Monday, February 22, 2010

Weekend Summary

This weekend, we traveled up north to L's family cabin (though it was too cold to actually stay at the cabin, so we stayed at a nearby hotel), and our time there can be best expressed by the following photos:

(Top to bottom: 1.) L, M and Bella playing out in the middle of the frozen lake, 2.) L's sock got wet, so he wore a towel around his foot for awhile at the cabin, 3.) L then decided to attempt to dry his sock over the fire that his mom had made.  It really only made it warm and damp... 4.) Bella the crazy dog, 5.) L and I were wrestling in the hotel room, and then he pulled out a piece of my glasses off of the bed.  I had forgotten to take them out of my pocket before being tackled!)

Monday, February 15, 2010

Bittersweet Valentines

This weekend, L and I celebrated our 7th Valentines Day together, and our tradition has always been to keep it as low key as possible.  Well, this year turned out to be a little bit different.  We were woken up on Valentine's morning to a call from L's parents informing us that L's grandfather had passed away that night.  This came to us as a total surprise, since we had just had dinner with him two weeks prior, and we were all getting together for brunch at L's parents' house (including the grandparents) that morning.  While this became more of a stressful and emotional day, we are just glad that he went peacefully in his sleep.  The funeral has been set for Thursday, just down the road from where L and I live.   It's hard to believe that this picture of L, his father, and grandfather was only taken 7 months ago...

(copyright Studio Blue Photography 2009)

There was a part of us that just wanted to mope around for the rest of our day, and forgo our Valentine's Day plans, but we decided that it wouldn't do us any good, and that we should still make our special dinner and take some time for ourselves.  This was the best decision we could have ever made.

This year, we decided to split a nice steak and try our hand at making snow crab legs (L had never really had crab until last night!) for the main part of our meal.

We sauteed mushrooms for the steak, baked a potato, and steamed green beans to complete our meal- drinking copious amounts of wine all the while (we have a new favorite red wine called Menage a Trois).  This is, by far, the best meal that L and I have ever made together.  We used to suck at making fancy meals, but we've gotten a lot better at it over the years, and have also become more adventurous with what we'll try to make.  The crab legs will definitely being making an encore appearance in our kitchen in the near future!

L even injured himself while trying to dismantle the crab claw... I guess they really don't want to be eaten or something!

After digesting for a bit, we finished off the night watching an older BBC show called Jeeves and Wooster with our amazing cheesecake that we had picked up from The Cheesecake Factory (we do this every year).  L's was Snicker cheesecake and mine was Red Velvet cheesecake- yum!

The title of this post says it best:  this year was a very bittersweet Valentines day.  While we are very saddened by the passing of L's grandfather, we were glad to be able to spend some time together to just appreciate each other and what we have together.  L's grandparents were married for over 65 years, and we hope that we can make it as long as they did!

Saturday, February 13, 2010


Last night, J (at Secret Pie Shoppe) and I had a baking extravaganza.  After nearly 7 hours of working in the kitchen, we each walked away with homemade dark chocolate salted caramels, cake balls, and a new version of the brookie!

The first item we made were cake balls:

This recipe came from Bakerella , but since the grocery store we went to was all out of Red Velvet cake mix, we opted for Devil's food cake (but decided to still use cream cheese frosting to bind the balls together).  They were pretty messy to make, and we became frustrated when dipping them into the chocolates, but they taste pretty good!  We had a grand total of 82 cake balls made from one box of cake mix.

The second item on our list last night was originally a salted caramel recipe from Centsational Girl, but we wound up getting confused when looking at how she differed from the recipe she was going off of (found here at the Smitten Kitchen), so we decided to go with the original recipe that called for us to mix the chocolate into the caramels instead of dipping (next time, I think we'll make it without the chocolate...).  They came out tasting like Riesen candies.  Not bad, but it took a few bites to get used to the flavor.  Though it was our first time making caramels, we nailed the consistency, thanks to my nifty candy thermometer!

Our last treat for the night was a spin on the original brookies that I made last week.  Apparently the store we went to wasn't very well stocked in the baking aisle, so instead of getting a bag of regular chocolate chip cookie dough mix, we ended up getting OATMEAL chocolate chip cookie dough mix instead.  Also, we opted to forgo the chocolate ganache because by the time the brookies were done cooling, we were pretty over chocolate and decided that we didn't need more chocolate on top of the already chocolatey brookies.

After J went home (with 41 cake balls, a bread loaf pan's worth of caramels, and a half a pan of brookies), I started to crash from all of the sugar I had ingested by licking bowls and spoons, and went into a peaceful, chocolate-induced coma.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Crockpot Chicken Masala

L and I really enjoy Indian food, so we've started to purchase our own simmer sauces and make our own at home, since eating out has become more of a luxury for us and we try to eat at home as often as possible.

This week, I decided to try out our crockpot with one of the simmer sauces.  Basically, I poured in the Taj Calcutta brand Tikka Masala simmer sauce under and over two chicken breasts, and let it cook on low heat while I was out at work for about 5-6 hours.  By the time I got home, the chicken was cooked all the way through, so I added a tomato, two green bell peppers, sliced mushrooms, and peas, stirred it all together, and let it simmer for another hour.  While it didn't look like the prettiest concoction, the smells that filled the house were wonderful!

We like to serve our Indian food over rice, so I whipped up a couple cups of white jasmine rice (definitely worth the 30 minute cook-time, because it has a much better quality and consistency than minute rice, and goes better with this meal).

I was feeling adventurous that night, and since I couldn't find any pre-made naan (Indian flat bread) at the grocery store, I found a box mix to make my own.  There were a few different flavors, but I decided to try the plain one first (though next time I want to try out the garlic one!).

It was really easy to make, and the yeasty smell that came about while I was kneading the dough brought me back to when my mom used to make tea rings.  The directions were straight forward, and the one box can make up to 8 hand-print sized pieces of naan in about 45 minutes.

Since I don't own a rolling pin, I had to get creative... Thank you Caribou Coffee travel cup!

Cooking them up on the stove went really fast, and before I knew it, I had finished my ever batch of naan!  I brushed them with butter and sprinkled on a dash of salt before serving them.

Dinner was really tasty, and we had enough leftovers to last us a couple of days.  The only time consuming, labor intensive part was making the naan, but it was worth it to have the fresh flat bread on the side.  This is definitely a meal that we will be making again and again.

Maybe we should take one more close look at the Tikka Masala... :-)

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

White and Green


Here in Minnesota, we've been hit with another snow storm.  Thank goodness our alley way has a paid plow service, because I don't know if my back could take shoveling our sidewalk, walkway, driveway AND a good chunk of the alley...  For your viewing pleasure:

L tackled the majority of the driveway,
while I conquered the sidewalks and walkways...
Then, we removed these huge honking icicles that had been collecting on the gutters.  I was impressed by their size...

L and I recently decided that we need to eat healthier, and one way to do that is to add colorful vegetables to our plates.  A few days ago, we used asparagus to brighten up our Morning Star Chipotle Black Bean Burgers (mine completed with a spoonful of sour cream and shredded cheddar cheese, L's with pico de gallo on top).

The next day, we decided to try our hand at steaming brussel sprouts (a vegetable that neither of us had even tried until a few days prior at M & Bs' house), and they turned out to be really easy to steam and then we just added a pad of butter, a dash of salt, and a shake of pepper to give the sprouts a bit of flavor.  They went surprisingly well with our grilled cheese sandwiches!

Hopefully we will continue using fresh and colorful vegetables to make our meals more healthy :-)  While it may not seem like a lot, it is a step towards better eating for the L family!

Wednesday, February 3, 2010


Ever since a friend showed me Bakerella's blog, I've been lusting over the Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Brownies she has featured on her website.  This evening I finally had the chance to take a stab at them and the results were amazing!

The recipe is simple, has few extra ingredients, and it's not very labor-intensive due to the fact that the recipe calls for the boxed mixes instead of making the brownie batter and the chocolate chip cookie dough from scratch (though you definitely could create this from scratch).  I believe this recipe originally came from the Betty Crocker website, hence the product placement from lovely Betty.

I started out by mixing the brownie batter per the instructions on the box, and then poured the batter into a lightly greased glass Pyrex 13x9 pan.  Then I combined the butter, the egg, and the chocolate chip cookie mix together to make the cookie dough.

Next, I spooned tablespoons of cookie dough into the brownie batter, making sure to press the dough into the batter a bit.  I was worried that there wouldn't be enough room for all the cookie dough, but I split up the last few tablespoons worth and spread them around.

Once it wass all tready, I put the pan in a 350 degree oven and baked the brookies for about 40 minutes, and let them cool down all the way.

The last step was to make the homemade chocolate ganache.  Bakerella's recipe called for 12oz. of semi-sweet chocolate chips, 6 tablespoons of butter, and 3/4 c. of heavy whipping cream.  I subbed half and half for heavy whipping cream, and reduced the amount of liquid to 1/2c. to make sure that the ganache wouldn't be too thin.  The ganache was poured and spread evenly around the top of the brookies, and then was left to set for about an hour.

As you can see in the picture below, L and I were too anxious to let the ganache set for any longer, so the chocolate on top was still a little drippy, but they still tasted excellent!

Verdict:  I would definitely give these an A+!  Not only were they very easy to make, they were delicious as well.  The only change I would make would be to make the cookie dough from scratch, but only because I prefer my homemade cookie dough to Betty's. 

Monday, February 1, 2010

It's official!

Apparently, it's February now. Where the hell did January go? I have a feeling that February is going to go just as fast, seeing how I already have something planned for every single weekend this month (including my mother-in-law and my sister's birthdays).

Anyways, what I wanted to write about today is how I've finally become a true Saint Paul resident by going and getting myself a library card!

I've been itching to start reading a new book series (the Stephanie Plum series by Janet Evanovich), and I'm really excited to get the call letting me know that the book is in from the central library in downtown St. Paul. It's been awhile since I've found a fun/mindless series to read, so I'm looking forward to being entertained. I had a somewhat unhealthy addiction to buying books over the last couple of years, but I blame that on the fact that I haven't ever had a library within walking distance, and now that the closest library is within 3 blocks of my home, I predict that I will a pretty frequent patron! This should help heal the damage that Barnes and Noble and Borders has caused on my pocketbook over the last few years.