Monday, December 26, 2016

Welcome to My Home

Hey there. So I realized today that like every year, 2016 flew by me, and I only have another week until this year comes to an end...and I somehow let over six months slide by without posting. But since Andrew is working today and I'm home by myself, I thought it would be the perfect chance to sit down and put some words on paper (figuratively speaking) before we send off 2016 with a bang. 

First off, I just have to say holy cow so much has changed since I last posted in March. Andrew and I moved to Indianapolis, both started new jobs, bought a house, and have spent the past few months doing renovations. Looking back at the past couple months, I probably could've shared on here a little more, but I think I've been waiting to do some GIGANTIC post that shows awesome before and after pictures and puts me in the ranks of those HGTV house-flipper hosts. But if there is one thing that everyone always says about renovation, that I didn't really understand until I dove into it head first, is that everything takes So. Long. Luckily I'm seeing enough progress that I get still get excited and can really envision what our home is going to look like...even if that vision is a couple years away... 

So. About our home. It's a historic bungalow that sits in the Meridian Kessler neighborhood of downtown Indianapolis, and is nestled between an assortment of colonials, other bungalows, and tudors. It was built in 1924 and has TONS of potential to be the most adorable house on the street (can you tell I am already a little biased with it? hehehe). The attic was renovated into a master suite at some point in the past, so unlike many homes of the area, we have a spacious master bedroom and bathroom upstairs, while the other two bedrooms are downstairs. Despite its charm, pretty much every space in the house needed an overhaul, so obviously we jumped on the chance to do a flip :)

As soon as we closed on our home, we decided the first thing we were going to tear into was the floors. The living and dining room were clearly original wood, but most of the house was covered in white porcelain tile. So not my style. However as we worked through the floors, we decided to veer slightly off course and rather than tackling the floors for the whole house, we are now tackling each room on its own. I'll write more about those adventures in posts to come, but am going to break down this reno into the chunks it has become...and then hopefully post some super cool before and after pictures!! 

Tearing Into the Floors...

So much to my surprise, I found out that it is WAY easier to demo than to put something back together. That being said, tile that's been glued down to huge pieces of plywood isn't the easiest to remove. To get the tile up, we got a 3 pound hammer (which I've been told is not the same as a sledgehammer, however I liked calling it my baby sledgehammer nonetheless) and a flat pry bar. Literally all you have to do is put the bar under the tile edge and hit it until it knocks the tile loose. Sometimes, you accidentally make contact with the porcelain, which kicks off a spark and makes you worry that the house you just bought is going to catch on fire. Other times the tile decides to break into a thousand tiny pieces that have to be individually pried up. Or SOMETIMES you find that the tile is glued to linoleum and can literally be peeled off the floor. Regardless, I've found that knocking up tile is not on my list of favorite of activities. 

Gotta get the sister selfie! 

Cleaned and puppy approved :)

Because my life is filled more with renovations than experimenting with new recipes, my posts will probably be more about the house for the next few months (or at least until I get a new kitchen which I'm sure will be a chapter all to itself). That being said, let me know if there is anything you want to hear about and I'll try to share as much as I can!

Thursday, March 31, 2016

Comfort Food Dinner - Chicken Pot Pie

To me, there are several different meanings to the word "comfort food." Sometimes it can be the late-night pizza runs after you've had a few beers and all you're looking for is greasy goodness. Other times it can be reminiscent of childhood memories and may only be a "comfort" food to you. But then there are those foods that really stick to your ribs and leave you feeling full and satisfied...THIS was one of those kinds of comfort foods. 

I actually made this pot pie a couple weeks ago, before we started our post-vacation diet cleanse (ok, not really a cleanse but more like trying NOT to go out to eat every meal) and it was so good as a weeknight dinner but also a couple servings of lunch too!

I started with a few stalks of celery and a small onion, diced. 

I heated some oil in a large pan and simmered the chopped veggies with salt and peppers until they were soft and translucent, about 5 minutes. 

I removed the veggies from the pan and added two chicken breasts which were diced, and then seasoned with salt, pepper, and a little oregano. I cooked those until they were cooked through, about 7 minutes. 

I then removed the chicken from the pan and started working on my roux. To make the roux, I melted about 2 tablespoons of butter into the same pan I had just cooked the chicken. Once melted, I then added a couple heaping tablespoons of flour and about a cup of chicken broth. 

I brought the mixture to a simmer over medium heat, then turned it to low so it could thicken up. (and please ignore the flour chunks...the roux just wasn't hot enough for the flour to be incorporated with the liquid quite yet!!)

As the roux was firming up, I got out my frozen veggie mix and measured out about 2 cups to use in the pie. I also made my biscuit topping, which was just the standard Bisquick recipe on the box!

Ready to assemble! I first mixed the cooked veggies, chicken, and frozen veggies in a large, separate bowl to make sure they were evenly combined.

Once the mixture was completely combined, I poured it into a greased baking dish, along with my finished roux.

(^^I took a pic without the roux/gravy because it was much prettier!^^)

I cut the biscuits into large rounds and placed them over the top of the mixture. I also used the leftover corner pieces to fill the gaps so there wasn't any inner mixture exposed!

I cooked the pot pie at 325 for 30 minutes, and then cranked the heat to 375 and cooked it for another 20 minutes. Depending on your oven or the thickness of your biscuit, you may need more or less time...I just slightly pulled apart the inner-most biscuits and once the bottom wasn't gooey I knew I was set! You could also cover the top with foil if your biscuits get too brown too fast but still need to be cooked through. 

Even though it took a little bit longer to assemble and cook than my normal weeknight meals, it was sooooo satisfying! Plus since I didn't use any "cream of" soups, I felt a little more healthy...ish. :)

Happy Thursday!

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Our Trip to Denver!

Hello there! 

It's been a few weeks since I've posted, which makes me sad because a lot has gone on in my world and some great recipes have been had that should have been shared, but it's just been one of those months where I'm struggling to find motivation and bubbly words, so I thought a tiny break would be a good idea. However, after spending a week in Colorado with some of our closest friends, I'm feeling refreshed and reinvigorated and ready to jump back into sharing my recipes and adventures!

During our time in Colorado, we spent time in both Denver and Glenwood Springs. Somehow we lucked out and got into town about 12 hours before the season's worst snow storm came through and left nearly 20 inches of fresh powder!!! (I'm totally not a skier, hence why I was less than ecstatic) While in Glenwood Springs we were able to see some of the beautiful scenery the area has to offer by hiking up to Hanging Lake. Of course we had amazing food the entire time we were there and finished off the week with an Easter feast that easily rivaled any I've had before.

Here are a few pictures from our trip!

Driving out of Denver = CRAZY amount of snow!

Out of the snow and into the mountains we go!

View from the trail headed to Hanging Lake...sooooo gorgeous!

Somehow we only took a couple pictures together, but I just love this one!

Probably the clearest, bluest waters I have seen in my life... 

I suppose we could redefine part of the hike as sledding...hehehe

Unlike my adventurous hubby, I need to hang onto some rocks so I wouldn't "fall down the mountain!!"

I would say Easter lunch was a success :) 

Dining options included (top left, clockwise):

- Pickled sweet peppers
- Goat cheese stuffed green olives and kalamata olives 
- Charcuterie board featuring:
blue cheese, candied walnuts, soppressata, chicken pate, habanero jack cheese, pistachios, prosciutto, cheddar cheese, camembert cheese, and hot coppa
- White beans in pepper vinaigrette
- Garden pizza
- Buffalo chicken dip
- Sliced apples
- Prosciutto wrapped, goat cheese stuffed dates

Unfortunately I didn't take as many pictures as I normally would have so this is really all I have to share, but as always I had a blast exploring a new city! 

What did you all do for your Easter weekend?!

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Comfort Food Dinner - Chili Corn Bread Casserole

"Oh the weather outside is frightful..."

That seemed to be the theme last night here in Mobile, when everyone was hunkered down and preparing for one of the worst storms of 2016. Somehow it completely missed us and ended up pummeling Gulf Shores instead, but I still thought it would be a good night to make some comfort food while I cuddled on the couch with my fur babies watching the weather channel all night! 

This meal is actually another throw back to my childhood (I know, I know, I need to stop taking credit for my momma's meals!), but I can vividly remember eating this meal on chilly fall nights, and it brought back a comforting nostalgia last night as the crazy winds swirled around our house. (Also after making this last night, I think this might become a new tailgating favorite, and I have all kinds of ideas about baking it in a muffin tin so it's bite sized... but as always I digress...)

The ingredient list is actually fairly simple but could easily be boosted up to include more veggies if you'd like. Nearly everything came from my "pantry staples" list, which I'll have to share sometime, but you wouldn't believe just how yummy these simple flavors are when combined!

I started by rough chopping the onion and sauteing it in some hot oil until translucent, about 3 minutes. 

I then added the ground beef and cooked it until it was fully browned, another 5 minutes or so. 

While the meat was cooking, I started whipping up the cornbread batter. OH! And speaking of cornbread!!

I have realized this is another area that my upbringing severely impacted my view of food...growing up, anytime my mom made cornbread, she would always add a can of corn to the batter and would sometimes even add chiles or cheese depending on what type of meal we were eating. This obviously makes for SUPER moist cornbread, almost cake-like, so when I moved to the south and they served me dry, no-corn cornbread I wasn't sure what to think!! Turns out, this is a hotly debated topic that I am often forced to lose due to my husband's opinion and my geographic location, but since I grew up eating moist cornbread and this was MY comfort food recipe, I decided to include the can of corn :)

As I was saying though...the box recommends allowing the batter to sit for at least 5 minutes before baking so once it was mixed I went back to my chili mixture.

Once the meat was fully browned, I added the tomatoes, tomato paste, and chili powder, then added salt and pepper to taste. This is the step where you could also add beans or any other type of veggie if you wanted, but I decided to stick with simple.

After letting the mixture simmer for a minute or two, I poured the chili into the bottom of a greased 9x9 square baking pan and then added the cornbread.

Can you tell I was excited by the fact that I took a foodie close-up before it even went into the oven?! :)

To make sure the bread was fully baked, I nearly had to double the cooking time. I also added some shredded cheddar cheese midway through as an afterthought but it would be just fine without it as well. Once it came out of the oven and I let it cool for a couple minutes, I dug in!!

I prefer to garnish this casserole with a little sour cream once it cools, and had I had any chives on hand that would've been included too. I remember my dad adding hot sauce when I used to eat this as a kid, so truly this is one of those recipes that can be changed up however you'd like (even no corn in the cornbread!)

I am happy to report that by resorting to this childhood comfort food, I weathered the "storm" and have a tasty leftover lunch to get me through my hump-day :)

Chili Corn Bread Casserole

- 1 box cornbread mix
- 1 egg, for the cornbread mix
- 1/3 cup milk, for the cornbread mix
- 1 can corn
- 1 small onion
- 1 lb. ground beef
- 1 can diced tomatoes (I used fire roasted for extra flavor)
- 1 can tomato paste
- 1 Tbs chili powder
- 1/2 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese

1. Roughly chop the onion and add it to a pan of hot oil. Lightly salt and pepper. Cook until translucent, about 3 minutes.
2. Add the ground beef to the onions and cook until browned, about 5 minutes.
3. To make the cornbread batter, follow the recipe on the back of the box (aka combine the mix, egg, milk, and can of corn) and let it sit for about 5 minutes
4. Add the tomatoes, tomato paste, and chili powder to the ground beef. Salt and pepper to taste and let it simmer for about 2 minutes.
5. Pour the chili mixture into a greased 9x9 inch baking pan.
6. Pour the cornbread mixture on top of the chili
7. Bake in a 400 degree oven for 20 minutes, then add cheese, lower the temperature to 350 degrees, and continue baking for another 15 - 20 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.
8. Let it cool for about 5 minutes, then serve as desired!

Monday, February 8, 2016

Gift Guide: Wedding Invitation Candle

With Valentines Day right around the corner, the craze for gift-buying begins...lucky for me, Andrew and I have never really done the whole V-Day scene other than seeing the night as a convenient excuse to go to a nice dinner. Truth be told, I'm not the overly-romantic type (hence why I reacted with more excitement over a vacuum this Christmas than a homemade blue French horn), but I can still appreciate a holiday dedicated to love, which is why I wanted to share a craft I created for my sister last Valentines Day!

To give some background, my sister IS the romantic type who is also sentimental and loves all things that remind her of the man in her life. So as her matron of honor in her wedding last fall, I thought it would be cute to create a memorable gift that can constantly remind her of their special day. And all it took was a candle from Walmart and a little wax paper! Well...and a wedding invitation of course...

For the candle, I decided cream-colored would look best with their champagne-pink invitation. I wrapped the invitation around the candle using rubber bands and let it sit for a week or so to help it mold better, and then I simply cut a piece of wax paper and ironed it onto the candle!! I used just the end of the iron and made sure there wasn't any steam in it and simply wiped it with a paper towel when I was done! The hardest part was definitely the corners, so if I had to do it again I'd possibly glue them down before adding the wax paper.

With the wax paper over the invitation, it had a neat vintage effect that almost looked like it was part of the candle! And although it wasn't perfect, it was a thoughtful gift she could display on a shelf next to one of their wedding photos. 

For anyone in need of some gift inspiration, I hope this helps! To those of you like me who would rather make fun gifts for your sister, well here ya go too :)