Friday, November 30, 2012

Fast Friday: Farfalle with bacon, beans, and kale

Have you ever been so focused on one food that it's all you can think about?  That you start trying to add it other dishes that are traditionally mixed with aforementioned ingredient?

When I tell you this ingredient, you're not going to be shocked.  Or overwhelmed. Not even whelmed.  (Brownie points to the first person to correctly identify that pop culture reference!)

Drumroll please... it's bacon!

Are you yawning?  Are you thinking things like "Tell me something I didn't already know, Katy,"?  Have your socks have become more secured on your feet?

I guess it's no secret that I love bacon.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Sweet potato hash browns

I remember the first time I realized that my family sometimes has odd names for things.

I was 10 or 11 years old and out at a diner with my parents and sister after church, and we were placing our brunch orders.  I requested French toast, which came with two eggs and a choice of bacon or sausage.  The waitress asked, "How do you like your eggs?" to which I responded, "Dippy."  She looked at me like I was speaking in tongues.

"Dippy?" she confirmed.  I immediately looked to my parents for help, whispering, "What's wrong with dippy?  Is that not allowed?" 

My parents smiled at me and, before they could rescue me, the waitress explained the many ways that the cooks could prepare my eggs.  "Sunny side up, over easy, over medium, over well, poached, soft boiled, hard boiled, or scrambled," she rattled from memory.

I didn't hear "dippy" anywhere in that long list of egg preparations.  And dippy was what I wanted, by golly.  I wanted dippy!!!

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Black bean confetti soup

Leftovers are so great, right?!  Already cooked, so only a few minutes in the microwave stand between you and a satisfying meal that's big on flavor but not on prep time.

No, I'm not talking about turkey or any other Thanksgiving leftovers.  Since we were guests at Matt's parents' house for the meal, we missed out on my favorite part of the feast -- a fridge full of containers with excess turkey, green bean casserole (my favorite!), stuffing, and cranberry sauce.  Womp womp.

(By the way, if you happen to be one of the lucky ones with leftovers, say turkey and cranberry sauce, make yourself a delish Thanksgiving panini for lunch today or dinner tonight.  It's a meal in a sandwich, people, and you won't be disappointed.)

Since we're sans turkey around these parts, I had to visit the grocery store ASAP and fill our very empty post-vacation refrigerator and pantry.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Black Friday five

Raise your hand if you ate a delicious meal yesterday!  :)  Hopefully all of you had a fantastic holiday with those nearest and dearest to you.  Matt and I are in Reading with his family (first holiday with them!).  The weather is supposed to be fantastic at the end of this week, so I'm hoping for lots of walks outside to stave off the sleepy post-meal feelings.

Only in America do we follow the biggest eating day of the year with the busiest (and earliest!) shopping day of the year: Black Friday!  As of typing this on Wednesday morning, we have no plans to visit the malls or any stores, but that may change.  I've actually never gone out for the early morning Black Friday deals because there's never been a hot ticket item like a toy or electronic device that I simply had to have.

Black Friday newbie I may be, but shopping novice I am most certainly not!  Over the years, I've perfected my shopping strategies to create a stress-free and fun day browsing and boosting the economy.  Here are my must-have shopping essentials for this week's Friday five:

1. Mini bottle of water - hydration during shopping is key, and especially after a very filling and slightly salty day of feasting and grazing.  I've learned that large bottles of water weight me down and use up precious energy (and space!) that could be used for carrying bags of goodies, so I stick with a mini bottle that I refill at water fountains.  Hydrated shopper = happy shopper!

2. Crossbody purse - When it comes to serious shopping, I try to make my hands and arms as free as possible.  That means that my beloved Kate Spade tote stays home because I can't stand constantly flipping a bag over my shoulders as I lean down to pick up a potential purchase.  I have an older Fossil crossbody purse that I adore, but it's leather and becomes a little heavy after a few hours.  I think it's high time for an update, don't you?  This nylon Marc Jacobs number tooooootally fits the bill: lightweight, simple, and cute, to boot! 

3a. Hand lotion - There's nothing worse than dry hands as you rifle through racks of clothing.  My skin tends to dry out in the winter months, so shopping takes them a step further.  After years of experimenting with various hand lotions -- too greasy, too thin, too smelly! -- I finally found what works for me.  Eucerin's intensive repair hand creme is rich without being greasy and fragrance-free.  Plus, it comes in a convenient little bottle that will easily fit into any handbag.  3b. Hand sanitizer, 'nuff said.

4. Granola (or other portable snacks) - Something small to keep your energy up as you flit from store to store.  Make a batch of cherry almond cinnamon granola and surprise your shopping companions with baggies of goodies!  I like the staying power of nuts, dried fruit, and toasted oats.  Satisfying without being heavy.  And, light enough to make room for my two food court guilty pleasures: Chick-fil-A nuggets and a mini Dairy Queen Blizzard :)

5. Comfortable slip-on shoes - In the summer, it's sandals; in the winter, it's my trusty boat shoes.  Easy to slip on and off in the dressing room and comfortable for lots and lots of walking.  I'll never understand how some women sport high heels as they traipse around the mall.  More power to 'em, I suppose! 

If you're braving the crowds, good luck!  And, if you're staying home to begin decorating for Christmas, I'm with you in spirit :)

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Last minute bites to feed a crowd

It's the day before Thanksgiving.  I really can't believe it!  If you're hosting the special feast tomorrow, I hope all of your plans go off without a hitch and there are no epic turkey day mishaps -- save those for another house and another family to be shared with rest of the country on the evening news, right? :)

With the focus on the main meal, it seems like dinner the night before and "warm-ups" on Thanksgiving day become a total afterthought.  I don't know how some folks basically fast for 12 hours -- I've gotta eat!  Nibbling on light meals will keep your stomach from shrinking and, inevitably filling up prematurely.  Plus, you know, hungry people tend to become cranky people.  Just say no to the angry mob!

If you're expecting company before the big turkey dinner and looking to feed them without stuffing them (or making a frantic call to the local pizzeria), here are some great recipes.  All of these can be made in a flash without lots of extra work and can be enjoyed while roaming and mingling about the house!

  • Coconut chicken - try smaller strips or even nugget-size pieces with dipping sauces!

Though pies a plenty are tough to resist, make it easier on you and your guests by having some relatively guilt-free sweets handy to cap off the evening.  Bonus: all three can be made ahead and don't require an oven!


Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Caramelized onion and mushroom galette

Have you ever been out at a restaurant and watched other people eat?  I mean, really watched them to see if they are totally enjoying whatever it is they ordered.  It's basically People Watching: Food Edition.  This is not to be confused with staring because that's just plain creepy.  People watching is for refined folks like ourselves.

I love to watch how others react to both something delicious and something dreadful.  Kids tend to be more overt about their feelings toward their food, which makes watching them dig in and get food all over their faces much more fun (especially when you think of the parents who must bathe said children later).

Adults, however, are more complicated thanks to two very powerful words: social etiquette.  Sometimes, they're forced to mute their feelings in order to be a gracious guest and not offend the host cook.  Or one partner will force his way through a dish not to look like a picky eater to a woman on their first date.

But, the worst fate, as far as I'm concerned, is when a person must share her attention between present company and an extraordinary dish.  You know that feeling -- we've all had it -- when your plate is clean and you realize you didn't really savor the food at all, and you want a do-over.  How tragic!

Monday, November 19, 2012

Hostess no more!

All together now: Nooooooooooooooooooooooooo!

In case you've been living under a rock or without any access to technology or news, the Hostess Brands company will be closing soon.  That means no more Twinkies, fruit pies, Ho Hos, etc.!  I'm speechless.

What's your favorite Hostess treat?  Mine is, without question, the Ho Ho.  Hard chocolate shell that can be peeled off, only to reveal a moist chocolate cake filled with vanilla cream.  Unroll and eat, it's the only way a Ho Ho should be enjoyed.

Today, after the gym, I'll continue my mission to find and enjoy one last treat.  Gotta get while you can, right?  After stopping at two Target stores, two Giant Eagles, two gas stations, and one CVS, I'm noticing the choices are slim.  Only mini muffins and mini donuts in sight.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Fast Friday: Homemade hot cocoa mix

It's here!  It's finally here!  Light up night in downtown Pittsburgh!  I'll be doing my happy holiday shuffle (and using superfluous exclamation points) all day long.

As much as I try to contain my excitement and enforce self-imposed rules that forbid Christmas music or decorations until after Thanksgiving, it becomes a serious uphill battle once this annual city tradition takes place.

It's just the celebration you'd expect, filled with lights, Santa(s), caroling, gingerbread house displays, Macy's windows, fake snow, and fireworks...!  The downtown streets are void of traffic and, instead, overflowing with Pittsburghers ready to begin the holiday season.  It's just so darn delightful and merry!

I look forward to light up night every year and imagine myself among the bustling crowds, enjoying fried Oreos and sipping on hot chocolate.  I can practically taste it when we arrive in Market Square, which is when reality promptly smacks me across the face.

Great sea of humanity!  There is no way I'm waiting 30 minutes in line for hot chocolate from Dunkin' Donuts or Starbucks.  And I'm certainly not going to pay $5 for a tiny styrofoam cup filled with watery hot chocolate made from a cheap packet.  If being a hot chocolate snob is wrong, then I don't want to be right!

Tuesday, November 13, 2012


...recently in the local Nordstrom's:

Thank you, Nordstrom's, thank you!

I do love Thanksgiving and feel like it never gets enough respect.  That being said, I think I'm going to need to avoid Macy's, Target, and pretty much the rest of the civilized world until November 23rd because Christmas is everywhere already this year!  I saw decorations out at the beginning of October, for goodness sake.  But I'm really going to try to avoid going into full-on Christmas mode.

But, come to think of it, light-up night in Pittsburgh is this Friday... I'm doomed!

Monday, November 12, 2012

Black bean burgers

A few weeks ago, my parents drove into the city for a nice Sunday visit.  I was officially joining a church (only the second ever in my lifetime -- crazy, right?), and they joined Matt to watch me take my vows in front of the congregation. After the lovely service, our stomachs were growling and the usual spread of cookies in the parish hall wasn't going to do it for any of us.  Wanting to stay within walking distance, I knew of just the place.

I'd been to Up Modern Kitchen twice for dinner but never for brunch or lunch.  My parents ordered brunch, while Matt and I made a bee line for the burger section of the menu.  Beef burger for him, of course.  And for her?  A house-made veggie burger.

'scuse me?

Yes, a veggie burger.  I honestly can't tell you what I was thinking at that moment, since it was weeks ago, but something stirring deep within me wanted a non-meat burger.  I suppose stranger things have happened.

Like Justin Timberlake being a married man.  Seriously, can we talk about this?!  Yes, the fact that a former teen pop idol is now hitched certainly falls under "stranger things."  You and I both know you don't come here for hard-hitting news.

But, the veggie burger!  I asked the waitress for more details, basically to confirm that it wasn't some pre-packaged thing.  She gave what was probably a very coherent description of the burger, but I zoned out and picked up on only a few choice words.  Mushrooms.  Black beans.  Roasted red pepper.

"Yes, I'll have that please."  Thinking back, I'm pretty sure I interrupted her.  Sorry, miss waitress.  I'm sure you are a very well-mannered human being.  I apologize for not being one.  I blame my stomach.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Fast Friday: Corn bread change-up

TGIFF - thank goodness it's finally Friday!  I swear that upcoming weekends filled with fun things always make the preceding week move along at a glacial pace.  Slow as molasses, I tell you!  But we made it, didn't we?

I am so looking forward to a very important date with a friend tomorrow.  Once a month, a nearby theater pairs with a local bakery for the glorious invention they've deemed Cinebrunch.  Doesn't that just sound like the best idea ever?!  A buffet of all sorts of breakfast foods and pastries is set out at 10, which moviegoers enjoy at their leisure.  At 11, everyone heads into the theater to enjoy that month's classic film of choice, which happens to be The Wizard of Oz.  I don't know how I ever lived without Cinebrunch in my life :)

Speaking of things I can't live without, at the top of my shortcut foods list you'll always find Jiffy Corn Muffin Mix.  A friend and I were recently talking about corn bread.  She and her husband hosted a pumpkin party recently, and she planned to make a big batch of chili and cornbread.  When I asked if she had a good recipe for the latter, she confessed that she almost always uses the little blue Jiffy box.  "Me, too!" I exclaimed.

I've tried a few recipes for homemade cornbread, and the results have been okay, but not great enough to warrant making again.  And certainly not worth the effort when a more delicious alternative takes all of 3 minutes to prepare.  Honestly, the blue box has it down!

Not long ago, I was preparing to make corn muffins to go with a batch of my favorite chili when I realized that I was out of eggs.  D'oh!  The blue box requires only 2 outside ingredients -- egg and milk -- and I was only batting .500.  Not a good sign.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Pumpkin oatmeal cookies

Sit down and pay attention.  Please.  Pretty please.  Because this is important.

I think I have a new favorite cookie.

I know, I know.  I spend so much time championing this recipe and that, saying things like, "This one!  You must make this one now!"  And I truly mean it every time.  I love food.  And I only tell you about food that I really, really love.

But, sometimes, I fear that you might see me as the boy who cried wolf, or, um, the girl who cried delicious.  "How can she say everything is so totally awesome?  Does she even realize how often she uses the words super and totally and amaaaaaaaazing with way too many "a"s?  Pfffffft.  I don't know if I believe her."

Well, believe this, sister (and brother): These are the best cookies I've eaten this year.  Certainly the best I've made this year.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Avocado, black bean & sweet potato wraps

Celebrate!  That word means different things to different people.  To me, it means going out for a fancy dinner or indulging in a dessert of epic proportions.  When Matt found out that he passed his physics PRAXIS II exam (he is now certified to teach physics in high school) a few weeks ago, I immediately said, "We should celebrate!

"Where do you want to go?   What do you want for dinner?  It's your choice, dear!"
"Hot dogs," said Matt.
"Uh, what?"
"I want hot dogs.  With guacamole.  Guac dogs."

Because that's what Matt wanted, I made him hot dogs with homemade guacamole.  Because that's, apparently, how he wanted to celebrate his good news.

(For the record, Matt always wants hot dogs.  I think if his mother prepared a platter of them in lieu of a Thanksgiving turkey, he'd be the happiest man alive.)

I know some people say that spouses become like one another, but I don't think hot dogs will ever entice me quite like they do Matt.  I pick burgers over hot dogs at cookouts.  My ballpark snack of choice is Dip 'n Dots.  And my favorite fair food is most certainly fried Oreos.  The only hot dog that does it for me is the one dipped in corn batter and fried that I have every summer at Kennywood.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Cozy Friday five

It's the first Friday in November, and guess who typed October instead?  Oops.  Good thing there isn't much on tap for this weekend, so I can get my bearings and calendars on the same page (pun intended).  The only thing set in stone is a date night for Matt and me on Saturday: we're going to sample the most recently voted best pizza in Pittsburgh and finally see Argo.  I know, I know.  We are sooooo late to that party.  Have you seen it?

With the weather being gray and wet and cold for the last five days, my mind is clearly craving all things covered up and cozy.  Check out my five Friday picks to fit my mood:

1.  If soulmates existed in edible forms, this would most certainly catch the heart and soul of a friend of mine as well as my mother-in-law.  A coffee and doughnuts milkshake.  Yes, yes, yes!

2. With Halloween being so last month, I'm looking for decorations that can make the transition into the rest of autumn through Thanksgiving.  Three cheers for Pinterest (shocking, right?), where I found these super easy and inexpensive fabric pumpkins.  This is going to be a perfect weekend craft.  P.S. You'll never guess what the "frame" for the pumpkins are... rolls of toilet paper!  #whydidntithinkofthat

3. These riding boots.  I've been on the hunt for new riding boots for over 2 years, and I finally found a pair that I absolutely love.  With a lot of coaching (thanks, friends!) and a few trusty coupon codes, I ordered them yesterday.  Cross your fingers that they fit like a dream!

4. Fashion law #17: "Leggings are not pants."  However, when paired with a comfy over-sized sweatshirt, leggings are totally acceptable forms of lounge wear around the house.  And festive leggings are practically mandatory.  Want, need, and must have!

[image via My Baking Addiction]

5. OH-EM-GEE.  Pumpkin oatmeal cookies with white chocolate and dried cherries.  All the things!!!  Good thing I have canned pumpkin in my pantry.  This is so happening this weekend.

Have yourself a warm, cozy, and relaxing weekend!  And remember to set your clocks back 1 hour on Saturday night/Sunday morning.  See you on the Mon-dizzle!

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Giveaway winner!

Thanks so much to everyone who entered the first ever giveaway contest!  The winner of three dozen cookies of his/her choice is...

Congratulations to comment #4, Alaine88!  I'll be contacting you today to obtain your cookie of choice and shipping information. Thanks again to everyone who entered!  I'd say this was quite a success, so look for more contests in the future :)

Happy November!