Monday, April 25, 2011

What a Crock!

          When I moved in to my apartment, my Grandmom gave me a cute red crock pot she didn't have much use for. I always thought it would be a lot of work to use it, and I never planned enough ahead of time to start recipes in the morning. But when I saw this Southwestern Bean Medley recipe on Jess, Mackenzie's sister's, blog, I thought it couldn't get any easier.
          And it was. I made the bean recipe a little while ago, and it was so easy and yummy that I started looking for more and have been using it a lot since. We had frozen pork, and I found this Slow Cooker Pork recipe that also looked like a breeze. I can't believe how juicy and tender meat tastes in the crock pot. I'm mad I put off using it for so long!

This recipe was cheap, easy, and filling. Served over brown rice, it was a healthful treat.

The pork was so moist and tender that it fell apart when I took it out.

I whipped up some mashed potatoes (confession: they were instant) and served the pork on top. The extra juices in the pot made for a savory gravy.
I love how the crock pot lets you make something delicious and take the easy route at the same time.


Bunny Sweets

          Because I have such a love for cupcakes, I was really excited to make these bunny ones, inspired from I let Betty Crocker do the legwork on the cupcakes, and put vanilla frosting into two dishes. I dyed half pink and half blue and frosted all of the cupcakes. I enlisted my mom, who's great at decorating cakes, to help with the white faces. She used a large round frosting tip to make circles.

         The ears are made out of marshmallows. To replicate, cut diagonally across the marshmallow and then cut each half in half vertically. They stuck to the frosting easily.
         The eyes and nose are jelly beans, and the whiskers are chocolate sprinkles. Maybe I'm biased, but I think mine came out cuter than the original design (although probably not as perfect). I used them as placeholders at dinner, and stacked them on my cupcake rack for a festive decoration.

          I'm really happy with the end result, and glad my mom helped out so they didn't take too long. And I picked sugar free frosting to cut a few calories considering we used loads of it. Mmmmm.

          Also, my mom made a vanilla and orange sherbet ice cream cake with a cookie crust. She decorated it with sugar flowers and frosting. It was so cute and tastey. Can you say Ace of Cakes?

Hope you had a sweet weekend.

Easter Dinner

          After my success of putting on Christmas dinner, I volunteered to cook an Easter meal. Although I spent most of my Sunday cooking, it was definitely worth the time and everything came out delicious. The weekend was beautiful (besides some April showers) and was a big pick-me-up after what has been a dreary month. I browsed through several sites and selected my menu. I've linked the recipes.

Slow Cooker Easter Ham

This was the easiest recipe of all. I just put the few ingredients in the crock pot and forgot about it until dinner. It came out moist and flavorful.
Spinach and Feta Quiche

          I had never made quiche before, so when I saw it on a suggested Easter dinner menu, I was dying to make it. The recipe I found was for a spinach and mushroom quiche, but I in onion (though not as large a quantity) because I don't really like mushrooms. The quiche came out wonderful, and was a favorite among my family. The best part is it's pretty healthy, save for the pie crust which on a lighter night you can leave out.
I made this earliest in the day and left it in the fridge. 15 minutes before dinner, I popped it back in the oven covered. The texture was perfect; I'll definitely make this recipe again.
Scalloped Potatoes and Onions

         This was one of the more challenging recipes as far as prep. Cutting 5 large potatoes and a strong onion was no simple task, but the end product was worth the work.

Green Bean Casserole 

         I normally hate green beans. The thought of canned vegetables still brings me back to the elementary school cafeteria (shivers). But we don't normally have green bean casserole at our holiday dinners, so I thought I'd add it to the menu. Perhaps adding cheese and butter to anything can make it taste good, but this was truly delectable and a good way to add more greens to the meal.

The Ritz cracker topping was a yummy alternative to traditional crunchy onions.
Glazed Mini Carrots

          Trying to pull all this off in one day, I knew I needed something really easy to add to the menu. These were quick and healthy, and didn't require baking so it freed up space in the oven.

I love how the fresh carrots add a lot of spring color to the table.

         Daffodils from our yard added a spring touch to the table, and my homemade egg nest added a festive touch. I dyed hard boiled eggs pastel colors and put them in a woven basket with paper grass.

          My family all said they enjoyed the meal, and I was happy to make a yummy dinner for everyone...but I may need a week or so off of cooking to recover.

Happy Easter!


Wednesday, April 6, 2011

The banana blueberry streusel experiment

          The other day, Mackenzie and I went downtown for lunch. We grabbed drinks at Blue State Coffee, and I couldn't help but drool over the big, blueberry muffins on display. Although we resisted, I was still craving blueberry muffins later, and resolved to make something delicious. We also had a big bunch of bananas that were going bad (Mackenzie prefers green bananas). I searched for recipes, but couldn't find one that combined all of the ingredients I wanted to use. So I did a little experiment, tweaking the Awesome Banana Muffin recipe from Cat Can Cook, adding the streusel topping from, and tossing in blueberries. My muffins came out moist and delicious, and were a big hit.

Here's my final recipe:
Banana Blueberry Streusel Muffins

Prep: 30 min Serves: 12


4 Large bananas mashed
1/2 cup white sugar
1 egg
1/3 cup canola oil
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 cups flour
1 cup blueberries (fresh or frozen)


1/3 cup sugar (brown may be better, but I only had white)
2 tbsp flour
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1 tbsp butter

          Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Mash bananas and mix with sugar, egg, and oil. In another bowl, mix baking powder, salt, and flour. Mix wet and dry ingredients and stir in blueberries. Pour into greased muffin tins. In a small bowl, mix sugar, flour and cinnamon for topping. Cut in 1 tbsp butter until mixed and sprinkle over muffins before baking. Bake 20 min.
Yum! I would definately make these again.

Monti, in his new favorite place to cuddle.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

What the Text?

         Wow, it has been a while since my last blog. I better get back on track. In short, Spring break came and went, March went in and out, and here we are in the last six weeks of class.

         Last week, my loyal phone of two years bit the dust. As I weigh my options for a new gadget--to upgrade to a Droid or iPhone, or keep it low key with a cheap Verizon phone--I immediately thought of dollar signs. But it occurred to me that there might be more I should consider besides pure cost. Although I am itching for an Internet phone (I am always behind the technological curve), it has really hit me how plugged in our society has become. Our cells require that we are always available; we have to drop everything to answer the call or respond to the text (I just ran downstairs mid-blog to grab my ringing phone). We feel constantly dependent on our phones: texting, checking email, or playing a game while waiting for coffee at Dunkin' Donuts or filling up on gas. It used to be considered a faux pas to answer a call or text during a date, conference, or chat, but the rules have changed. Now, when my friends and I go out to coffee, we each have our phones sitting on the table. An article in this month's Women's Health, "Never Run Late Again," suggest that cell phones encourage perpetual lateness. A simple text saying "Running late! Be there in five!" rids us of the guilt for making someone wait.

          And in the past few years, the Internet was added to the cell-reliant mix. Freshman year, I took a class called "The World According to Google," where we talked about the affect the Internet, Google in particular, was having on our society. We read an article from The Atlantic, written by Nicholas Carr, called "Is Google Making Us Stupid?" It suggests that the way we read has been changed by the Internet, and that many of us are developing a case of Google ADD. Read a few sentences on one site, click on a link, skim a paragraph there, click again. Next thing, you're reading about a vacation in Hawaii when you started out looking up the earthquake in Japan.  Sitting down to read a full page of text, or God forbid a book, is now a daunting task. Bing's "search overload" commercials may actually hold some truth. But at the same time, instant answer sites like Bing and Cha-cha may be messing with our problem solving and cognitive thinking skills.
         If the suffering of our attention spans and social skills wasn't enough, another April Women's Health article, "Improve your Inner GPS," suggests that our heavy reliance on GPS devices is dumbing down our inner compass (not that I had one to begin with).  So I'm pondering all of this as I decide if I want to plug myself into the Matrix with a new smart phone. I mean, do I really need it to tempt me to go on Facebook during a boring lecture? But if I don't upgrade, do I risk being left behind by the technological curve?

         Definitely food for thought, but I'm not making any promises either way.

Text me! Love,



Thursday, March 17, 2011

The Luck of the Irish

          Happy St. Patty's Day! I always love to be festive for holidays and this is no exception. Sunday we celebrated with the New Havens St. Patrick's Day parade and did everything green-themed. We woke up for green pancakes and jello shots and dressed in our best Irish attire. Yesterday I made Irish Soda Bread muffins, which didn't turn out quite like the real thing but they were fun and tastey enough. It just so happens that this year the holiday rests smack in the middle of MIDTERMS, so the festivites provide a much needed distraction. And after tomorrow SCSU is on spring break so everyone will have a reason to celebrate!

          I normally hate lime jello, but I made an exception for this occasion. These green jello shots (of course in lime green plastic shot glasses) were really easy to make, and came out tastey--lime flavor and all. The recipe I found is from, but there weren't a whole lot of us I halved the recipe. And since you don't really taste the alcohol, the cheap stuff is fine.

Drink Recipe: Jello shots

     6 ounces Jello (large package)
     16 ounces Water (boiling)
     6 ounces Water (cold)
     10 ounces Vodka
          Mix the jello mix with the boiling water until the powder is fully dissolved and add the cold water and alcohol. Pour the cooling mixture into either shot glasses or paper cups. Shot glasses are more attractive, but drinker can turn the paper cups inside-out to more easily eat the alcoholic jello.

          I made these muffins yesterday to have something festive actually on the holiday. The traditional Irish Soda Bread recipes I found had a lot of ingredients, so I picked one with fewer necessities (of course from my go-to site, On top of that, I took a few liberties with the recipe so that could be why my muffins were good, but not exactly authentic.


    6 cups flour, 1 cup sugar, 1 stick melted butter, 1 cup raisin, 1 cup golden raisin (I just used double of the normal raisins), 3 cups buttermilk (I used regular milk), 2 tbs baking powder, 1tsp baking soda, 1 tsp salt, and 2 Tbs caraway seeds (Skipped 'em).


bake at 350 Mix all ingredients. spray muffin pan with PAM. Spoon about a large spoonful into pans and bake for about 15 min or until toothpick comes out clean. allow to cool then eat. may freeze

Number of Servings: 36

Recipe submitted by SparkPeople user XN8960.
Why have green eggs and ham when you can have green pancakes?

Caden and Monti were fast friends. Must've been the matching "Pet Me I'm Irish" T-shirts.

Sunday was a beautiful day to be downtown.

Shout out to Aleisa and Mackenzie for actually being Irish. Hah!

         Good luck on midterms and happy Spring Break!

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Rain, rain go away

          Yes, it's finally March! The shortest (yet longest feeling) month of the year is over. They say March comes in like a lion and goes out like a lamb, but in New England, it's pretty much a lion-lamb hybrid throughout. So far this month, the climate has been rainy. Definitely preferable to snow and ice, but it can be a bit dismal. Everyone seems to be sick of staying inside and the taste of sun last week seemed to spark some spring fever.
          Since I am extremely warm blooded, I was not one of those girls Friday wearing dresses and flats. But in anticipation of the coming season, I've been wearing brighter colors (nothing like hot pink rain boots to brighten up a dark day), and punching things up with flowers. I never wear this flower headband, but I was feeling like spring this week and it was the perfect solution.
          And after a rainy weekend of being inside, whipping up some Irish-themed cupcakes cured both my sweet tooth and spring fever. Yum!
          How do you cure spring fever?