wonton wrappers in my freezer, so I defrosted them and used them to make blueberry dessert ravioli.

I was just making a single serving at a time, so I took a big handful of blueberries and put them in a bowl, then mashed them up a bit with a fork. I added about 1 tsp of sugar and mixed it, then let it sit for 30 minutes or so. I lined up the wonton wrappers and scooped a heaping teaspoon of blueberries into the center of one, then used a pastry brush to coat the other side with just water. I covered up the other side and sealed it. When they were done, I put them in a sautee pan with a little butter and just a touch of vegetable oil (to help keep the butter from burning). I sauteed them until they were brown on both sides, then sprinkled some powdered sugar on top and served with fat free Cool Whip. They were delicious... I'll have to make them again!

Parsley pesto and memories of kunefe

Just a few things to share tonight... I'm still working on a few of my online classes and I've got two new layouts plus a quick little recipe.

First, sketch 6 from Kelly Purkey's Sketchbook 4 class... a few photos from when I was in Istanbul last year. Our last day we had some time to kill before going to the airport, so I went with a group to the shopping district where I knew kunefe could be found. It's a dessert Nicole introduced me to the first time I was in Turkey, and it's divine. I've made it, but it's never as good since we can't get the same cheese here (although I do have a few packages of the shredded filo they use that I got in a Middle Eastern market).

Kunefe - Sketchbook 4 No6a

My friend Steve (top left with me) said it was the best thing he'd eaten on the trip so far. I also got a little container of rose cream to go on top... it was insanely delicious. I didn't share mine. lol.

I used my Studio Calico April kit and add-ons, plus an old Autumn Leaves swirl rubon, an arrow accent from Ormolu and a little card by Amy Tangerine (2 qty).


That couple of hours before we left Istanbul was probably my favorite part of the whole trip. It was just a beautiful day, and it was just relaxing and all around perfect, really.

Of course, the kunefe might have had something to do with that... I got it from a little place that was like a bistro - they cooked them up fresh for me while I was waiting (during which time I may have done a little shopping from the amazing display of Turkish baklava in the window). So the kunefe was fresh, hot, and stunningly delicious.

I'm hungry now.

Moving on... I've also done a little more work on the next chapter of the Design Your Life class with Cathy Zielske. This chapter is about asymmetrical balance and I did a layout for the first of the sketches in this group.

I'm not sure why it's coming up so red... it didn't look like that when I edited it. In any case, just a fun little layout about Adorable-Niece-Aubrey since the photos fit the journaling prompt for this sketch.

You - close-up 1
I added a fair bit of embellishment on top of the sketch, but I think it still maintains the balance quite nicely, and it makes it much more me. While I really love Cathy's graphic style and I prefer to have a clean foundation for my own pages, it's just too minimal for me so I amped it up a bit.

You - close-up 2

I had to caption the photos - it's such a typical series of Aubrey photos... a whole gamut of emotion in about a 5-minute period, ending with complete distraction by some random toy or food. My absolute favorite however, is the top one which *had* to be captioned "I know kung fu!"

You - close-up 3

I used my Studio Calico April kit again - patterned papers, twine, stamps and kraft flag. I added a bunch of Prima and some trim, and the journaling block was class chapter download as part of the sketch.

One thing I've found during all of these online classes is that it's really helped me to define my own style a lot more. You'd think after scrapping for well over 15 years I'd have that down, but apparently not. lol.

And last but not least, a very quick little recipe share. I haven't really done any cooking this week - I've been eating salads and Easter leftovers, but I did whip up something new a few days ago that turned out quite well.

Parsley and Walnut Pesto

I got a bunch of zucchini in my last Bountiful Basket and I sliced one up and threw it in my steamer, but I wanted something fun to go on top. So naturally, I pulled out The Flavor Bible for some inspiration to see what works well with zucchini. I was surprised to see pesto on the list. I guess it makes sense when you think about it. I didn't have any pesto nor any fresh basil, but I did have a big whack of fresh Italian parsley, a lemon and walnuts (I had pine nuts too, but it just felt like walnuts would be a better match for the parsley. As if I would know! lol). So I made a parsley and walnut pesto that was really delicious.

I used my small food processor with the 2 cup bowl and filled it to the brim with semi-packed parsley leaves. Then I added about 1/3C walnut pieces, about 1/4C shredded fresh parmesan cheese and about 1 tbsp of fresh squeezed lemon juice. I started with about 1/4C of French roasted walnut oil and buzzed it a few times, then added kosher salt, pepper and a little olive oil until the flavor and consistency were what I wanted. I went for a very thick pesto since I didn't want a lot of oil. I also didn't have any garlic, so I just didn't add any. It was delicious! And it really jazzed up the zucchini too. It makes about 1/2C pesto.

Earlier today I was reading my latest issue of Cooking Light and they had a recipe for a pesto potato salad. I was thinking of doing a cauliflower mash tomorrow (I put a few potatoes in mine) and I think I'm going to try a pesto cauliflower mash since I still have some more parsley. Sounds yum to me!

Happy Easter!

I took a little time this weekend to just relax and get some rest. I had really wanted to do more with my scrapbooking classes, but it's all good. Sleep is important and I really needed it!

I did finally see the Hunger Games this weekend and I loved it. Now I need to read the other books. I just have to figure out a day when I can sit down one evening and read all of the next book. Because I know myself too well to think that I can read it over multiple days. Won't happen. lol.

I also... FINALLY... started organizing all of the stuff that's been sitting in my guest room after my scrap attic purge. I'm putting together boxes of goodies to get ready to sell. I think I'm going to do it by brand - not what I was planning, but I think it will work out better in the end. So I'm making progress.

Today, I had a lovely surprise when I left the house to go to church. A sweet little bouquet of flowers hanging on my front door. There was no note, but I'm pretty sure it was my visiting teacher - she tends to be thoughtful like that. Me? Not so much. Sad but true.

Surprise Easter FlowersThey look just lovely on my coffee table... nice and springy!

This year I made myself a little Easter basket, just for fun. I probably won't eat most of it, but it looks nice!

Easter BasketAnd I even did a full Easter dinner, with lots of tasty leftovers for later this week. I did a Boar's Head ham (not a whole one... WAY too much for me!) with a honey, brown sugar, and mustard glaze that was delicious. I also made a spring vegetable risotto. I busted out Anne Burrell's Cook Like a Rock Star cookbook for her instructions on making a no-recipe risotto. They were the clearest directions I've read (I especially loved the part where she tells you to add the butter and parmesan and then prepare yourself to beat the hell out of the rice. Ha!) and it was probably my most successful risotto to date.

Easter DinnerI did two parts arborio rice and one part bulgur wheat to get some whole grains in there. For the veggies, I used fresh chick peas which I shelled just before cooking (they had some at the store - I rarely see them, but I love them!) and some asparagus and brussels sprouts that I roasted and just added at the end. It was delish.

Although I mostly stayed out of my scrap attic this weekend, I did finally finish a layout that I started on Friday morning after another bout with insomnia (argh) - this is from the 3rd sketch in Kelly Purkey's Sketchbook 4 class over at Studio Calico.

Eggcited - Sketchbook 4 No3I used some papers from the Amy Tangerine Sketchbook line as well as some scraps that I had just sitting around and some much older stuff from my stash like those old Making Memories metal borders and the flower stickers.

IMG_1363I actually found myself pulling out some sentiment stamps using a technique I learned in the scrapbook stamping workshop. I love it when stuff like that starts to show up in my scrapping - really makes it worth having taken the class (still working on that one.)

IMG_1364Speaking of stamping... you can see how the background paper isn't laying flat... that's because I stamped and heat embossed the entire sheet. I did tone-on-tone stamping using the Hero Arts doily background stamp in white ink with white embossing powder. It's hard to see in the photo, but if you look closely above you can see it by the title. It's pretty obvious in person, though. It adds a nice sense of texture and a little extra detail.

IMG_1366This was a fun one - nice and bright and fun to scrap some Easter pictures!

I hope everyone had a lovely Easter :)

Sketch No 2 and a new polenta recipe

First up, it's been a while since I posted a new recipe, so I thought I'd share what I cooked for dinner tonight. A while ago I picked up a new cookbook called Ancient Grains for Modern Meals by Maria Speck. I think it was featured in the cookbook review feature in an issue of Cooking Light. Given that it was described as a book featuring farro, wheat berries, quinoa and polenta (and we know all about my ongoing love affair with polenta), there was no question that I'd get this cookbook. I quite enjoy paging through it, drooling over every photo and recipe. And of course, the first one I picked to cook involved polenta (polenta lasagna anyone? Still one of my all time favorites).

Rosemary and Artichoke Tart with Polenta CrustIt's kind of like a quiche only not. I'm not going to post the whole recipe (sorry Melissa!) because it's just too long... but it's not a quick meal. However, you can prepare the polenta ahead of time and the rest of it is a snap. It does take a while to cook and set, though. But it's DELICOUS. As a main dish it serves 4, and a serving is 10 points plus on Weight Watchers (if you use non-fat Greek yogurt as I did). While it was cooking, I just sat and inhaled... rosemary and goat cheese wafting through the air. Sigh.

The crust is 1 1/4C regular polenta (not instant) cooked in a mix of water (1 1/4C) and chicken broth (1 1/2C) with 1/4 tsp fine sea salt. Then you add 1/4 tsp pepper, 1/2C grated parmesan cheese and an egg (room temp so it doesn't cook when you mix it in).You cook the polenta for 10 minutes, stirring every two. Remove from the heat and let it sit another 10. Add the cheese, pepper and egg and let it sit for 15.

The filling is 1C greek yogurt, 1 tbsp minced fresh rosemary, 2 tbsp fresh Italian parsley, scallions (which I left out. yuck.), salt and pepper, 2 eggs and 12oz of quartered artichoke hearts. The recipe calls for frozen, which I would use with great delight if they were available anywhere in the state of Utah. Instead I used jarred - I just drained them really well. Also 2oz of crumbled goat cheese and 1/2C of grated parmesan. You layer the polenta in the oiled pan and make a well - it's a VERY thick crust - about 3/4" around the edges. You let the crust sit about 15 minutes and preheat the oven to 375. Then arrange the artichokes in a circle from the outside to the center in the crust, sprinkle the goat cheese over top, pour the yogurt, herb, and egg mixture on top (carefully so it doesn't overflow) and then sprinkle the parm on top and bake 40 minutes. Then you have to let it rest a minimum of 20 minutes on a rack after it cooks so it all settles. But it's worth it.

Okay, I guess I typed the recipe up after all. lol. But the cookbook is awesome. I'm sure there will be more from there soon...

And on to the layout! I had a super nasty bout of insomnia last night, so I was up at 3:30am today trying to do anything to tire myself out and go back to bed. Nothing worked, so I got up and got ready for work and then started working on sketch #2 from Kelly's Sketchbook 4 class. I finished it tonight after a late dinner while I listened to Colorado get eliminated from the playoffs. Ouch. (Not unexpected, however.)

Grand Mosque - Sketchbook 4 No2
Here's a shocker for you... I didn't use a single thing from a Studio Calico kit on this one. I know! I have tons of other stuff I need to use so I'm trying to do that, even though it's an SC class (although April's kit comes next week, and it's a good one!)

Grand Mosque - Sketchbook 4 No2b
This is from my visit to Abu Dhabi last year. We didn't get to stop and go into the mosque (still bummed about that - it was magnificent!) but we got into the city early enough to stop for a few minutes and take pictures from the side of the freeway before we went on to our business visit at the US Embassy. Such an incredible building! And so striking in the middle of the desert with that bright blue sky behind it.

Grand Mosque - Sketchbook 4 No2cI used the Moroccan background from the Silhouette store and then cut pieces out so it wasn't a solid 12x12 and then glued it down. I used one of the inside pieces as a template and cut a few pieces out of scraps to fill in some of the open spaces.

Grand Mosque - Sketchbook 4 No2d
The papers are all scraps from when I made my Scrapbook on the Road for my FBE last year... Making Memories, Basic Grey, TPC Studios, DCWV... and more of my favorite jeweled fabric brads from Basic Grey. Those never fail to make me happy just looking at them, let alone actually using them!

Grand Mosque - Sketchbook 4 No2e
I decided to also use this to fill a challenge on the SC community - the stash buster challenge series. For this one, we had to use 2 photos, washi tape, 3 round items of some kind (brads), a color item (ink) and a stamped image. So I used my Papertrey Ink Mendhi Medallion set (the original small one) to stamp a few small images. I also added a few bits of gold airmail washi tape. I've had that ribbon forever and I'm so glad I finally used it! The Thickers are Amy Tangerine and they're super cool.

With that, I don't think I'm going to have trouble sleeping tonight, so I'm off to bed. Happy Friday!

Project Life Week 12

Project Life Blog Banner
Up with round 12! I'm glad I decided not to work on this yesterday... it was feeling too much like some chore on a to-do list and I just didn't want to do it. Tonight, it came together really quickly and I kept it simple so I'm glad I held out.

Busy week! Here's the full layout:

Project Life 2012 Week 12
On the left, documenting the fact that I finally read The Hunger Games (although now I need to see the movie!) and on Wednesday I walked to Gourmandise with some girls at work and we had a really good lunch... I may have picked up some macarons at the bakery counter that I'm still hoarding.

Thursday, a few terrible photos from Melody's birthday celebration at The Cheesecake Factory. I didn't know we were going when I went to work, so I didn't have my camera. Oh well! It was fun and the food was great.

I used a template from Tiffany Tillman's This Week template collection (#3) for both pages - I modified it for the right side. The background paper is from Gennifer Bursett's School Spirit - Grey kit. The alphabet is the Gidget Rubon alpha set and everything else is from Gen's Sweet Child of Mine - Girl collection.

On the right, my healthy in 2012 update, decorating for Easter, and going to the Scrapbook USA Expo on Saturday. I got some sweet deals... despite the size of my haul, I stayed under budget and even had enough left to buy that sweet fedora with the cute little flower (it's a clip that comes off if I want.)

My haul:


Here's the hat - picture it with good hair, an outfit that it actually goes with, and me not looking like I'm going to keel over from being too tired. lol. CIMG0020 (2)
It's going to be a great Spring / Summer hat.

And I tried a new recipe this week that I just loved. It's Cosmic Cashew Kale with Confetti Quinoa (there's a tongue twister for you!)

IMG_1261A few things I changed... I used sweet baby bell peppers because I had them from my Bountiful Basket. I used more than it called for, and also replaced the onion with peppers in addition to the peppers in the recipe. I used chicken broth / bouillon instead of veggie, and I doubled the cashew sauce. After I cooked the kale mixture, I dumped the quinoa into it, mixed it all together, and used all of the sauce. It was amazing. And even with the extra sauce, only 8 points plus on Weight Watchers. This one is a keeper! And have I mentioned how much I love kale? And quinoa? And together... yum.

New layout and a fabulous new salad

I've been playing in the craft attic again... this time I pulled out my Studio Calico Story Hour kit and add-ons, used a sketch from Kelly Purkey's Sketchpad class and did one of the assignments from my stamping class on 2 Peas. Any wonder it took a while for this to come together? I think I may have tried too hard... lol. In the end, it turned out pretty cute, I think!

She Loves to Read

I couldn't resist scrapping this picture of Adorable-Niece-Eraleigh. It's pretty typical... nose in a book and oblivious to everything else. (She got lost in Wegman's at Christmas because she was so absorbed in a Dr. Seuss book she found that she couldn't look up long enough to watch where she was walking. Sigh.)

She Loves to Read close-up 1

The cardstock and patterend paper, border strip, chevron, book, date and alphabet stamps are from the kit. So are the green sparklies, brads, sticker and the "real" tags.

She Loves to Read close-up 2

I added some Basic Grey opaline flowers, Prima flowers and stamped various Hero Arts stamps onto the punched white circles. The glitter tape and ribbon are American Crafts from the stash.

She Loves to Read close-up 3

The chevron tag is actually digital paper from Gennifer Bursett's Sweet Child of Mine - Baby Boy kit. I printed a section of it and cut it into a tag. The scalloped circle under the flower is from the Grandma's Easter Bonnet kit, and the journaling tag is from her new Check It Journaling Cards kit (currently on sale for $1! It's a steal.)

And I think Eraleigh is all of those things, but adorable was for this particular layout :)

She Loves to Read close-up 4

I also got crazy... I got on a bit of a hand stitching kick with my Happy Little Moments book, and back-stitched a border with sequins all the way around the page. A bit time consuming, but kind of relaxing too. I won't do it on every layout, but I liked the effect.

And now for something very important. Food.

I tried a new recipe this week - it's a Date and Walnut Wheat Berry Salad with arugula and an orange vinaigrette. The vinaigrette recipe alone was awesome, and I adore wheat berries. This was super yummy. 10 points plus on Weight Watchers, though... so I added fruit and greens and backed off on the wheat berries, walnuts and dressing to make it fit a little better into my day.

Wheat Berry Data and Arugula Salad

It also has some goat cheese crumbled on top. The recipe called for regular, but the store had a fig flavored one that I thought would go well with the other flavors. It's subtle, but works great.

Tonight, I had leftovers and did a little remix on the salad... this time instead of an orange, I added nectarine slices and blueberries and then halved the arugula and added some butter lettuce. Super yum.

Wheat Berry Salad Take 2 blog

I've still got a few servings left... we'll see what I do next! I have another nectarine, so I might do that again - it was really delicious.

Turkish Kofte and 29 Days of Love

I love the smell of spices floating through my house... and my hands still smell a bit like olive oil, even after washing. Yum.

Today was a cooking day for me, and I had been craving Turkish food so last week after my menu planning, I got a few things so I could make it this week. Plus, it helped me use a few of these beauties:

Bountiful Baskets Heirloom Tomatoes

I ordered the heirloom tomato add-on from my Bountiful Basket this week... I absolutely adore them, but they're $5 a pound at the grocery store. However this way, I got 10 pounds for $12. Is that a deal or what? They're fresh and perfect and delicious. In fact, yesterday for dinner I just sliced one up with a little fresh mozzarella:

Ancho Veggie Polenta with Heirloom Tomato and Mozarella

(That's my Ancho Chili and Veggie Polenta - or kitchen sink polenta. lol. I cook the polenta and mix in roasted asparagus and mushrooms, 2 ears of sweet corn and several diced tomatoes along with sea salt and ancho chili powder. Yum.)

I think the purple ones are my favorites.

So tonight, I used a few to make the tomato sauce for my kofte with yogurt from Claudia Roden's New Book of Middle Eastern Food (one of my favorite cookbooks.)

Kofte with Yogurt

I used beef instead of lamb... 1.5 pounds mixed with salt, pepper and a small to medium chopped onion. I don't love onion, so I diced mine quite small and sauteed it before mixing into the beef. I also added about a tbsp of kofte spice mix that I got at the Spice Bazaar in Istanbul. Kofte spice for kofte. Makes sense, right? I have no idea what's in it, although I'm sure paprika is in there somewhere.

You form it into patties and either grill it or broil until brown on both sides but slightly pink in the middle.

For the pita, you toast it - I cut mine first... it's easier. Toss in a little bit of olive oil in a sautee pan until brown and set aside.

For the sauce, about 1 pound of diced tomatoes (I left the skin on), 1 tsp of sugar, salt and pepper and 1 tbsp of olive oil. Cook until soft.

Layer pita, hot sauce, 4 patties, room temp plain Greek yogurt (I use fat free) and a few pine nuts. Also a drizzle of olive oil mixed with paprika.


29 Days of Love Blog Header

And now a little catch-up on my 29 Days of Love album.

29 Days of Love - Days 23-24

The 23rd was "Today I love something in my purse." I used this fabulous little wool pouch I picked up at the Alpaca showroom in Cusco. I use it for all kinds of little things I carry with me and I just love it. And it's cute!

29 Days of Love - Day 23

The 24th was "Today I love my favorite letter" and I was going to do this... the letter "G," of course, (mostly because there are several fonts where it just looks cute) but I was inspired by my Bountiful Baskets instead. As much as I love those and continually get new people hooked on them, they can't be left out of this book.

29 Days of Love - Day 24

Check the punch art action! It's been a long time since I've done any of that.

Yesterday's prompt was "Today I love someone that comes to visit me" (Or someone in my house, but since I live alone I used the visit option.)

29 Days of Love - Day 25

I put Melody's cute kiddos on there :)

Today's prompt hasn't been posted yet, so I decided to just wait until later and catch up with it.

Time to get ready for a new week. Sigh... the weekend never seems to last long enough :-P

Texting and Cooking

(Is that like drinking and driving? It seems like it could be a bit dangerous. For me, anyway.)

In any case, I wasn't actually doing any texting today, but that was Alissa's prompt for today's entry: I love who I text.

29 Days of Love Blog Header

As I mentioned in my journaling, I'm not a big phone or texting person, but when I read this I immediately thought of Melody because texting has become the easiest way for both of us to reach each other and it helped us keep in touch before they moved back here.

29 Days of Love - Day 2

Today was a pretty quick entry because I cut out the hearts with my Cricut yesterday. The rest of it came together around watching Downton Abbey. Because I'm now totally addicted... I wasn't going to get into it because I only just found out about it recently and am way behind, but than I checked and found out I can stream it for free on Amazon because of my Prime membership. Score! So I've watched the first two episodes and I'm hooked. It's fabulous. (Catching up on Once Upon a Time is pushed back yet again!)

Anyway... working in the Amy Tangerine daybook - I like having different papers and sizes every day. I used the Cricut shape and some scraps of Creative Imaginations paper, a Pink Paislee House of 3 ticket, stamps, AC rubon letters and old KI sticker letters and a felt heart from Making Memories.

In addition to my project and my TV watching, tonight was also a cooking night. I've been dying to try this recipe that I found on feastingathome.com. I had most of the stuff to make it and just bought some kale and ginger. (I saw a bumper sticker a week or so ago that said "eat more kale" and I have to agree with the sentiment. Interesting bumper sticker, though.)

Farro, Kale, Almond and Pomegranate Prep

Any recipe that starts with sauteeing garlic and ginger in olive oil and also includes allspice, cinnamon and cumin already has me drooling. The smell of all of that cooking is just delightful. Although while mincing 6 cloves of garlic, I did think about how maybe I should make some of Aarti's garlic ginger paste and keep it in the fridge. That would have been perfect to speed things up. Either way...

Farro, Kale, Almond and Pomegranate

I had regular raisins instead of golden so I just used those and it was perfectly fine. I could probably have used the currents I have on hand too. Maybe next time. I didn't have parsley so I skipped that, and when I first tasted it after it was almost ready, it felt like it needed a little more sweet so I added some maple syrup because it was handy (and delicious). This was really a wonderful dish - I'm excited for leftovers and the recipe definitely goes in the keep pile.

So glad tomorrow is Friday... it's been a busy week and I'm ready for the weekend! Mostly for sleeping, but I'm sure several episodes of Downton Abbey will also be involved. Just sayin'.

Project Life Week 4

The month has certainly flown by, hasn't it? I can't believe tomorrow is the last day of January. Crazy!

But... another week means it's time for another PL post!

Project Life Blog Banner

Yup, getting fancy here on the blog :) Saw this idea on another blog and loved it, so I made my own little banner.

Here's this week's spread - a little different feel, and definitely not following the standard template.

Project Life 2012 Week 4

Another picture heavy week, but I'm pretty sure it will be quite different next week. But you never know :) The right side feels a bit unbalanced next to the left, but it's not bugging me enough to fix it.

Left side:

Project Life 2012 Week 4 left

I snapped a picture after it had snowed last weekend as I was walking into my building at work. It was just beautiful, the trees all frosted and the mountains covered with snow. I knew a lot of it would burn off so I had to get a picture.

Also, been listening to a lot of Depeche Mode lately and had a few thoughts about it I wanted to get down... and my healthy living update. More cooking (see recipe at the bottom) and some more cookbooks that I'm really excited about.

Right side:

Project Life 2012 Week 4 right

Of course, lots of space dedicated to the scrap attic organization... that took such a huge chunk of my time that I had to give it plenty of space. And I'm still totally thrilled with the results (and kind of wishing I was doing a traditional project life now! Maybe I'll switch and just print what I've done and put them in page protectors. We'll see... I wanted digital to avoid big albums.)

Also a few phone shots from a trip up to Sundance on Friday with my team at work for a farewell lunch at the Foundry Grill. We had the option of taking the afternoon to ski or going home after lunch, so I went home. It was lovely :)

Finally, more Bountiful Baskets love... a fun little moment at pickup on Saturday - the truck was 40 minutes late so the baskets weren't ready when we got there. I was going to volunteer, but they told they lady in front of me they already had too many, so I ended up chatting in line with a few ladies. I know I'm among fellow food / produce nerds when I hear this phrase: "I was really hoping we'd get brussels sprouts again. They were so good last week!" You won't hear me argue, but it's not something most people wish for. lol. Which is too bad... brussels sprouts are awesome! I made some this week with 0 calorie olive oil spray, sea salt and a little paremsan - roasted in the oven at 425 for 15 minutes and they were divine.

Speaking of cooking veggies, I made a cauliflower puree this week that was just fantastic.

Cauliflower Puree with Tortilla Soup

Here's the recipe:

Lemon Cilantro Cauliflower Puree

1 head of cauliflower, cut into florets
5 fingerling potatoes (or about 1 1/2C, chopped)

Steam for about 18 minutes until tender and then add:

1 C fat-free plain Greek yogurt (you can add more or less depending on the consistency you want)
1 tbsp mustard (I used whole grain, dijon would be really good)
1/4 tsp ground cumin
1/4 tsp ground coriander
1 tbsp fresh lemon juice (you could add a little zest too for extra zing)
1/2 cup fresh cilantro
salt to taste (I use kosher, probably a few tsps)

Mix them all up - I used a stick blender but a blender or food processor would work too. It makes about 6 servings.

I've been eating it with leftover bean and chicken soup / chili / whatever you want to call it. It's fantastic... I feel like I've had a big plate of meat and potatoes, but the puree is only 1 pointsplus per serving! Can't beat it.

Next up? I think I'm going to try something with farro :)

Catching Up... December Daily Days 21-22

I can't believe the new year is already a week old! It's a good thing keeping up with blogging wasn't a resolution. lol. But I'm back in Utah, unpacked and back in the swing of daily life and trying to catch up with a few things.

Before I left Virginia, Erin mentioned that she was looking forward to seeing the rest of my December Daily... sometime by the end of February. I think that was a challenge. So, tonight I caught up on days 21-22.

Day 21 - getting packed up and ready to head home for Christmas.

December Daily Day 21

I even managed to take a picture while I was packing!

Day 22: My flight back home and then a few photos from meeting the family at Bertucci's for dinner that night.

December Daily Day 22

The Bertucci's pictures are in a little American Crafts 4x6 page protector that's stapled to the larger one.

Blog - Bertucci's 12-22-11

Bertucci's has such delicious rolls... hot from the oven. Yum. Eraleigh was cute - she was a little shy seeing me again at first, but that ended quickly. She was absolutely in love with her Frosty t-shirt - I saw that quite a few times while I was home!

More on the Christmas holidays coming soon...

In the meantime, I'm back into my healthy eating and exercising. Isn't that what everyone does at the beginning of a new year? I had forgotten how much I love bringing home bags of fresh produce and how delicious a strawberry can be when you're really hungry. Since I'm back home and am going to be here for quite a while, it was time to stock up the fridge again and I've been snacking on berries and roasting veggies like a mad woman. So good.

Today, I did a little cooking after braving the snow to go to the grocery store (admittedly, the snow wasn't that bad. It's the kind I actually like - big, fluffy flakes that coat the trees and houses but not the roads!) I made a risotto-style dish that's half arborio rice and half bulgur wheat. It ends up being a little healthier and more filling that way. Then I packed it with fresh winter veggies, some spices and some fresh handmade chicken sausage from the butcher.

Blog - Kale, Squash and Chicken Sausage Risotto

I made it just like regular risotto - onions and garlic sauteed in 2 tbsp olive oil and then added the grains (1/2 cup each). I had cut and sauteed a big bunch of kale and about 1cup brussels sprouts beforehand (using 0 cal olive oil spray) as well as cooking up the chicken sausage (about 3/4 pound). After I added 1/2 C alchohol-free white wine (fewer calories) and starting to add the warm chicken broth (1 box), I threw in about 1 1/2 C of butternut squash, a few bay leaves and some ground thyme (seasoning with kosher salt and fresh pepper all the way through). Toward the end of the cooking I put in the greens and about 2oz of grated parmesan (the cabbage flavor takes over if you put it in too early). Before serving, I drizzled just a touch of agave nectar and sprinkled a bit more parmesan. The recipe serves 6 and it's only 8 points-plus on Weight Watchers... pretty good for a risotto! I meant to add tomatoes too since they go so well with kale... I'll probably slice up some camparis when I do the leftovers.

And, while I was at the store, they had gorgeous heirloom tomatoes and also some fresh, homemade mozarella (made earlier today) so I decided to get them along with fresh basil to make some caprese.

Blog - Heirloom Tomato Caprese

I just think heirlooms are so beautiful - I'd love to grow tons of them. Maybe if I ever have a garden.

Well, we have 9am church tomorrow and I'm teaching Sunday School, so I'm off. Later!

December Daily: Day 17

Whew... all caught up! I haven't decided if I'm going to take the stuff to keep up while I'm at home, but hopefully I can keep up until I leave.

December Daily Day 17 a

Today was busy, but fun. I got to sleep in! I needed it... too many late nights and I get sick so I needed to catch up a bit on sleep. I got up at 11 and did some cardio (much needed after last night's dinner) and then went over to the church to do a rehearsal for the duet I'm singing in Sacrament meeting tomorrow. We're doing "What Child is This?" and I think it's going to be beautiful... as long as I still have a voice in the morning! I'm up too late again, but hopefully I can make up for it. I can't sleep too late since I just found out I'm teaching Sunday School, but I think I'll have time.

December Daily Day 17 b

After rehearsal, I braved Costco. I parked on the street right away rather than trying to go into the parking lot, and I was able to walk right in, pick up my photos and even grab a churro and still get back out in about 5 minutes. Sweet! More errands and picking up around the house - the stuff that all gets behind during a busy week.

December Daily Day 17 c

And fun mail today... a super cute Christmas card from Francesca and Gianluca. And I LOVE the stickers Francesca! They're so cute.

This evening, Melody dropped off the kids so she and Vic could do a family thing. For me, it was the perfect excuse to make little gingerbread houses from my Christmas Village Nordicware pan without then having lots of little cakes sitting around begging to be eaten. I whipped up the batter and baked them while the kids watched Tangled, then we cleared off the coffee table and got to work with decorating.

December Daily Day 17 d

We had a lot of fun. Samuel just jumped up and down and squealed with delight, mumbling what he wanted me to help him with on his house. Angelina was serious, working on getting it just right, and Logan was intent on getting as much candy as humanly possible onto his little cake house. In the end, we had great houses and they were all proud... worried about having them left behind when their parents came to pick them up. Mostly though, Logan just wanted to eat his. He figured I had my camera out and mom and dad could just see pictures of the house rather than seeing it in person. lol.

And after they left? I got all caught up on my December journal. Whew.

And for you Melody... some pictures of the evening for you to save for your journal :)











k... that's it for now. Until tomorrow!

December Daily: Day 12 - the baking begins!

Yup, tonight was the beginning of my Christmas baking and cooking. I usually start earlier, but it's probably for the best... less time for me to eat treats. lol.

December Daily Day 12 b
At this time of year, I love peppermint and gingerbread. Tonight, I started with peppermint... I made the peppermint bark that's for munching, but which will also go on the peppermint bark cheesecake I'm making for our Peanut Gallery Christmas party this weekend. While I was at it, I also dipped some pretzel sticks. But not only are they dipped in chocolate, but they've got a caramel coating under the peppermint white chocolate dip. Then I added crushed starlight mints on top. I haven't tried one yet, but I hope they're as good as they look!

Blog - Caramel Chocolate Peppermint Pretzel Sticks
I put them in an apothocary jar to sit on my counter. I think that's the reason I haven't eaten one - I don't want to disturb how good they look sitting in there. lol.

December Daily Day 12

Here you can see my peppermint bark setting up on the dining room table as well as my other concoction tonight - soup! More pumpkin - I had to use the other half of the one I used for my ragu last week. Don't the new dishes look pretty?

Blog - Pumpking and Sweet Potato Soup
1/2 a pumpkin, seeded, cleaned, peeled and chopped... sprinkle with cumin, allspice and cinnamon and roast for 35 minutes at 425. Meanwhile, 1 diced onion and 4 minced garlic cloves in olive oil until softened, then add a box of chicken stock, 3 peeled and chopped sweet potatoes and a peeled and chopped apple. I added more spices, salt and pepper, and then the pumpkin when it came out of the oven. I let it simmer for about an hour and then smoothed it out with my stick blender. I added 1C of skim milk for a little more smooth / creamy texture. I served it with browned chicken-apple sausage and toasted pumpkin seeds (I toasted the ones from my pumpkin with salt, Worcestershire, paprika and a pinch of cayenne.) It was delicious and filling. I love homemade soup when the weather gets cold.

One last part in my entry today - I made a little folder page to write an extra note about some of the details of the day.

December Daily Day 12 c

And now, seeing as how I'm up WAY too late again (after promising myself to go to be earlier. sigh.) I'm off!

December Daily: Day 4 and a new recipe

I'm all caught up again! It was kind of a quiet Sunday here... a nice afternoon at church, some snow (the pretty kind - big fluffy flakes that melt when they hit the road and stick to the grass and trees), and I did some cooking. Another new and slightly... interesting... recipe :)

First, here's today's entry:

December Daily Day 4
Pin It

The journaling prompt from Shimelle today was about your ideal Christmas. I have to admit, I'm lucky enough to have a pretty ideal Christmas most years with going home to see family, doing our traditions, baking cookies and enjoying all of that with a family that's all close. But in relief society today at church, we talked about having the Christmas spirit and I realized that a totally ideal Christmas for me would be to keep that spirit every day of the season - not letting little things get to me and stress me out... not getting caught up in gifts and decorations and shopping... being grateful every day. So that's what I wrote about today.

December Daily Day 4 - Left
This page was about 95% digital - I added some Stickles to the snowflakes after I printed it out. I also quoted some from the Ensign article that we used in class - by President Monson.

December Daily Day 4 - Right
On the other side, a picture I took through my windshield driving back home from church in the snow (don't worry... no one was behind me so I came to a stop first. lol.), the score from the Avs game I watched (they've won 3 in a row! I may fall over.) and some pictures from this evening's culinary adventure. I wrote a little bit about how to make it and why I made it. The poinsettia is out of wool felt from a die by Papertrey Ink and I sewed some pearl beads into the center.

Here's the picture of the snow:

Blog - Snowy Sunday Afternoon
See? Pretty.

And now, I give you tonight's creative cooking experiment. Pumpkin & Sweet Potato "Ragu" with homemade rigatoni.

Blog - Pumpkin Sweet Potato Ragu and Pasta
My Italian friends are probably shuddering with horror right now. lol.

But... I was trying to use stuff I already had in the house so I can stay away from the grocery store until payday. You know how the holidays are... especially after coming home from a big trip. I'm on a budget, and it's not like I don't have a ton of food around the house. Case in point: I had 5 sweet potatoes, a pumpkin, chicken-apple sausage and fresh parmesan cheese, not to mention pignoli, pepitas, chicken stock and a ton of spices.

So really, I made this up as I went along and I don't really have measurements. But it was really good.

Start with a pumpkin - preferably a small one. Mine was about the size of a basketball and I only used half (but the rest, combined with a bag of frozen mashed potatoes, is going to make a fabulous soup!) I cut it in half and scooped out the seeds (which are cleaned and drying so I can roast them) and then I cut it in quarters and peeled it. Then I chopped the sucker up and added 5 peeled and chopped sweet potatoes (small ones). I tossed them with fat free olive oil spray, about 1/4 tsp each of allspice, cinnamon and cumin and then roasted them at 425 for 35 minutes. They came out perfect. Then I threw them in a big sauce pan with about 2 cups of chicken stock and let it mush up a bit. I used my immersion blender to help that along, but I left it about half chunky for texture. I also added salt and about 1/4 tsp. each more of all my spices (and that blend of spices smells fabulous!) and about 1/4 C of real maple syrup.

At this point, I quartered and sliced 5 links of Aidell's chicken apple sausage and browned it, then added it to the potato / pumpkin mixture. I toasted a nice double-handful of pepitas and about 1-2 tbsp of pignoli and added those in, along with a heaping handful of fresh grated parmesan cheese, more salt, and fresh ground pepper. I also stirred in about 1 cup of skim milk. Then I boiled the fresh pasta (which I do just because I enjoy making pasta and using the extruder attachment for my KitchenAid. And because I'm a nerd.) and I added the pasta to my "ragu" to finish, along with about 1C of the pasta water (lots of good starch and also salt). Then I served it with a bit more parmesan.

To be honest, I was really worried that it was going to be a giant pile of mush. However, there did end up being enough variety in the texture that I really enjoyed it. The chunks of pumpkin were a bit fibrous, the sausage had a good chew to it, the pepitas and pignoli added a little crunch, and the pasta was nicely al dente, so it wasn't the same texture as the mashed veggies. If I were to serve it to company, I'd probably make some parmesan frico to stick in the top and add crispiness. But honestly? It was delicious. And it made a ton... I'm set for the week!

k... it's late so it's time for me to sign off. Later!

Missoni and Yummy Pizza

I'm sure by now most everyone has seen the commercials from Target for the new Missoni collection. I saw some pictures from it hitting Pinterest and made a note to myself to go check it out. But somehow, I ended up digging in more and found out in a newspaper article talking about how even though the collection just hit stores yesterday, it had almost completely sold out with no plans to do a second run and restock. Wow! So I thought I'd just drop by Target on my way home to see if there was anything left. I wasn't expecting anything, but there were actually a few cool things! I couldn't resist...

Missoni Score

I thought the glass canister was really cool and would make a great cookie jar, and the 3 piece serving platter would be fun at parties or even as unique dinner plates. And I always love the funky melamite plates they have so I picked up just two of them. There were a few other things - wellies, some kids clothes, scarves... there were some really cool tights but I couldn't bring myself to pay $16, so that's all I got.

When I got home, I made up a pizza that I put on my menu plan for this week (look at me, trying to plan ahead!) I did a Mediterranean inspired pizza.

Mediterranean Pizza

For this one, I used whole wheat pizza dough from the store and then made a flavor infused olive oil instead of a sauce (I threw some crushed garlic cloves and some whole cumin seeds in a pan with the oil and cooked it on low until all the flavor soaked in - strain it when it's done). I preheated to 425 and sliced an eggplant in half lengthwise, and then into 1/2" slices (could have gone thinner). I put those on a baking sheet, salted them and sprayed with 0 calorie olive oil spray and roasted them for about 10 minutes. Then I pulled them out, cranked it to 500 and put in my baking stone while it heated.

After it heated, I took out the stone and put the crust on it - I use 6 oz of dough, rolled very thin to about 16" in diameter. Then I poured on the oil and swirled it around with a spoon so it covered the whole crust. Then I layered on the eggplant and also sliced 2 large tomatoes into 1/2" slices and put those on top. I cut 5 large cremini mushrooms into slices and sauteed them in the pan where I had infused the olive oil and then added them on top along with about 1 tbsp of sliced kalamata and green olives. Finally, I crumbled about 1/2 C of feta over the top and popped it back in the oven until the crust was crispy and the feta was golden on top. Then I tore a bunch of fresh basil over top. I meant to throw on a bit of my Sicilian Lemon White Balsamic, but totally spaced it. Good thing I have left-overs! It makes about 8 good-sized slices, and the serving size is 2 slices (6 points plus on WW - can't beat it!). It was yum. I can't wait to try it with the vinegar.

Okay, I'm off to watch a little Restaurant Impossible on my DVR before I crash for the night.

Foodie catch-up


So, I'm a little behind again (as usual!) and wanted to post a little foodie love that I promised. First, I had found fresh figs at Costco and almost did a little dance in the aisle - I took them home and made a delicious fig, apple and goat cheese crostata.


To make this, I used the crust from this recipe. Then I quartered the figs, sliced a Granny Smith apple into thin slices and sauteed them with brown sugar and I Can't Believe it's Not Butter spray (about 1 tbsp) until they were caramalized. I added in some goat cheese for tang, wrapped it all up in the crust, added an egg wash (Egg Beaters) and then baked it until golden. It works as a savory side or a dessert - for a dessert, drizzle with honey and serve with whipped cream of vanilla ice cream. Yummy.

The other thing I made recently that was fantastic was a Summer Veggie Pizza - I got the recipe from Cooking Light but adapted it just a bit.


I used pre-made whole wheat pizza dough from the grocery store. Instead of an onion, I added a zucchini. I used an orange bell pepper instead of red for color, sprinkled on some fresh thyme and added a sliced yellow heirloom tomato before covering with cheese and baking. Before serving, I added the fresh basil which really took it to the next level. This was fantastic and I'll definitely make it again!

And looking at this, you can see how totally addicted I am to fresh produce lately. I got my first Bountiful Basket last weekend and was thrilled with all the beautiful produce, fresh herbs and also the granola and zucchini bread I got. I'll definitely keep doing that, but I think I'll need to skip this coming weekend and work through some of what's in my fridge from the last basket, a trip to Costco and a run to a farmers market. See the loot from that trip below:


I got some apricot preserves from Tagee's Famous Fruit that are delicious, especially on the fresh pumpernickel bread I picked up. I also got a jar of their corn salsa, but I haven't tried that yet. And aside from pizza (and a fabulous veggie risotto I made last night), I've been doing a LOT of this:


Which is good... I got a bit off track while my parents were here, but you have to splurge now and then, right? Besides. All of the fresh stuff is just so delicious.

Anyway. That's my food catch-up post. More to come...

Just Smashing

This is how you know I was bored last week. lol. I have cooking and scrapbooking in this post!

First, the food. Crazy as it may sound, I watch cooking shows on my DVR in the mornings while I'm lifting weights (it's iPod for the cardio, of course.) Lately I've been into Chuck's Day Off from the Cooking Channel. This week I watched an episode featuring a tasty looking risotto and I already had most of the stuff on hand to make it, so I picked up the other two ingredients and whipped up a batch. Yum! Of course, I don't do shrimp so I skipped that part and threw in a few sliced Aidell's chicken apple sausages instead. Also, the store by me didn't have kefalotyri cheese (there's a shock) so I picked up machengo instead and it worked great. This was really good - I'll probably make it again some time.

Chuck's Lemon Spinach Risotto

Next up... a scrapbook layout! The first one I've done since before my trip (I've been home 6 weeks. holy cow!) and funny enough, it's not a trip layout. I haven't been in the mood to even begin to try and tackle that one so I did some cute pictures of Adorable-Niece-Aubrey. They're from March since Nicole hasn't posted anything more recent (ahem. lol.)


Isn't she just precious? And a close-up:

Pretty in Purple Close-up

And finally, if you follow the scrapbooking industry at all, it's almost impossible to have NOT heard of Smash books from EK Success / K&Co. I loved the concept when it was released and then after really getting into this kind of scrapbooking with my scrapbook on the road, I've enjoyed having something where I can easily get memories and inspiration down without the stress of trying to put it together in a formal layout. I'm getting lots of little memories and tidbits recorded that normally wouldn't have made it onto a layout, as well as pulling together things that I just like or that inspire me. So here's a peek into the smashing I've been doing.

Smash 1

Smash 2

Smash 3

Smash 4

Smash 5

And a few spreads that are still incomplete...

Smash 6

Smash 7

K. That's it for tonight... I have to go hit the sack so I can get up early tomorrow. I can't be late for my first day on the new job!


Quick Catch-up

Just popping in with a quick catch-up post. Lots going on! It's been busy and fun. Where to start... how about food!

Turkish Pizza

I was trying to come up with something for dinner the other night and scrounged in my fridge. I had whole wheat pizza dough, tzatziki sauce, lots of tomatoes, fresh spinach, feta cheese, a few kalamata olives and some leftover kofte that I had made the week before (yummy spiced Turkish beef kebab). So I made pizza! Just little ones, but it was delicious.

What else... I had the final project for my Business Judgment class to finish and turn in last week. We had to incorporate frameworks and learnings from the course to use on an important upcoming decision. However this time, instead of writing a paper, 25% of the grade was on creativity and presentation and we were encouraged to go out of the box and do things that fit with our learning style. So I did an art journal-y collage thing as a frame for a scenario analysis and then did some more analysis and next steps that I typed up and stuck to the back. I'm not sure if I'm getting it back, so I took lots of pictures. I had fun with this. Things are still up in the air on this particular decision, so I'm keeping the cat in the bag for now. lol. Besides... keeping a few secrets makes me more mysterious, right? (I'm rolling my eyes as I type that.)

BizJudgment Full Before

The base is a big piece of cardboard and I covered it with old maps, washi tape and bakers twine. Then I collaged stuff on top of it. Part is heavily inspired by Teesha Moore, part is just me. Close-ups...

BizJudgment Bottom Right

BizJudgment Top Right

BizJudgment Left Side

BizJudgment Tree Close-up

And here's a shot after I added the parts for the scenario analysis (which I've blurred out, of course. Can't go spilling the beans by accident!)

BizJudgment Final Complete

We'll see how I did. I hope the professor liked it...

Next up... this last weekend was Rae's birthday, so we had a girl's night. Steph picked me up but we didn't make it to meet them at Bombay house for dinner - the traffic was a disaster. So we stopped for a quick bite at Cafe Rio and then met up with them at the mall for pedicures. My feet were in desperate need! Too much time cooped up in running shoes doesn't make for pretty feet. After that, we went to see the new X-Men movie which I really liked. Fun night out! Just a few pics from the nail salon:

Rae's Bday 2011 Pedis 1

Rae's Bday 2011 Pedis 2

Rae's Bday 2011 Pedis 3

And back to school again, our Capstone team has been working hard to try and make progress on our project for our client. This has been kind of rough - we don't have a lot of time for a pretty big deliverable, and we're working with some assumptions that make it hard. But you do what you can, right? So we have the first of two big presentations coming up this week and we needed to work on it so the team came over to my house tonight. Naturally, I made dinner. I did some bruschetta - a baguette toasted with a little parmigiano reggiano and then topped with edamame hummus, watercress and chopped walnuts. It was fabulous. I made a salad of arugula and baby spinach, fresh strawberries and blueberries, candied pecans (I whipped up a quick caramel from butter and brown sugar in a skillet, threw in the pecans and stirred until they were coated. Then just spread them on wax paper to cool. Yum.) and poppy seed dressing. Super yummy. For the main course I had pulled pork with mango BBQ sauce served on ciabatta rolls with bread and butter pickles and coleslaw (to put on top of the pork, of course). Dessert was a strawberry / peach crostata with vanilla ice cream and a strawberry / peach coulis. Of course, I have no pictures because I forgot before they came and then the guys chowed on it. lol. Maybe I'll get some when I eat leftovers later this week. But when all five guys go back for seconds, it's probably a good bet that it turned out pretty well.

So, I had brought my camera down to try and get pictures of the food and although I forgot that part, it was handy later on when Matt started using my sword as a thinking tool. And then decided that he wanted Darren to use it to deputize him (not sure how knighting and deputizing both use a sword, but whatever.) It was fairly funny.

Capstone - Matt gets knighted

And then since I had the camera, I grabbed a few shots of everyone. Nate and Matt:

Capstone - Nate and Matt and Sword

Chris and Chad...

Capstone - Chad and Chris

And me. We keep joking that the product we're working on is like snake oil because it does everything, so Matt made himself a cover for his Capstone notebook. We're thinking of making t-shirts.

Capstone - Me and Snake Oil
(I'm totally digging this headband lately. You probably can't tell by the fact that I'm wearing it in two sets of pictures in this blog post, but whatever.)

So that's it. I'm supposed to be pulling out pictures from the trip to send to Todd for our documentary, but I just can't get to it tonight. I'm exhausted... I think for the first little while after school is over, my spare time is going to be spent sleeping. After I get caught up, then I'll worry about what to do with myself. lol.

Counting the hours...

Okay, I'm going to admit something rather shocking. Up until today, I wasn't all that excited for my trip. I know, crazy, right? But I've known it was coming for two years, known which trip I was going to be on for about 8 months, and I've been planning, preparing, shopping, making lists and piling things for my suitcase for more than a month now. It really hasn't been real. I've known all along that it's going to be awesome and I'm going to have tons of fun and I've been greatly anticipating the whole thing, but that adrenaline just hadn't kicked in yet.

But now, it has. Oh yes. And if I had needed any help getting that going, waking up to snow this morning (seriously? April 26th?) would definitely have done the trick. But wow am I ready now. Tonight I picked up one last thing at the store that I wanted to take with me and I've started packing. The rest has to wait until I do laundry and can finish up the toiletries, but it's so close I can taste it. It's a good thing I've been prepping things at work for the last two weeks or I'd be in trouble because I'm about 85% checked out right now. lol. But as it is, everything is looking perfectly on track (and I knock on wood as I say that so that some huge catastrophe doesn't come up tomorrow.)

In the meantime, I've been trying to use up stuff in my fridge since I'll be gone long enough that I need to worry about that. So what could I make with spinach, tomatoes and chicken besides a rather boring salad? I browsed on Tastespotting and found this post and I had to make something similar. I actually made it on Sunday and I've been eating leftovers, but it's really delicious.

I present to you, the tomato crostata.

Tomato Crostata 1

Aside from the fact that this picture reveals exactly where my egg wash ended, it looks pretty yummy, yes? I kept the recipe for the crust almost identical (I was out of corn meal so I used instant polenta instead. It's almost the same, right? Worked like a charm, in any case.) For the filling, I had about 1/4C of sundried tomato pesto and I used that with a whole bunch of fresh spinach, about 4 cloves of garlic (this baby was strong. awesome.) and as little olive oil as I could manage and whipped up a puree in my food processor. Then I threw in a small handful of blanched almonds and gave it another whiz. After that, I added in the chicken and the tomatoes and mixed it up (with a spoon, not a food processor. lol).I poured it into the center of the crust, put the grated Dubliner cheese on top, and then folded it over to make the crostata.

Tomato Crostata 2

I will make this again. Oh yes. The filling might vary, but it was really yummy.

And, because I keep forgetting to do this, I wanted to post the birthday card I made for Melody (who's birthday was last month. doh. Happy belated birthday!) I wanted to wait until I knew she'd gotten her package and then forgot. Normally I don't post cards because I kind of suck at making them, but I really liked this one (probably because I totally nabbed the idea from Erin Lincon's blog from when this stamp set came out on Papertrey.)

Doily Birthday Card

K. That's it for now... back to finishing up stuff on my to-do list and counting the hours until I'm off on my exotic adventure.

Long catch-up post

Okay, I promised I would post, so here it is :) Just a not so quick catch-up of what I've been working on.

So last week was crazy. We had the final project from our last 12-week class due last Tuesday (Strategic Implementation and the GM's Role). We had to do a 7S analysis for a company and it included a lot of research, compiling stuff, analysis and writing and the six of us spent many an hour on conference calls or working in tiny study rooms to finish this off. It was hard and a total pain but we finished it, that class ended last week, and it was the last assignment with our assigned core teams - kind of bittersweet, really. But we were so ready to be done! Anyway, we got our projects back in class last night and had a very pleasant surprise.

7S Project Grade

Mindy is showing off the grade sheet we got back. What's hard to see is that the circle at the top is around "A" and the arrow just goes all the way down. We ROCKED that sucker. I think there might have been only one other team that did as well so we were psyched.

So after that class ended last Tuesday, my group for Brand Management stayed late to *start* working on our final project / presentation. The presentation was due in class on Thursday. We got a decent start and then quit for the night. The next night, I cooked for the team and they came to my house for dinner and then we were there until 1am working on the project and deciding how to get it all finished before class the next day.

First up, food. I got to braise something! I was dying to do this... I made braised short ribs in my dutch oven. The recipe is way too complicated to post (sorry Melissa!) but it was from Dorie Greenspan's "Around My French Table" and it was delicious.

Brand Night - Short Ribs

Because you can't have beef without a good starch, I whipped up a batch of potato gnocchi. I've been hit and miss with these - it's hard to get them perfect. But this time I tried the instructions from Cooks Illustrated and then made a brown butter gorgonzola sauce to go with them and they were pretty fabulous.

Brand Night - Gnocchi

Basically, you bake 2 pounds of potatoes for about an hour and then peel them while they're still hot (a silicon holder helps a lot). Put them through a ricer into a bowl and let them sit about 15 minutes to cool down. Throw in a teaspoon of kosher salt and about 1 1/4C of flour and knead it together. You want to keep adding flour a little at a time until the dough isn't sticky. Then you just roll it out in about 3/4" ropes and chop them into pieces about 1" long (I just use a pastry scraper to chop mine.) Cook them in *near* boiling water until they float (a rolling boil can make them float before they're ready - good tip!) and then scoop them out with a slotted spoon and finish them in the sauce. The sauce... melt about 2 tbsp of butter in your pan and let it brown - make sure you don't burn it. Then crumble in about 5 oz of a good gorgonzola. I used an Oregonzola that had nice flavor. Stir until the cheese is melted and mixed with the butter. Then I just added enough milk to give it the right consistency. Yum.

I also did one of my favorite things - I usually do some variation of this a few times a week. Just slice up some veggies (parsnips, carrots and asparagus here) and line a baking sheet with foil. Spray it w/ 0 calorie olive oil spray and spread the veggies in a single layer (try to get them about the same thickness). Then spray again with the oil and add a very light sprinkling of kosher salt. Cook on 425 about 25 minutes or so.

Brand Night - Roasted Veggies

And for dessert, I was in the mood for eclairs so I whipped up a batch. This time I used the recipe from the "Flour" bakery cookbook and they were yummy. Again - the recipe is too long to post, but it's a great book if you like baking.

Brand Night - Flour Eclairs

Whew! So that was the food. Then later that night, Brent grabbed my camera off of the counter and caught this very lovely photo of me. I was talking and glanced up and he took the picture. Nice. I think it was around midnight and we were all about to crash. Chad is on the couch and you can see the back of Laura's head. lol.

Brand Night Study Group

We managed to get everything pulled together just before class on Thursday and gave a great presentation. The final paper was due yesterday and we finished it up in the morning and then turned it in after class last night. Whew! Two more classes down! We started Global Management last night (which is a tie-in class with our trip) and some of us are starting a Business Judgment elective tomorrow. Laura, Chad and I are all in that one together - should be fun! I'm looking forward to Global Management - last night we formed up teams with people going on our trips and signed up for a country to do a report both before and then after the trip. I'm on a great team with fun people - Chad and three other friends I haven't had a chance to work with yet - Jen, Scott, & Dave. We're doing Greece :)

And that leads me to...

I realized that I never mentioned what had happened with the scheduling on our trip. We were going to Morocco and Egypt before heading to the UAE, but obviously that's out. So instead, we're going to Spain and Greece. I know. Such poor substitutes. lol. I'm super excited! We'll be visiting Madrid and Athens. (And Mel - I promise to have as little fun in possible in Spain without you. I wish you could come!)

So as I mentioned the other day, I signed up for Ali Edwards' Scrapbook on the Road online class. I just finished up assembling the album I'll take with me along with a small tool kit. I'm also going to be taking my Fuji Instax camera and film to get some little instant photos to stick in the book (but my big camera is coming too, of course! I already ordered extra memory cards and another battery. I plan to take a LOT of photos.) So here's an overview of the album. I made mine a lot more colorful and it has a lot of pages in it. Because I'm going for more than 2 weeks and we're visiting 5 countries (and because I know myself... lol), I put in a lot of space for me to write and for photos and memorabilia. I figure I can always take out anything I don't use.

Some pictures of the outside of the book. I made the covers from book board and then painted them. I added the decorations and then sealed the outsides with gel medium for a little protection.

SBOR Cover

SBOR Cover 2

And the inside - part one. I made all of the country dividers from cut down tabbed manilla folders. There are some extra pages and elements between the sections. I can use those for travel details between countries or just move them where I need them. I also did quite a bit of stamping considering how much of this is going to be covered up. But hey. It was fun and I was excited to be doing it!

SBOR Inside Before 1

And part 2... lots and lots of journaling space. I cut down a bunch of plain notebook paper to fit in the book - I did this for my travel journal in China and filled every page and then some and I loved having it. I figure I can also grab hotel stationary on the road and mix it in if I need it. Or even if I don't!

SBOR Inside Before 2

You can see where I just added a bunch of blank pages at the back that I can intersperse or just remove depending on what I need. I also tried all of the different techniques from the class videos and had a blast with this - I'm really glad I decided to take it because I think it helped me make a better album and do it pretty quickly too.

For most of the elements that I stuck in, I adhered them lightly so I can pull them off or move them. I anticipate that this will look nothing like what I'm starting with by the time I come back. But that's the point, I guess! Plus, the trip is 6 credits and we have to do an individual report plus a trip journal for the entire group (we'll take turns writing it) so I figure I'll have a leg up by doing this :)

It was super fun to put this together... now I'm all ready to go! Too bad it's still a month away. Maybe I got working on this too soon? lol. I'm glad to have it done and ready, though. When I get ready I'll pull my little tool kit together and just stick it in my carry-on.  Plus, it just feels good to do some scrapbooking again. :)

Yay for new cookbooks!

Especially really cool ones that you win on your very most favoritest foodie site! (I *heart* Tastespotting... I've been a follower for years. Melissa can attest to this, given that I got her totally addicted as well while we were working together.)

Silver Spoon Pasta Cookbook So yeah. I just saw on today's blog post that I won this cookbook! Given my adoration for all things pasta (especially lately), this is incredibly a propos. You can guarantee that you'll see something from this soon. Although maybe not all that soon given that I'm crazy busy (as you no doubt noticed by my neglectful blogging of late) and the fact that I leave on my school trip a month from today (double fist pump!!!)

Whew. So I'm psyched. And I promise to post more soon... I have one picture from a late night study session at my house last week where Brent caught me totally unaware. It's my best deer-in-the-headlights expression. Plus, naturally, more food. I braised some short ribs in my new le Creuset dutch oven (I'm totally in love with that thing) and made some fabulous gnocchi and even a batch of eclairs. It was all yum. AND... (don't fall over or anything), I've been scrapbooking! First I made a gift album for Melissa as a farewell gift from a few of us at work. No pictures of that one - it's all photos of co-workers with personal messages so I figured I shouldn't post it. I've also been working on my Scrapbook on the Road for my trip. It's coming along quite nicely. I'll post pictures soon.

Okay... back to work.

Time is flying by!

I can't believe how quickly time is moving. I'm still shocked that we're almost half-way through March! Things have been busy as usual... school, work, cooking, watching Colorado lose a lot of hockey games... keeping up with kickboxing on the weekends. It's mostly lots of fun, although work has been busy and stressful lately so the kickboxing has been coming in handy - it's like a session of Saturday morning therapy :)

Last weekend, I had been having a rough week so I planned a cooking & baking weekend to kick back and relax. First up: Friday night I made up a new cookie recipe. I need to get the recipe out and post it, but I'm calling them "kitchen sink cookies" since I just threw a bunch of stuff I liked in them. They turned out so good that I'm definitely going to make them again.

Kitchen Sink Cookies

These are made with bread and cake flour instead of regular and I subbed in quick cook oats for part of the flour. Then I threw in a bunch of coconut, a big handful of rough chopped pretzels, a smashed up graham cracker, and a handful each of cherry, white chocolate, milk chocolate and butterscotch chips. You could just kick back with a bowl of dough and a spoon and be perfectly happy, and the cookies were so good... keeping myself from eating more than one at a time was almost impossible.

Next, I decided that I wanted to make bolognese from scratch so I settled in to do that on Saturday afternoon. I found a bunch of different recipes that had things I liked about them, but the one I liked best was Anne Burrell's - plus it had a 5 star review with over 400 reviewers. How could it be bad? I'll admit I made a few changes... I cut back on the oil, used an alcholol free Merlot (quite nice, actually) and also added some mushrooms, fresh rosemary and parsley and for a little extra depth of flavor, cinnamon. I babied the sauce for about 5 hours and I have to say, it was divine.

While I was waiting for the sauce to cook, I made a quick batch of homemade baguettes (recipe from my Modern Mediterranean cookbook, which I'm really enjoying). They were perfect... golden and crispy on the outside, soft and chewy in the middle. I sliced off a few pieces and added a little goat cheese and some fig spread and just munched and savored while I stirred my sauce. It made for such a lovely, relaxing and delicious afternoon.

Homemade Baguettes

After the sauce had finally simmered and reduced long enough, I put it in the fridge for the night. The next day after church, I pulled out the extruder attachment for my Kitchen Aid (which I absolutely LOVE - it's super fun to use) and made a good sized batch of homemade rigatoni. I think pasta is actually really easy to make, and using the extruder is even easier and faster than rolling it out.

Homemade Rigatoni

Then, like a good little cook, I pulled out the bolognese and got it heated back up and then finished my pasta in the sauce. One more round of adding liquid and reducing and then I finished it with a little good olive oil and some fresh parmiggiano reggiano. Yum, yum, yum.

Pasta Bolognese Cooking

Served with some roasted asparagus and fresh bread...

Pasta Bolognese

It made a lot and it's fantastic. I'm loving the leftovers, and I have some in the freezer too. A serving of the pasta and sauce is about 9 points+ on Weight Watchers. Not too shabby!

Then the week went by in a blur. Lots going on with school and work, super busy all the time and it was Friday again before I had even blinked, it seemed! So last night I went to the EMBA Honored Alumni Banquet over at the Marriott School. There were some people from previous classes, a few from our class and professors, deans, even a few students from the upcoming class. We also honored one of our professors, Burke Jackson, and that was really sweet - he's such an awesome teacher. I hung out and mingled for a while before dinner and then ended up at a table near the front with Chad, Steve and Joe from our class plus Steve's friend and Joe's wife, with another couple from a previous class. We had Todd Budge speak to us about ethics and he tied it in with the 23rd Psalm which was really quite enjoyable - fantastic message. Then they had the awards and acceptance speeches - Professor Jackson's was really touching and funny all at once; I'm lucky to have had the chance to take classes from him. The food was pretty good too... all in all a great night!

Tonight we had another dinner planned with friends - we were going up to a restaurant I had read about in downtown Salt Lake - Bambara Restaurant in the Hotel Monaco. It was shaping up to be one of our biggest groups to date and then in the end, there were only 4 of us! Darren and Mindy's daughter was in a cheer competition and advanced to finals that night so they ended up having to stay for that... then four other people dropped out as well, so it was just me, Chad, Brent and his wife Maggie. But we still had a great time and the rest of them totally missed out. The food was fantastic and we just chatted and joked around all evening. I got a few pictures during dessert.

Brent and Maggie:

Bambara - Brent and Maggie

One of Chad and I where you can see the gorgeous desserts (I had a pear tartelette with honey ice cream and a caramel sauce, Chad had a really fantastic walnut cheesecake):

Bambara - Chad and I 1

And another one after I told Chad I needed a picture where he looked like he was actually having a good time. lol.

Bambara - Chad and I 2

Sigh. Good enough.

The food was definitely worth the drive so I'm glad we still went. I had the roasted chicken with brussel sprouts and camembert bread pudding (can you say yum?) in a really fantastic sauce. Chad got a pork porterhouse on cheddar polenta that was really delicious, and Maggie got some really tender, falling off the bone lamb. Brent got diver scallops and I refrained from tasting. lol.

Whew. Now I still have a headache from all the laughing tonight and I still need to get to work on my Sunday School lesson for tomorrow. Nothing like procrastination! Off to grab some Excedrin and get to work.

A little Linkin Park love

I love me some Linkin Park... they always put on such a fantastic show!  I met Steph and Rae on Friday night for a little yummy food at the Gateway before the show.  We went to Happy Sumo where I ordered a salad and watched Steph and Rae enjoy sushi... lol.  But after dinner, we went to Kodiak Cakes Bear Country Cookies which I noticed on the way in because of the big "warm cookies" sign in their window.  Sigh. I really could have done without knowing that place was there because wow were those some delicious cookies.  I actually still have some of what I bought tucked away in my kitchen but it's taking all my self-restraint to keep from eating them all at once.  After cookies, Rae headed home and Steph and I walked over to Energy Solutions Arena for the show. 

Prodigy opened and the music itself was pretty good - nice sound which is unusual for an opening act - at least in the shows I've been to.  The stage show... well, they didn't quite understand how to adapt to their Utah audience and as I mentioned to Steph after they got off, I'm pretty sure I saw some of their dance moves in the Breakin' movies back in the early 80's.  Linkin Park, on the other hand, was completely awesome, as usual.  We both texted in our code to get a free download of the concert (waiting for it to be available) and really enjoyed it - the live version of "When They Come for Me" was ridiculous.  I was a bit bummed that they didn't do "Wretches and Kings," but they did my other favorites from the new album and most of the best songs from their other albums. 

A few pics from my phone (hoping Steph got better ones on her little camera.)

Blog photos 1

Blog photos 2

Blog photos 3

Whew!  Anyway, it was a blast, and thanks to Steph for coming with me!  I had tons of fun.

And to follow that, what better than great food?  I was recently chided for not posting recipes with all of my food pictures, so I'm including the recipe here.  lol.  (The exact quote was that it's "criminal" that I don't post recipes to go with the yummy pictures.  lol. too funny.) This weekend I tried my first recipe from my Modern Mediterranean Cooking cookbook and it was fabulous... my first attempt at a risotto.

Pumpkin-Parm Risotto

This is a Pumpkin, lemon and parmesan risotto (although the lemon is subtle).  You take 4 cups of chicken broth and bring it to a boil and then throw in a good pinch of saffron and reduce the heat to keep the broth warm.  Then, in a nice big pan (I use a 6 qt chef's pan), saute one finely chopped onion and 1-2 cloves of minced garlic in 1 tbsp olive oil plus 1 tbsp butter.  Make sure you don't burn it, but you want a nice golden color.  Once you get that, add in 2 pounds of diced fresh pumpkin and 2 cups of arborio rice (I used a combination of fairytale squash or cinderella pumpkin and acorn squash because that's what I had on hand.  You can also use butternut - it's all good).  You want to cook this and stir constantly for about 3 minutes and then add 3/4C white wine (or in my case, 1/2 cup chicken stock + 1/4c vinegar - no wine on hand) and stir until it's been absorbed.  Then, you stir in 1/2C at a time of your stock that you're keeping warm over about 15-20 minutes.  You want to make sure each 1/2C is totally absorbed before you add the next.  I started tasting and seasoning with S/P at this point.  Once you've added all the stock and the rice is nice and tender, season again with S/P as needed, remove from heat and stir in the zest plus juice of one lemon.  I also added in about 1/2 tsp of fresh chopped rosemary and about 1 1/2oz of fresh grated parmesan (the recipe calls for those as garnish - I prefer them mixed in).  Then serve it up hot with more parm and fresh rosemary on top.  The recipe says it serves 4-6, but I'd say 6-8.  4 gives you ENORMOUS servings.  6 is good sized and works out to 9 points+ on WW.  Dividing it into 8 would give you a nice side dish.

So there you go!  I've got a few more recipes marked in this book to try soon.  I'm thinking of doing a homemade pasta with bolognese sauce and some homemade baguettes this weekend.  We'll see :)

Time is flying!

I can't believe it's already been another two weeks since my last post AND that February is almost over!  I've been busy as usual... crazy at work, trying to keep up and learn as much as I can at school and keeping it balanced at home as much as possible.   

First, the EMBA singles went back to Mazza on Friday and I drove up to meet them, but of course I totally spaced taking any pictures.  There were 5 of us and we met up with 4 more from the Salt Lake class of 2012 and it was great to meet new people and hang out and get to know each other.  The food was wonderful, as usual.  I ordered appetizers for the table and I have to say the tomatoes with bulgar, the labdeh and the little lamb pizza were amazing.  I also got a chick pea and fava bean dip that I really loved.  There was just enough for each of us to have a few bites of everything.  Then I had my lamb and rice which was drool-worthy; the rice was amazing.  And to top it all off, a date ma'mool.  I so can't wait for our trip to the Middle East.  I just hope our hotels have gyms to help me counteract all the awesome food.  lol.

Speaking of food, as usual, I've been cooking up a storm... three FABULOUS new recipes.  First, I made my very own homemade ravioli.  I made the pasta, filling and sauce all from scratch and I have to say, it was awesome.  The filling was fat free ricotta, fresh grated parmesan, salt and pepper, an egg, a few handfuls of rough chopped fresh organic baby spinach and some lean Italian chicken sausage (pre-cooked since ravioli don't cook for long).  I will definitely make this again... delish.

Homemade Ravioli in process

And the finished product...

Homemade Ravioli

Next, I made a beef and butternut squash tagine using a recipe from the latest issue of Cooking Light.  Wow was it yum.  Another recipe going into the "keep" pile!  I had leftovers tonight and it was just as fabulous.  Lots of fantastic flavor.  I just paired it with a light couscous salad that I got in a tub at Costco for $2.  You can't beat that!

Beef and Butternut Squash Tagine 2

And one more... this is from my Power Foods book (my health coach challenged me to cook a few recipes from it this month.  I also did roasted pears and brussel sprouts.  No picture, but also delicious).  This one is a paprika rubbed chicken with carrots, fennel, apricots and olives in a sauce made from chicken broth and fresh squeezed orange juice with cumin and more paprika.  Really excellent. I love fennel and the combination of flavors in the different ingredients was fantastic.

Paprika Chicken with Carrots and Fennel

k.  That's it for the food portion of tonight's blog.  lol.  Next, a little peek at something else I picked up recently:

Kickboxing Gloves

Yup.  I started kickboxing last month.  I LOVE it.  Right now I'm just going on Saturday mornings since that's about all I can fit into my schedule, but getting up after a long, frequently stressful week and going in to pound on a punching bag while sweating it out to great music is awesome.  It's at a nearby martial arts academy and it's definitely not a fluff class.  We do partner drills and bag drills with self-defense mixed in and it's a solid hour of hard work.  The first two weeks, I felt like I'd been hit by a truck the next day and I could barely move!  I'm really proud that I wasn't in any pain the next day after this last time... just a little stiffness in my shoulders from all the punching drills. 

And finally... ta da!  I did some layouts for Steph's wedding album.  My goal is to have it finished before I see her this weekend, but we'll see if I make it.  I still have 11 pages left and I have a feeling work and school might interfere with my plans.  But in the meantime...

Steph Wedding pg 15-16

And one more...

Steph Wedding pg 17

Whew!  That's it for now... off to get ready to get back into my regular schedule tomorrow.  Later!

Feeling oddly proud.

Because I did this:

Worn out treadmill belt

I completely wore out the belt of my treadmill.  The repair guy came today and replaced it for me and when I saw the backside of the old belt I was surprised it hadn't completely come apart while I was using it and super lucky I didn't hurt myself!  The duct tape did the job just long enough, I guess, but that sucker was totally frayed on the back.  I had ordered the replacement part and thought I would put it in myself until I saw the instructions... then I called Sears.  lol.  I'm pretty handy, but watching the guy replace it confirmed that I made the right decision - it took him an hour and he had to pretty much take apart the entire thing.  I'm looking forward to working out in the morning without worrying about stepping in that hole!

And now... drumroll please... I did a layout!  I know.  I haven't scrapbooked since before Christmas.  I'm not sure I've got my mojo back (let alone the time), but I've had insomnia this week so I worked on it a bit in between other things in the middle of the night.  This is from the first time I met Adorable-Niece-Aubrey back in October at the hospital in Virginia.

Hey There

And a little close-up:

Hey There Close-up 2

Hopefully it doesn't take another six weeks before the next layout.  lol.

Of course, even without the scrapping mojo, I've still been cooking!  I've made some really delicious stuff in the last month.  However, since I haven't posted anything in forever, I figured posting all the recipes at once would probably be a bad idea.  So here's a little collage of the yumminess.

January 2011 Cooking

From top-left down to bottom-right, we have my not-quite-world-famous Tex-Mex Chicken Soup which I can never get enough of.  Next, a fantastic olive tapenade that I made and took for the little snack buffet we had before our class discussion of Man's Search for Meaning last week.  It's made with kalamata and black olives, pistachios, garlic, lemon juice and a touch of olive oil.  Next, from the Lebanese cookbook I got for Christmas, stuffed squash along with some Muhamarra and endive lettuce (the recipe for that was from Ellie Krieger's book, The Food you Crave which is fabulous.)  Next, because I couldn't bring myself to throw out the insides of the squash, I made a soup with it.  It's pumpkin, squash and potato mixed with cinnamon, allspice, salt, pepper, honey and some greek yogurt.  Toasted pepitas on top and it was fabulous!  Then, another from The Food you Crave - a corn-crusted roasted ratatouille tart.  There's one word for that one.  Yum.  I'll be making that again.  Finally, this weekend I went back to Claudia Roden's Arabesque for a Moroccan recipe - chicken with dates.  It doesn't look like much, but it's in a caramalized onion sauce made with ginger, cinnamon, saffron and honey and there are some little dates stuffed with blanched almonds.  It was fantastic (and yes, I ate the onions.  Go me!)

Whew!  And since I'm already talking about food, I have to bring up a few things that I'm totally addicted to.

Medjool Dates Medjool dates.  I could eat them like candy.  In fact, I kind of do.  They're insanely good and I can get them in big packages at Costco.  Bonus!  Sometimes I stuff them with a light cheese, honey and chopped pistachios.  But I could just eat these all day long.

Justin's Maple Almond Butter Justin's Maple Almond Butter.  I love almond butter in general, but this stuff is sooooo good.  The sweetness from the maple is insane.  I have a very hard controlling myself enough to remember that it's 3 points per tablespoon.  It's expensive, but worth every penny - especially if you just eat a little at a time.

 Market Pantry Whip ToppingFinally, believe it or not, I'm addicted to the Target version of fat free cool whip (it has to be FF, not light).  I think it has way better flavor than actual Cool Whip brand.  I could eat an entire container in one sitting if I didn't watch myself.  It's my little trick for feeling like I'm indulging myself.  I may or may not occasionally mix a few tablespoons of this with a tablespoon of almond butter.  Just sayin.'  Reduced fat graham crackers may also come into play.

Okay, that's it for now.  I've got a full day tomorrow and I'm going to try and get to bed early to make up for some of the insomnia.

P.S.  I found out that my school trip includes a stop in Marrakesh!  I'm super excited.  It wasn't on the original list, but it looks like that's our first city.  Marrakesh has been on my top 3 list of places I want to visit for years.  For the rest, we're all keeping a close eye on the Egypt situation to see if we need to change plans.  For now we're not, but we'll see what happens.  I hope it all works out... I'm really looking forward to seeing the pyramids! Crossing my fingers.


I think it's been at least 3 weeks since my last post.  I meant to keep up, but things got so crazy that I had to let some stuff go and blogging was one of the things that I didn't get to.  Oh well!  I finished classes but we still had our final paper due the following weekend for our Building the Service-Profit Connection class and we hadn't even picked a topic!  I'm glad I was able to team up with a partner for that... it was a lot of work and we spent forever on it (including staying until 11pm at the Tanner Building on a Friday night!) but it was a lot of fun and we absolutely ROCKED that class. (We're actually planning to go present our recommendations to the company we used.) Then once that was done, I had two entire scrapbooks to finish as Christmas gifts and only 4 days until I went home.  No pressure (rolling my eyes).  I got them done - I even managed to take pictures so I'll post them soon.

Anyway, I guess I'll start with the most recent and work backward.  It's probably pretty obvious that I have a deep and abiding love for all things food. Food television, food books, cooking food and especially eating food.  So naturally, I need to support my food passion with lots and lots of toys.  This ranges from kitchen accessories, more dishes than any one person really needs and lots of fun little appliances (like my Cuisinart 5-way Griddler that I got for Christmas.  Yay!!!)  This also includes knives.  I've spent years pulling together my little collection of professional kitchen knives. When I first started, I didn't really know what I was doing, but I still knew enough to get some J.A. Henckel knives to start out.  I've since expanded and now my 20-slot block is about full.  Part of this was over Christmas when Mom and I were getting Christmas food at Costco and Gunter Wilhelm was there doing a roadshow.  Does it really need to be said that I bought knives?  I'd actually been shopping for a good chef's knife for quite a while and I was so glad I hadn't bought the one I was eyeing.  They had amazing prices on what are actually really excellent knives.  I might have bought one or two.  Or three.  And a diamond sharpening blade.  Maybe.

So on Christmas Eve I made my favorite TexMex Chicken & Bean Soup as part of our traditional soup & sandwich buffet (I'll have to share the recipe sometime... I've made it 3 times in the last month and I LOVE it.  So does everyone who's tried it.)  I had to use my knives.  It was so much fun. 

Blog - New Knives 1

I will point out that these photos are for posing purposes only and I do not actually hold the knife this way when cutting.  I swear.

Blog - New Knives 2

That bad boy is my new 10" chef's knife (I also got an 8") and I adore both of them.  They slice through everything just like butter.  We were testing them out before we bought them and the guy at the booth told my mom she's not allowed to use the ones she bought my dad without knife skills classes... she needs to learn "the claw."  lol.  Fortunately, I passed muster during the trial phase.

This brings me to today's adventure.  I finally did something I've been meaning to do forever, but I had been saving it as a reward for hitting another major health & fitness goal.  I went up to Sur la Table at the Gateway and took a class in knife skills.  It was super fun!  (We learned "the claw."  It's actually what they call it!)  We spent two hours learning the proper way to hold knives, lots of different basic cuts - cutting herbs, vegetables... learning the grid method and the rock 'n roll (that's what he called it).  The chef teaching the class actually commented on my technique several times... he said I'm really good!  The time flew and then we were out learning about caring for knives and how to hone, etc... and I noticed that they had a very excellent price on a new Henckel 6" prep knife.  So yeah.  Filled the last slot in my block.  lol.  (And I'll say, usually Amazon has the best prices on Henckels, but this price was even better and I got another 10% on top of that.  Sweet, right?)  I'd also been looking for a good cutting board and they had some nice-sized ones at decent prices so I picked up a 24"x17" anti-bacterial maple.  I came home and used both of them to make dinner - fabulous mini pizzas and spiced, roasted parsnip spears for a little light snacking.  Yummy.  But I digress.  The knife cuts like a dream and I love it!

So, going backward to last weekend, Melody and her family were here visiting... yay!  We hadn't seen each other for 2 years so it was great to have time to catch up.  Unfortunately, Mel got sick so we didn't get to play as much as we wanted, but we hit Paradise Cafe and Noodles a few times (I finally had to put the cookies in the freezer... too much temptation!) and we got a chance to hang out and watch movies and do a little shopping.  We all gathered at Jason and Candice's for New Year's Eve and it was a blast. There was definitely some yummy snacking involved as Angelina and Logan happily demonstrate here:

Blog - Angelina and Logan

I got coerced into joining the guys to round out the instruments in Rock Band (not that they had to try too hard.  I love it!)

Blog - Jason, Dustin and Vic Rock Band

I have no idea what Dustin and I were doing here.  But it was fun!

Blog - Me and Dustin Rock Band

Angelina wanted to try.  It wasn't too bad for a first stab by a 10-year old!

Blog - Angelina's First Rock Band

And then midnight arrived.  Celebration ensued.

Blog - Vic toasts new year

And, one of Melody's traditions that I always enjoy doing when we're together on New Year's is that once the new year starts, you write down twelve goals and eat one grape for each goal.  We all made our lists and ate our grapes. 

Blog - Me writing goals

Blog - Mel and Vic Goals

Whew.  I think this post is long enough.  I'm still working on getting together all the Christmas and scrapbook photos, but I'll try and get those up asap (because I know the family has been checking frequently to see if I've stopped slacking.  lol.)

Happy New Year!  Here's to a fabulous 2011.

Getting back to reality...

I hope everyone had a great Thanksgiving weekend!  Mine was pretty good... quiet, but I was able to get plenty of rest and get a lot done around the house as well as getting in some good workouts, a few movies (Tangled was highly enjoyable, I must say) and of course cooking and decorating!

This one is for my family who must have asked what I made for Thanksgiving dinner at least 5 times.

Thanksgiving Dinner '10

Roast turkey breast (naturally), roasted sweet potatoes candied in a light orange sauce with toasted pecans (yum), homemade stuffing made from multi-grain bread, fresh herbs, celery, parsnips and fennel (yum), steamed green beans and a cranberry-orange-pomegranate relish that was fantastic in place of gravy on the turkey.  And I made frosted pumpkin cookies for dessert instead of pie (thanks for the recipe Erin!)  It was fabulous and I've really been enjoying all the leftovers :)  And the entire dinner was only 6 points on Weight Watchers (plus 2 points each for cookies).  Of course, that was the old program.  I've been switching over to the new one today and despite the fact that almost all produce is now 0 points (big bonus for fruit lovers), I'm not sure I'm a fan.  We'll see, I guess.

Of course, one of my favorite things about Thanksgiving is that it marks the beginning of the Christmas season.  I got so wrapped up in bringing in my tree and pulling out my ornament boxes that I didn't put the turkey in until late afternoon.  It all worked out :)  I got most everything done on Thursday and finished up Friday afternoon.  And naturally, there are pictures.  Granted, it looks pretty much exactly like last year, but whatever. 

The tree... I love to turn off the main lights and hang out on the couch watching movies and enjoying the atmosphere.  Especially when the Hallmark channel has a good, sappy and romantic Christmas movie (I'm a sucker for them.  It's a weakness).

Christmas '10 Living Room

And a close-up of some of the ornaments... this year it's my new glittery ray that I got in Monterey.

Christmas '10 Tree close-up

My table centerpiece along with my set of Turkish tea glasses.  I'm kind of liking them there, especially since a hot cup of apple tea is fabulous sitting by the tree when it's snowing outside (and boy did it snow this weekend!  I think I got almost a foot.  No kidding.  And I totally counted activity points for shoveling snow.  lol.)

Christmas '10 Table

And my flying Christmas fairies with their gold snowflakes...

Christmas '10 Flying Fairies

And finally, the entry-way landing and the bannister going upstairs.

Christmas '10 Landing

The trees in my entry are all covered with birds and butterflies this year and I added in some gorgeous brown and gold poinsettias.

Christmas '10 Bannister

Now I can kick back with my Christmas playlist and just enjoy.

I've been trying to do some scrapbooking here and there, but each time I sit down it's just not coming.  I've had one project on my desk for almost two weeks now and it's getting nowhere.  No mojo, I guess.  I suppose that means I should just take it easy and not force it, right?  I've got plenty of other stuff going on, including getting back to class this week.  I didn't have class at all last week since they ended up closing BYU campus on Tuesday afternoon because of the blizzard warning so I'm actually really excited to get back in the classroom.  It should be a fun week!

Oh.  And for Stacy (hi Stacy!) and everyone else who's asked about the mouse, Mortileficent is no longer with us.  I'll keep the story short so as to minimize the gory details.  First off, the traps I got are total crap.  She walked right inside one of them while I was standing there and it did NOTHING!  Of course then she made the mistake of diving down the drain to get away from me.  I'll leave it at that.  I'm still sick over what I had to do because it was totally inhumane, but I just can't have mice in my house, no matter how cute they might be when trapped in my bathtub.  So there you go... it's nice to not worry that I hear her scurrying around at night, at least.

Mouse in my house.

And I wish I was talking about a Dr. Seuss book... lol.  Ever since I started working on a project for my Creativity & Innovation class about Walt Disney and Mickey Mouse, this little mouse has shown up.  It's totally freaking me out.  I've got traps, but he's wiley.  One of my friends suggested that in the meantime, naming him might help.  lol.  Why not?  I decided to call him Arturo (Morticia and Maleficent were suggested... I really like Maleficent - more fitting, yes?)  Since it seems to have taken up residence in my attic and I needed to avert the image of him nibbling and nesting with my scrapbook paper, I decided that in the spirit of Ratatouille, it's a frustrated creative spirit who prefers making layouts to nibbling and nesting.  It's also possible that I'm more freaked out by the traps than the mouse itself... I swear if itcomes out right now and gets caught in that thing, I'll be scarred for life (and I can totally hear it.  Freaked, I tell you.)

But that's beside the point... I've been up here emailing while we work on our presentation for tomorrow's class and between emails I decided to actually do a layout.  In reality, I was supposed to be working on birthday cards for all the birthdays this month but since cards aren't my strong suit, I was easily distracted.  Here's my first layout of Adorable-Niece-Aubrey.


And a close-up...

Snuggle Close-up

Also, another fun little culinary concoction.  Yet another experiment with figs... this was based on my last recipe with the flatbread, gorgonzola, apples and honey.  I decided to change it up so it would work as a meal.  I used Orowheat Sandwich thins to make little pizzas. 

Fig and Apple Sausage Pizza

I toasted the bread and then spread some Laughing Cow blue cheese over top.  I added turkey apple maple sausage, asian pear, black mission figs, parmigiano reggiano and a little light maple syrup.  Put it all under the broiler just long enough to get a little caramelization on the figs and melt the cheese... both halves were 7 points and it was too much for one serving!  Yummy, though.

Okay, since I'm actually having to ask Arturo to please stop making noise and NOT come out where I can see him, I think the wise thing to do here is shut everything down, move the trap closer to where I can hear him, and skedaddle.


(Too late!  I just saw him.  I'm so gone.  Please trap, do your work!)

Catching Up.

I feel like I've been running non-stop for weeks now, but today I finally got a bit of a break... got to bed early last night and slept in which I most definitely needed considering how little sleep I've been getting lately.

So this morning, I finally sat down and finished a layout of Adorable-Niece-Eraleigh that I started before I went home last weekend.  I'm not sure I'm happy with it... tweaks might appear in the near future.  These are pictures from when Eraleigh rode the rides all by herself at the boardwalk in Santa Cruz this summer.

Little Miss Independent

Tomorrow I'm going to try and get started on a project for Nicole featuring Adorable-Niece-Aubrey (sorry Erin!  I've gotta do it...)  I just haven't had the time or the motivation to do half the scrapbooking I've wanted to lately, but there are some awfully cute pictures from last weekend that will probably help with that :)

After I finished the layout, it was workout time.  I put in a killer workout today since I knew I was eating out tonight.  A group of us got together at Mazza - a Middle Eastern place at 9th and 9th in Salt Lake.  I'd heard great things about the food there and it really was fabulous.  We had a blast... and unlike our last dinner, this time I took a few pictures.  Crappy phone camera pictures, but pictures nonetheless.

Mindy and Laura...

Mazza - Mindy and Laura

Todd and his wife and Darren...

Mazza - Todd, his wife and Darren

Darren, Mindy and Laura...

Mazza - Darren, Mindy and Laura

Brent, Sherilyn and Chad...

Mazza - Brent, Sherilyn, Chad

And finally, me and Chad:

Mazza - Chad and I

It might be time for me to break down and bring my big camera.  I'm still peeved that the screen on my little Olympus cracked.  I need another purse camera!

I ordered some muhamara to share with the table (never had it before and it was delicious! Definitely need to make some.) and Mindy and Darren ordered baba ghanouj to share which was also fantastic.  I had red lentil soup and then chicken and eggplant for dinner and it was seriously yum.  We all tasted each others' food and everything was wonderful.  I have lots of leftovers too, which is always happy.  We also ordered dessert and I had some kanafeh.  I was going to get a ma'mool since I have the molds to make them but have never done it, but then I thought... duh, I can make them.  Order something else!  It was all fabulous.

And speaking of food (because really, aren't I always?)  A few more recent recipes... I started with something I'd wanted to do for quite a while:  stuffed dates.  I took an ounce of reduced fat feta and mixed it with a tablespoon of honey and some chopped pistachios.  I pitted the dates and stuffed them - you can have two stuffed dates for 2 points on WW... and trust me, you can't eat more than that!  They're also outstanding with brie or goatcheese, but I was really pleased with the flavor using the feta.

Stuffed Dates

I've also found a great food blog with yummy, healthy recipes.  I love that she gives all the Weight Watchers points for everything.  I saw this recipe come up on Tastespotting and had to try it; the roasted acorn squash reminded me of when I was little and my mom used to make them.  It turned out great!  I bought another acorn squash at the store this week so I can do it again.

Roasted Acorn Squash

Finally, a Turkish recipe that I'd been dying to try.  It's from my Arabesque book, but I lightened it up a bit.  Toasted lavash flatbread broken in pieces and sprinkled with sumac with a homemade tomato sauce (1.5 pounds of peeled tomatoes, 2 cloves of garlic, salt and pepper and a serrano chili... chop the tomato and add it to sauteed garlic and chili.  Let it all simmer so the sauce reduces down and thickens.  You can throw in 1/2 diced white onion or more garlic too which I've also done).  Then about 1/3C fat free plain greek yogurt topped with pinenuts toasted with sumac.  The kebab are ground beef (I used the lowest fat I could find) with fresh parsley and S/P.

Kofte Style Kebab

You broil the kebab for 4 minutes on each side and they're done!  You can also grill them.  I made this again for my family last Monday night and they loved it.  I made some modifications based on my new cookbook I got for my birthday; I added 1 tbsp each of cumin and paprika to the meat before mixing.  I also subbed whole wheat pita for the lavash bread.  It was really delicious.  The whole thing is 7 points and quite filling!

That's it for now... off to watch my recording of the Avs game.  Looks like they stomped Dallas!  Always enjoyable :)