"Sometimes I wonder about my life. I lead a small life - well, valuable, but small - and sometimes I wonder, do I do it because I like it, or because I haven't been brave?" - Kathleen Kelly (You've Got Mail)

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Kitchen Painted!

The kitchen is ALMOST DONE! My mom and I painted yesterday and now all that's left is installing our sink and finding a white stove to replace our old, ugly, barely working one. We also have a couple more cabinets to work on and a valance to make for the window. That might sound like a lot, but compared to what we've done already and how long it's taken, it's not much at all!

I decided to go with gray paint in the kitchen...something I never thought I'd do! But I really really love it. It's bright, crisp and clean looking and goes really well with everything else in the kitchen. First, I bought a gallon of "polished silver" by Valspar and after my mom finished edging all the walls I decided I didn't like it. It was way too blue. It almost looked like we intentionally picked periwinkle paint. I felt really bad but I decided to try another color. I chose "urban sunrise" by Valspar and it ended up being just the right color!

I didn't take any "before" shots because the walls were just plain beige. So here's what it looks like now! 

Lasagna Roll-ups

9 lasagna noodles
10 oz. frozen chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed dry
15. oz. skim ricotta cheese
3/4 c. grated parmesan cheese
2 eggs
Salt and pepper to taste
24 oz. jar marinara sauce
1 c. shredded mozzarella cheese

Bring a large pot of water to boil and cook the lasagna until al dente, drain and lay out to dry. Preheat oven to 350 and spread 1 cup of marinara into the bottom of a baking dish. Combine the spinach, ricotta, parmesan, eggs, salt and pepper. Spread this mixture evenly onto each lasagna noodle and roll up tightly. Place seam side down into the prepared baking dish and cover with the remaining marinara. Cover tightly and bake in the preheated oven for 30 minutes. Remove cover and top with mozzarella cheese and bake an additional 10 minutes, or until cheese and melted and bubbly. Makes 4-5 servings.

Notes: These were delicious! I made them when Randy and I first got married (about 4 1/2 years ago!) and I finally got around to making them again. We love them and I have a lot of fun making them!

Monday, September 27, 2010

Kitchen Back Splash

I took almost the entire summer off from all the house projects I was in the middle of...it's been a lot of work and I really needed a break! I finally dove back into it these last couple weeks and one of the major things to tackle was the back splash in our kitchen.

Last weekend my mom and I did it! It took over 11 hours (on our feet the entire time) but in the end it was totally worth it! It turned out amazing and it wasn't nearly as complicated as we thought it might be. Thanks again, mom, for all your help! She was pretty nervous about it since this was her first tiling job by herself. I had never tiled in my life and I was totally excited...

I bought 12x12 sheets of 1 inch glass tiles in black, white and grays. We ended up using 24 of these sheets. The other supplies were white mortar, white sand-less grout and all the tools for mixing, spreading and cleaning. The total cost of this project was around $225. Everything was from Lowes.

Here is what the tiles looked like:

We cut them with scissors to fit and then used a tile saw (borrowed from a friend) to cut them whenever they needed to fit in the extra small spaces. I'm not going to go into detail how we did it exactly. If you want to know more though, please feel free to ask!

Now, here's what you really want to see....pictures! I'm bummed that they came out looking so "busy". It's hard to appreciate how good the tile looks. I should have taken the after pictures before I put everthing back on the counters. Oh well. It is what it is. Enjoy!

sink area

left side of the kitchen

right side of the kitchen

entire view of the kitchen

close up

You also got a sneak peak of our majorly huge cabinet project. As you can see, it's not quite finished. We have a couple doors and drawer fronts left. That's one of the only things left to do, besides replacing the stove (still looking for one on craigslist), installing our new sink and painting the kitchen. I just got the paint today and it should be on the walls later this week :)

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Quick and Easy Tofu Lo Mein

The title of this recipe is so true! This really was fast and easy AND yummy! I will definitely make this again. I found this recipe on allrecipes.com and didn't change a thing.

Quick and Easy Tofu Lo Mein

16 oz. extra firm tofu
2 tbsp. olive oil
2 packages Oriental flavored Ramen Noodles
16 oz. package frozen stir fry vegetables
Soy sauce to taste

Drain tofu and press between paper towels to remove most of the moisture. Cut into 1 inch cubes. Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium/high heat. Add the tofu and saute, stirring often until golden brown, about 15 minutes. Meanwhile, bring a medium pot of water to boil and boil the noodles only (reserve the seasoning packets) for 2 minutes and drain. Add the stir fry vegetables and seasoning packets to the skillet with the tofu and saute just until heated through. Add the cooked noodles and soy sauce and stir well to combine. Makes 4 servings.

Tomato Orzo Soup

2 tbsp. olive oil
1 medium onion, diced
1 1/2 c. diced carrots
1 1/2 c. diced zucchini
1 c. frozen peas
5 1/2 c. water
2 10.75 oz. cans condensed tomato soup
2 c. vegetable broth
1 1/2 c. uncooked orzo pasta
Salt and pepper to taste
1/4 c. chopped fresh parsley
1/4 c. chopped fresh basil
Shaved Parmesan and/or Romano cheese for garnish 

In a large pot, heat the oil over medium heat, add the onion and carrots and saute for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the zucchini and peas and stir until heated through, just about a minute. Next, add the water, soup, vegetable broth, orzo, salt and pepper and stir well to combine. Turn the heat up to high and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and allow soup to simmer for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally to prevent to orzo from sticking. Remove from heat and stir in the parsley and basil. Serve immediately, garnished with shaved cheese. Makes 6 generous servings.

Notes: Today is the first day of fall and it was rainy and chilly outside...perfect day for soup! Randy and I both loved this stuff! It was packed full of great flavor and was super filling. I found this recipe on allrecipes.com and it didn't have the best reviews so I made a few changes and it was delicious! We will definitely be eating this more this fall and winter.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Zucchini Quinoa Lasagna

4-5 medium zucchini, sliced into strips lengthwise
1 tbsp. olive oil 
1 small onion, diced
3 medium garlic cloves, minced
1 c. uncooked quinoa
2 c. vegetable broth or stock
1/2 c. tomato sauce
1 c. packed fresh spinach leaves, chopped
8-10 fresh basil leaves, chopped
1/2 c. cottage cheese (or ricotta, silken tofu or cream cheese)
2 c. marinara sauce
1/2 c. shredded mozzarella or parmesan cheese

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Sprinkle the zucchini slices with a little salt and layer them between paper towels to remove some of the moisture. Let them sit during the remaining steps.
In a large skillet over medium, heat the olive oil and add the onion. Saute until tender and then add the garlic, saute another couple minutes. To the skillet add the the quinoa, vegetable broth, tomato sauce, spinach and basil. Bring to a boil and then reduce to a simmer. Cover and simmer for 20 minutes or until all the liquid is absorbed and the quinoa is fully cooked. Remove from heat and add cottage cheese.
Coat the bottom of a 13x9 baking dish with 1 cup of the marinara. Place  a layer of zucchini over the marinara, followed by half the quinoa mixture. Repeat this layer one more time and top with zucchini and remaining cup of marinara.
Top with cheese and bake in the preheated oven for 25 minutes or until zucchini is tender. Allow the lasagna to rest for 5-10 minutes before serving.

Notes: Sorry for the nasty-looking picture...I promise this stuff was amazing! I can't remember where I found the recipe...I ended up making quite a few changes anyway. I will definitely make it again! I think I may just chop the zucchini up next time, stir it in with quinoa and bake it like a casserole to save on time.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Double Chocolate Mini Meringues

4 egg whites
1/4 tsp. cream of tartar
2/3 c. sugar
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1/2 c. semisweet chocolate chips, finely chopped
1/4 c. unsweetened cocoa powder, sifted

Preheat the oven to 250 and line a couple cookie sheets with parchment paper and set aside. Beat the egg whites and cream of tartar on high speed until soft peaks. Gradually add the sugar and vanilla, beating well after each addition until stiff peaks form and sugar is dissolved. Gently fold in the chocolate and cocoa powder just until combined. Do not over mix or meringue will begin to go flat. Drop by rounded tablespoonfuls (about the size of a walnut) onto the prepared cookie sheets and bake in the preheated oven for 30-40 minutes or until outside of the meringues are hard and dry. Makes 60 bite size meringues.

 Notes: I love meringues so I made this recipe up yesterday and it turned out SO yummy! They're a little dangerous because of their size...you lose track of how many you've eaten :)

Margot likes them, too!

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Chocolate Covered Cherry Cookies

1 1/2 c. white flour
1/2 c. cocoa powder
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. baking powder
1/2 c. butter
1 c. white sugar
1 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
10 oz. jar maraschino cherries
1/4 c. sweetened condensed milk
1/2 c. semisweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 and grease a couple cookie sheets and set aside. In a small bowl, combine the flour, cocoa powder, salt, baking soda and baking powder and set aside. In a large bowl, cream together the butter and sugar. Add the egg and vanilla and beat well. Slowly beat in the flour mixture until well combined.
Roll the dough into 1 inch balls (about the size of a walnut) place on the prepared cookie sheets and press a dent in the center of each ball. Drain the cherries and reserve the juice. Place a cherry in the center of each dough ball.
In a small saucepan, heat the condensed milk and chocolate chips until completely melted and smooth. Remove from heat and stir in 1 tablespoon of cherry juice. Add more as needed to make mixture spreadable. Spoon about 1 teaspoon over each dough ball, just enough to cover the cherry. You may add more juice if mixture thickens. Bake in the preheated oven for 10 minutes. Cool on wire racks. Makes 30 cookies.

Notes: I bought a jar a maraschino cherries for another recipe and I had almost all of them left so I looked on allrecipes.com and found this recipe to use up the rest. I was really happy with how these cookies turned out. They are very rich but very delicious! They recipe made way too much drizzle so I cut the ingredients in half and still had a little leftover. Other then that, I wouldn't change a thing!

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

The Best Chocolate Chip Cookies

2 1/4 c. plus 2 tbsp. white flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
1 c. margarine or butter, softened
3/4 c. white sugar
3/4 c. packed brown sugar
1 tbsp. vanilla extract
2 eggs
2 c. (12 oz. package) semi-sweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 and grease a couple cookies sheets and set aside. Combine flour, baking soda and salt in small bowl and set aside. Beat butter, sugars and vanilla in a large bowl until smooth and creamy. Beat in eggs, one at a time. Gradually add the flour mixture (about 1/2 a cup at a time) mixing well after each addition. Stir in chocolate chips.
Using a medium cookie scoop, drop onto prepared cookie sheets. Bake for 8-10 minutes in preheated oven, until edges are golden brown and centers are still very slightly doughy. Rotate the pans half way through baking to ensure the cookies bake evenly. Place cookies on racks to cool. Makes about 4 dozen cookies.

Notes: I can't even tell you how many people have asked for "my" chocolate chip cookie recipe...well, here it is! It's basically the original Toll House recipe with a few little changes. These cookies come out practically perfect every time!

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Pumkpin Spice Ice Cream

2 eggs
3/4 c. sugar
2 c. heavy cream
1 c. whole milk
1 c. unsweetened pumpkin puree
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1 tsp. pumpkin pie spice
1 tsp. ground nutmeg

Whisk the eggs in a mixing bowl until light and fluffy, about 1 minute. Whisk in the sugar, a little at a time, then continue whisking until completely blended, 1 minute more. Pour in the cream and milk and whisk again just until blended. Next, pour about a cup of the cream mixture into a separate bowl, add the pumpkin and spices and stir just until blended. Return to the rest of the cream mixture and stir well. Transfer the mixture into your ice cream maker and freeze according to the manufacturers instructions. Makes 8 cups of prepared ice cream, about 16 servings.

Notes: It's 2 1/2 weeks until fall so it feels like it's time to start eating pumpkin-y things. But it is still summer so ice cream is still allowed! Man, this stuff was/is delicious! I took some to my parents' house last night just as my mom had finished baking an apple crisp. So of course, we ate it with the ice cream on top :) Sooo yummy!