House Tour: Breakfast Nook

Comfort.

Warm fuzzies.

These are the words that enter my head and cause a smile to spread across my face every time I look into our breakfast nook. This part of our home is where the memories will be made, meals will be eaten and the heart will grow over the years.

There are several meaningful parts of this room, but most essential is the table. This farmhouse table has been in Adam’s family for many many years (probably close to 100).

It has history literally etched into it.

The knife marks on the lower left corner from pigs being slaughtered for family meals and the faint indentions made by a meat grinder that was clamped to the table on bottom center of the picture above are the reminders of distant history.

In the middle of this picture, you see newer markings and scratches. Scars from a more recent history wherein this table held. up. a. house. after a tornado destroyed Adam’s childhood home. Memories, both good and bad, have surrounded this table for decades and now it’s ours.

Ours to create new memories around, as well as to share the old.

Another meaningful part of this room is the painting. I went to college at the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville and this painting (purchased at the AMAZING RiffRaff on the Fayetteville Square) contains every part of Arkansas that I love.

I look forward to many memories and good times in this nook. Game nights, cookie decorating, pumpkin carving and laughter. This will truly become the heart of our home and I can’t wait!

all photos taken by adam bartlett [aka my handsome hubby]
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Come On In My Kitchen

One room is practically finished which means it’s only appropriate to give you a glimpse into the house we are turning into our home.

The kitchen is one of the things that sold me on this house  [the other is the outdoor fireplace, but you’ll have to wait to see that transformation for a few weeks]. It’s a huge space that screams entertaining and has an island begging to be covered in flour and sugar on a regular basis. Also? Hello granite countertops and gas stove/oven. I’m living the dream!

Err…we. We are living the dream 🙂

You’ll notice there isn’t anything wrong with the kitchen in it’s present state (except for the lack of a fridge), but we wanted to inject a little of our style into it. The red walls are ventian plaster and perfect for Hog fans living in Texas. Yay for no painting in this room! Adam and I luckily have similar styles and visions for the house which has made it quite fun to toss ideas around. Ultimately, we wanted a kitchen that was welcoming and inviting with a bit of a vintage industrial undertone and once the breakfast nook is completed I think we will have achieved our goal.

We took a road trip to Fredericksburg – my FAVORITE small town ever because of its quaint shops in the downtown – and visited our favorite store red. Red is full of amazing vintage finds and contemporary patterns, not to mention one of a kind junk turned art accessories and mid-century style furnishings.

Basically? It’s my dream.

We went in red for inspiration more than anything and walked out with 3 light fixtures! Two to replace the too-formal-for-us island pendants and one to replace the completely not us light in the dining room (for almost 75% off which I LOVE and you’ll also have to wait to see – I’m such a tease).

Adam assured me that switching the pendants would be an easy job.

Ha!

We really are new and naive homeowners.

It took Adam several choice words and at least an hour to switch the first pendant because the electrical box itself wasn’t centered in the hole among other problems which he tried to explain to me and I just ignored didn’t understand. The second light was much easier to switch and he was practically pleasant to be around during the installation. He even let me snap a picture of him hard at work. Gotta love a handy hubby!

I really love how our new slightly vintage and slightly industrial lights look above the island.

The stools were also a happy accident. My parents visited this past weekend to help us unpack and organize a bit. Friday, while mom and I were out and about, we made a last minute stop at World Market. These stools compliment what will be our breakfast table chairs perfectly and also helped add an industrial feel to the kitchen.

Best of all? They were on sale and I got both for the price of one if regularly priced. Score!

Also, my mom? Is a pantry genius. Such a HUGE help, thanks mom!

The stools and the pendants were the big initial aesthetic changes in the kitchen, but the fridge was a necessity that Adam has been enthralled with ever since it was delivered.

Why?

Because it has one magical feature.

The water dispenser has an auto fill option. This means that you can place any pitcher or glass under the spout hit auto fill and walk away. Water is dispensed into the container without spilling and it is even measured in ounces on the screen for you. We’ve tried many different types of containers in hopes of tripping it up and we haven’t yet. So yeah, we bought a fridge and our favorite feature is the in-door water dispenser. What does this say about us?

Finally, we had to put a little Razorback spirit around the kitchen. 🙂

In the near future I want to add some rugs or runners around the island and in the “if money was made on trees” very distant future I’d like to replace the backsplash with some nice white subway tile and maybe refinish the cabinets.

For now the kitchen suits us perfectly and we couldn’t be happier!

Winner Winner Chicken Dinner

I’ve always loved cooking, but leftovers? Not so much. I mean, I can enjoy them for lunch the next day, maybe dinner too, but typically after one additional meal I’m totally over it and want something different.

Now that we’re married, and basking in newlywed bliss, it’s been wonderful to fix a recipe and know that it won’t go bad before I tire of eating it – because there’s 2 people to eat the leftovers!

Last week, as we began to decorate our little abode for Christmas I decided to get in the kitchen and cook a meal. It had started getting chilly outside and I wasn’t really in the mood for soup or chili. Thankfully, Pinterest came to the rescue with Lemon Roasted Chicken and Hasselback Potatoes.

The chicken was phenomenal. Both Adam and I devoured it. Adam even requested that it be a regular meal in my arsenal – I’m good with that!

We both thought the recipe could easily be adapted for chicken breasts, though I cooked it as directed using chicken thighs. In fact, we’ll probably try it with chicken breasts next time. Mmm…next time, my mouth is already watering just thinking about it.

Added bonus: the chicken was just as delicious reheated the next night for dinner!

Now, I’m not gonna lie and tell you the potatoes tasted as good as they looked coming out of the oven. I mean, they were good, but the flavors didn’t blend throughout and sometimes you were stuck eating plain roasted potatoes with no seasoning.Plus, they were a pain to slice and season thoroughly  – which probably explains why the flavors didn’t blend.

Next time, I think I’ll use the same seasonings but toss them with potato wedges or slices instead of the fanned whole potatoes.

Lemon Chicken

from Annie’s Eats

Ingredients:

  • 2 tbsp. lemon zest
  • 1/3 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 2 tsp. fresh thyme leaves
  • 1 tsp. fresh rosemary leaves, finely minced
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. black pepper
  • 2 lbs. of bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs or drumsticks
  • 2 tbsp. melted butter
  • Thinly sliced lemons, for garnished

Directions:

  1. Combine the lemon zest, lemon juice, garlic, thyme, rosemary, salt and pepper in a large zipper-lock plastic bag.  Seal the bag and shake well to blend.
  2. Place the chicken pieces in the bag with the marinade, pressing out excess air and sealing once more.  Refrigerate and let marinate for 2 hours.
  3. Preheat the oven to 425˚ F.
  4. Remove the chicken pieces from the marinade and transfer to a baking dish, skin-side up, reserving the leftover marinade.
  5. Brush the top of each piece of chicken with melted butter.
  6. Bake for 50-55 minutes, until the skins are crispy and well-browned.
  7. Halfway through baking, pour the remaining marinade over the chicken pieces in the baking dish.
  8. Once fully baked, cover loosely with foil and let rest 10 minutes before serving.

Baked Hasselback Potatoes

from Chicho’s Kitchen

Ingredients (serves 4):

  • 4 medium potatoes, scrubbed (leave skin on)
  • 4 cloves of garlic, thinly sliced
  • 3 tbsp of olive oil
  • salt
  • pinch of smoked paprika
  • 2 tbsp grated Parmesan cheese
  • chopped chives for garnish
Directions:
  1. Preheat the oven to 425˚F (220ºC).
  2. Slice each potato crosswise at 1/8-inch intervals, cutting to within 1/4 inch of the bottom. Be careful not to slice all the way through. The potato will fan out a bit as it bakes.
  3. Combine olive oil, garlic, salt, smoked paprika and parmesan cheese in a small bowl.
  4. Lay the potatoes on a baking sheet.
  5. Carefully insert pinches of this mixture in between the slits of the potatoes.
  6. Rub the outsides of the potatoes with residual oil.
  7. Bake for about 40-45 minutes. The inside should be cooked through and the outside of the potato should be a bit crispy.
  8. Garnish with additional parmesan and chives!

Noses are Deceiving

Now that [almost] all of the boxes are unpacked and I’m slowly able to start accessorizing rooms, I’m feeling more settled. Adam’s old “grandma chic” bachelor pad apartment is starting to feel like the home in which we’ll start our life together.

Every day this week I’ve made a concerted effort to make a visible dent in a random room as far as organization goes. I’ve stored books and papers from my old cubicle in my old dresser we refinished, hung pictures, replaced lamp shades, put away our china, and pulled out my Scentsy.

Y’all have one of these, right? I’m obsessed with mine. I love letting the scents permeate my apartment and now that I’m working from home all day you better believe I have it on all day every day.

Back in September, on a rare trip to Wal-Mart, I bought some wax cubes by Better Homes & Garden. I wanted to have seasonal fragrances like Apple Strudel, Pumpkin Pie, Blueberry Muffin, and Gingerbread. Tuesday, was my first day to use my Scentsy warmer since moving and I chose to put in a Gingerbread cube. I put it in mid-morning and had forgotten about it until Adam came home from work that evening.

He walks straight to the kitchen looking for a freshly baked batch of cookies. I felt horrible that the Scentsy led him astray so that night, we worked late cleaning the counters and putting away the remaining wedding gifts and serving pieces I already owned. Essentially, we made the kitchen usable.

And yesterday? Because I wanted an excuse to use my KitchenAid Stand Mixer, Adam got his cookies. Dark Brown Sugar Chocolate Chip.

This time, the scent he smelled as he walked through the door is edible! Given the fact that he ate almost an entire dozen by himself in one hour, I’d say he thought they were scrumptious!

Dark Brown Sugar Chocolate Chip Cookies

Ingredients:

  • 3/4 cup butter
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 3/4 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 and 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2 and 1/4  cups plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 12 ounces semi-sweet chocolate morsels

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Beat butter and sugars at medium speed until creamy.
  3. Add eggs and vanilla until all ingredients are blended.
  4. Combine flour, baking soda, and salt in a medium bowl.
  5. Gradually add flour mixture to butter mixture, beating well as you go.
  6. Stir in chocolate.
  7. Drop by tablespoon onto ungreased cookie sheets.
  8. Bake for approximately 12 minutes.

Yield: 5 dozen

Halloween Honeymoon Horror

Yep, I’m officially a married woman – the wedding and honeymoon were absolutely perfect, and I plan to share a series of posts about them in the near future. Literally, I’ll be writing a series of posts, because I never want to forget certain moments or details from my wedding weekend.

Adam and I returned from a picture perfect honeymoon exploring Napa Valley, CA to a weekend of packing up my apartment in preparation for my move to Austin, TX.

Yeah, you read right – I’m becoming a Texan and moving to Longhorn Country. Last I checked, the world is still spinning.

Sunday, Adam headed back to Texas to clean and make room for my stuff to be moved in this weekend. When he arrived back at his apartment he called and told me that he was “perplexed” because his kitchen was in disarray. His blinds had been ripped to shreds, his desk area was disheveled and there were black spots everywhere.

Growing up in an old house, my immediate thought is a bird somehow got in while he was gone for the wedding and honeymoon. He’ll just need to find it and throw it away. Unfortunately, according to his stellar shit observation skills, he determines these droppings are not the kind most commonly associated with birds.

Ok, then. What is the culprit?

A mouse. He tells me he has had a mouse destroy his kitchen.

I’m immediately all, “I’m not moving to TEXAS to work FROM HOME with MICE!!!!” Seriously, little mice co-workers running beneath my feet throughout the day? No thank you. The move to Texas? Is off. For reals.

He tries to console me in a somewhat stressed voice, “Don’t worry my sweets, I’m headed to Wal-Mart to buy extermination supplies and will have this solved before moving you in Saturday. I promise, there will not be mice in my apartment by the time you arrive.”

Adam goes to Wal-Mart to buy supplies in Texas while I’m back on my couch in Arkansas procrastinating packing, reading blog posts about unwelcome guests and putting myself in her shoes. It’s not a good image in my head – I can assure you of that.

He calls when he gets back home to tell me he’s identified the “Bait”. His cycling energy bars that were left unopened on the kitchen counter. This is good, right? Never leave energy bars on the countertop. Lesson learned. Now let’s trap this mouse. Pronto!

He hangs up and spends the next 30 minutes cleaning and disposing of all food and other ruined items in his kitchen and desk area. Then calls with an update.

“Megan. It’s not a mouse.”

“It’s not?”

“No. I’m a little freaked right now”

“Why?”

“There’s a squirrel in one of the wedding gift bags.”

My first response is “WHAT?! Which bag? Are the gifts* okay?”

My second response is “YAY!!! NO MICE!!!”

My third response is “Is it dead?”

Adam responds, “I’m not sure. I’m gonna kick the bag.”

I wait…

“Ok, the squirrel didn’t move but I’m still afraid I might get attacked by it. What else should I do?”

This is when I suggest he take a broom and push the bag across the floor. He does so, deems the squirrel “dead as a doornail”, uses a garbage bag to pick the squirrel up and places it on his balcony as evidence for the apartment manager Monday.

Here’s the crazy part: No one has entered Adam’s apartment in 10 days. All of the doors and windows were shut and locked and the dryer vent appears to be properly connected.

In other words, there is no sign of forced squirrel entry.

But hey, at least I’ll have a really clean new kitchen to use once I get moved to Austin.

*No wedding gifts were harmed in this story

Our House

Lately I’ve found myself driving around town and making up stories about the inhabitants of random houses.

That craftsman house I pass almost daily: I bet the owners are close to retirement age. They have grown children and are soon expecting their first grandchild. Their home is cheerful, filled to the brim with memories of the life they’ve led. They host bridge once a week, playing around the same table where they helped their children with homework.

That small wood-frame home with a carport: A widow lives there. The same home she built with her husband while raising their children in the 60s. She spends most of her time in 1 room: the kitchen, because that’s where most of her memories took place. She remembers her son’s burnt batch of brownies and the crowded Thanksgiving dinners. She finds herself staring at the same refrigerator where her children’s grades were proudly displayed.

That friendly 2-story brick house in a sub-division I discovered on a random jaunt about town: I’m positive it’s home to a young family with 2 elementary aged children. The interior is modern yet inviting, the refrigerator covered in art projects and A+ homework assignments. The backyard filled with toys.

What I’ve realized in these daydreams is that every family I make up in my head is happy, loving, and supportive. They are warm and welcoming and exude Southern hospitality. Their homes are well-decorated, each piece of furniture placed lovingly in position and each photo on the wall capturing a moment in time that they treasure.

Maybe it’s because I’m newly engaged that I think about these things. Maybe it’s what happens when a bride-to-be starts to dream about her own house and new family. Whatever the reason, it’s given me focus.

Focus to create a home that is welcoming, warm and full of love. A home that is a reflection of the personalities which inhabit it. A family that cherishes memories, laughs together and plays games together.

A family who makes memories in the kitchen.

image via Orange Blossom Society

A Kitchen Experiment

If you know me in real life, or are a regular reader of my blog, chances are you’ve either read about my mother’s famous Dishpan Cookies (aka Crack Cookies) or tried them for yourself and agreed.

Cookies

Well, kids. Hold on to your seats, because you’re in for a treat! Tonight? I created Dishpan Muffins. Yep, you read right. Muffins!

Last week I ran across a recipe for Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookie Muffins on the blog How Sweet It Is. As soon as I saw it, I knew I had a solid foundation from which to create my version: Dishpan Muffins.

I mixed and measured. Poured and baked. Cooled and ate. And upon trying my first bite I referred to myself as a culinary genius.

Obviously, I don’t have self-esteem problems.

These muffins are moist, sweet, and have a lovely hint of spice to them. Promise me you’ll make them immediately, okay?

Promise?

Good.

Dishpan Muffins
inspired by How Sweet It Is

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup rolled oats
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/3 cup brown sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 cup butter, at room temperature
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 cup milk (any kind will do)
  • 1 cup chocolate chips
  • 1/3 cup coconut
  • 1/3 cup cornflakes + a little extra for sprinkling on top
  • Raw turbinado sugar (optional)

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350.
  2. Add oats to a bowl and add milk. Let soak for 5-10 minutes, while you prepare the first few steps of the muffins.
  3. In a large bowl, combine egg and brown sugar and whisk until smooth and caramel in color.
  4. Add in vanilla and butter, whisking well. Try to smooth the batter as much as possible – there still may be some small butter chunks.
  5. Add flour, oat mixture, baking soda, salt and cinnamon and mix until smooth.
  6. Fold in chocolate chips, coconut, and cornflakes .
  7. Line a muffin tin with liners and pour about 1/4 cup batter into each line.
  8. Sprinkle the tops with raw turbinado sugar and slightly crushed cornflakes
  9. Bake for 15-18 minutes, or until cooked through.

Yield: 15 muffins

Life List

In my blog-stalking, I’ve recently noticed lots of “life list” posts or blogs and thought I should get on the bandwagon. One, because it’s probably a good idea to think about what I want to accomplish in this life. Two, because it’s a whole heck of a lot of fun to dream, isn’t it?

So, following in the footsteps of Walking the Long Road, Damn You, Little Rock and If You Ask Me here’s my life list.

  1. Go back to Prague and come home with crystal.
  2. Flip a house.
  3. Take a cruise in the Mediterranean.
  4. Gamble in Vegas (and maybe even win big).
  5. Buy a house and make it a home.
  6. Adopt a dog. [If it’s a Corgi name it Radar.]
  7. Read more classic literature.
  8. Watch all of Julie Andrews’ movies.
  9. Take the Sound of Music tour in Salzburg, Austria.
  10. Take my parents on a vacation.
  11. Trace my family genealogy.
  12. Make homemade ice cream by myself.
  13. Own a paperie.
  14. Take an autumnal trip through the New England states.
  15. Relearn how to throw pottery. [I was in elementary school the first time. Does that even count?]
  16. Travel abroad with Adam.
  17. Write a novel.
  18. Get aforementioned novel published.
  19. Visit Paris.
  20. Sit and sip in a Parisian Cafe.
  21. Win the lottery.
  22. Learn to surf.
  23. Visit all 50 states.
  24. Take a road trip through Tuscany.
  25. Have a street named after me (even if it’s just my driveway).
  26. Get my M.Ed.
  27. Update my blog on a regular basis.
  28. Resist the urge to change my blog address again.
  29. Visit the Storm King Art Center.
  30. Broaden my culinary horizons (aka find more foods I like).
  31. Learn to tat.
  32. Learn to crochet.
  33. Carry on the tradition of my Great-Aunt Lila and Great-Grandmother Mama Ward’s handmade snowflakes.
  34. Host Thanksgiving dinner for my entire family.
  35. Buy a real ironing board.
  36. Actually iron.
  37. Make fresh pasta.
  38. Get married. [once]
  39. Become a mother.
  40. Adopt a child.
  41. Find the most ridiculous items possible in a Dollar Store and share them with the world.
  42. Meet Meryl Streep.
  43. Go to the Ellen Show.
  44. Go snow-skiing in Colorado again.
  45. Volunteer with Ozark Mission Project.
  46. Grow a succulent garden.
  47. Attend the Olympics.
  48. Be an Olympic athlete. In curling.
  49. Go to the Oscars.
  50. Go to Wimbledon.
  51. Bowl a perfect game.
  52. Create a signature dish.
  53. Visit Nantucket.
Free graphics found on pugly pixel. Personalized by me.

Shrimp Addict?

I should probably start this post with a confession. For the past 3 days, my main source of protein at each meal (except breakfast) has been shrimp. I may have a problem.

Okay, now that that’s out of the way…

I had mentioned earlier that my local K-Roger let me down, but luckily Fresh Market came through for me. I don’t normally drive 30 miles for groceries, but since I was already in Little Rock visiting my parents last night to pick up some things I was able to grab the 2 necessary ingredients for Sunny Anderson’s Shrimp in a Garlic Pepperoni Sauce from Fresh Market on my way home. Plus, stopping at Fresh Market gave me the excuse to pick up one of my favorite treats, chocolate covered banana chips. Some serious yum right there folks!

After imagining what this dish tasted like for 3 days, I was excited to make it after Jazzercise. Once I got home, I opened up my MacBook and cranked up my Eat & Greet playlist, because it’s the perfect mix to have in the background while you cook.

I’m not gonna lie, there was a bit of prep involved: chopping a full HEAD of garlic, dicing 16 ounces of pepperoni, removing the tails off a pound and a half of shrimp, but in the end the prep was worth it. The flavors were intense and not spicy like I was expecting, though next time I probably won’t use quite so much pepperoni or olive oil.

Shrimply Delicious

Yesterday, as I was watching Food Network in bed, I was absolutely delighted by the Shrimp in a Garlic Pepperoni Sauce Sunny Anderson made on Cooking For Real. I mean, I love pepperoni, I love garlic, and I looooove schrimp. Mmm mmm wonderful schrimp. [Don’t adjust your vision folks, I typed schrimp] My mouth was watering as she made it and I could practically smell its goodness through my television, so it should come as no surprise that I would make it for dinner Sunday night.

After my Sunday Jazzercise ritual, I went to my neighborhood K-Roger to purchase the necessary ingredients. Unfortunately, K-Roger had other plans, which included not having 2 of the ingredients I needed: Pepperoni that didn’t have Hormel in the name and Adobo seasonings. I was defeated and schlepped to the front of the store for a fresh start. As I schlepped, I remembered my go-to shrimp recipe that I hadn’t made in quite a while (okay, maybe a year), and my mood brightened. Garlicky Lemon Shrimp anyone? I promise it will change your life.

Garlicky Lemon Shrimp by Rocco DiSpirito

Ingredients

  • 1 lb medium shrimp, peeled, deveined, and cooked
  • 3 tbsp lemon juice (I use the juice of 2 large lemons)
  • 1/4 cup Olive Oil
  • 3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1/2 cup Parmigiano-Reggiano (I use shredded)
  • 3/4 cup bread crumbs (I use Italian Style)

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 500 degrees.
  2. In a medium bowl, toss shrimp with lemon juice, olive oil, and garlic.
  3. Season with salt and pepper.
  4. Add cheese and bread crumbs (coat evenly).
  5. Spread shrimp on a baking sheet in a single layer.
  6. Bake 5 minutes or until golden and cooked through.

Serves 4

A World Without Ro*tel?

Ro*tel Cheese DipArkansas: The Birthplace of Cheese Dip.

Cheese Dip: The State Food of Arkansas. The staple appetizer at practically any restaurant you visit. The required tailgate food. The perfect topping for chips, chili, rice, and, yes, even burgers. It’s simplicity can be summed up in 2 ingredients: Velveeta and Ro*tel. A match made in heaven if you ask me.

Being raised in Arkansas, I’ve never even considered that some people have never had the pleasure of tasting this delightful dish, not to mention being oblivious to the mere existence of Ro*tel. This weekend, however, I learned that one of my dear friends “up North”, Jules, was one of those unfortunately oblivious souls. Upon finding this out, it became my mission yesterday to force her to make Ro*tel Cheese Dip, or as I like to call it – Ro*tel. In a series of IM conversations, a phone call, tweets, and the offer of a Skype session, I convinced Jules to gather the necessary ingredients and make Ro*tel for dinner.

Me: So in two weeks, I’ll be attending the World Cheese Dip Championships in North Little Rock with Adam.

Jules: What IS this obsession with cheese dip in Arkansas?

Me: Well, number one it’s fabulously delicious. Number two it’s the perfect dish.

Jules: I’ve never understood why a restaurant in Arkansas, no matter the cuisine it serves, has cheese dip on the menu. Are you all really that addicted?

Me: Yes.

Jules: So tell me this, how does one buy cheese dip?

[I tweet this question.]

Me: Well, what kind of cheese dip are we talking about?

Jules: You mean there’s different types?

[I tweet this question.]

Me: Yes, yellow and white are the most popular.

Jules: What’s the difference?

[Jules tweets.]

Me: In my opinion, yellow is not as smooth or spicy as white. I typically order white cheese dip whenever I’m at a restaurant. But at home I make yellow, using Velveeta cheese.

Jules: I’m not a big user of Velveeta, but my husband was raised on it.

Me: Okay, then you HAVE to make Ro*tel. If your husband was raised on Velveeta, he’ll love you more than ever after you make this dip.

Jules: What’s that?

Me: Ro*tel? It’s diced tomatoes and green chilies.

Jules: How do you spell it? R-O-W-T-E-L-L-E?

Me: [laughing] No, R-O-star-T-E-L.

Jules: You mean there’s actually a star in its name?

Me: Yes.

Jules: Can I buy it up here?

[I look up where to buy Ro*tel online]

Me: Yep, there’s 5 stores that carry it in your town! Go. Now.

Jules: Where will I find it?

Me: Probably in the canned vegetables, next to the tomatoes. You’ve seriously never seen or heard of Ro*tel before? Wow.

Jules: Okay so besides Ro*tel, what else do I need to make this cheese dip?

[Jules tweets again.]

Me: 1 pound of Velveeta and 1 can of Ro*tel.

[I tweet a reply correcting Jules.]

Jules: How do I prepare the Velveeta?

Me: Dice it up and throw it in a bowl, then pour the Ro*tel on top. Nuke it until it’s nice and melted, stirring about every minute and a half to 2 minutes. I usually drain the Ro*tel because I like a thicker dip, but you can leave the juice if you want a thinner dip, totally up to you.

Later that afternoon…

Jules: I have my grocery list ready! What goes good with the dip for dinner?

Me: Ha! It’s always just my meal.

Jules: Seriously?

Me: Seriously, but you could do tacos, burgers, fajitas, or chili.

Jules: We should just dip our burgers in the cheese dip. Just kidding.

Me: Even better, you could top your burgers with cheese dip…and bacon. I’m serious.

Jules: Ok, I’m heading to the store.

Later that evening…

Jules: So 2 lbs velveeta and a can of rotel?

Me: NO!!!! 1 lb to 1 can.

Jules: So if I make 2 lbs I use 2 cans?

Me: Yes, that’s typically how math works.

Jules: Ok, heating up now.

Me: Ok, how is it? I need an update?

Jules: It was verra verra good! I am stuffed. We all enjoyed it, ate lots.

Me: Yay! Nothing makes me happier than a new Ro*tel lover.

And that, my friends? Is how I convinced Jules to make Ro*tel for the very first time. Everyone loved it and her daughter Caity, who I’m told does not like Velveeta, deemed it “pretty good”.

So to Jules and her family: I’m glad I could educate you on the state food of Arkansas. May you have many many more bowls of cheese dip and Ro*tel in your future!

And for anyone who’s interested in the history of cheese dip here’s a video:

“In Queso Fever: A Movie About Cheese Dip” from Nick Rogers on Vimeo.

image via Adam Kuban on Flickr
Cookies

C is for Cookie…

Cookies

…that’s good enough for me!

Tonight I decided to bake dishpan cookies or, as my coworkers and friends refer to them, Crack Cookies. It’s a recipe my mom came up with after taking her favorite ingredients from different recipes to make a brand new one. These cookies are amazing straight out of the oven and even better if you eat them straight out of the freezer (after baking of course). I think it’s the crystallization of the sugar…at least that’s what I tell myself. In fact, when mom makes these at Christmas, she fills up our Santa cookie jar and places the remainder in the freezer. The ones in the freezer always disappear before the ones in the cookie jar.

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups sugar
  • 2 cups brown sugar
  • 2 cups oil
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 3 cups corn flakes
  • 1 1/2 cups oats
  • 4 cups flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 cup pecans, chopped
  • 1 (12 ounce) package chocolate chips
  • 1 cup coconut

Directions:

  1. Cream first 5 ingredients until light and fluffy in large mixing bowl.
  2. Mix dry ingredients in large pan.
  3. Pour creamed mixture over dry ingredients and mix well.
  4. Drop by teaspoon on cookie sheet and bake in 350 oven for 8 – 10 minutes.

Note:  Do not overcook. I spray my cookie sheets with non-stick spray before cooking first batch.

Yield: 10 – 12 dozen cookies

Baked Lemon Pasta

Perfect Spring Pasta

Baked Lemon PastaNothing says spring like a pollen covered car. It’s the sign that spring has sprung, that new life is blossoming, and that light, yet flavorful meals are a comforting dinner. My new standby pasta dish? Thanks to Pioneer Woman? Fits the bill perfectly. I mean, seriously, what says spring like lemon? And when you combine that with a bit of garlic and toss with some pasta? It’s not going to disappoint.

You see, one of my favorite movies is Julie & Julia. At the beginning of the movie, Julie arrives home from a stressful day at work and begins whipping up a Chocolate Cream Pie. She says:

“You know what I love about cooking? I love that after a day when nothing is sure, you can come home and absolutely know that if you add egg yolks to chocolate and sugar and milk it will get thick. It’s such a comfort.”

Well, this dish serves as that comfort for me. Only my day wasn’t stressful and my ingredients are sour cream, lemon, garlic, and butter. Nevertheless, after you’ve whipped it together once it’s practically mindless to whip up again. And mindless recipes that always come out right? Never hurt anyone.

Baked Lemon Pasta
adapted from The Pioneer Woman

Ingredients

  • half pound Thin Spaghetti
  • 2 Tablespoons Salted Butter
  • 1 Tablespoon Olive Oil
  • 1 cloves Garlic, Minced
  • 1 whole Lemon, Juiced And Zested
  • 1 cup Light Sour Cream
  • Kosher Salt to taste
  • Grated Parmesan Cheese
  • Chopped Flat-leaf Parsley

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Cook spaghetti until al dente.
  2. In a skillet, melt butter with olive oil over LOW HEAT. When butter is melted, add minced garlic. Turn off heat. Squeeze lemon juice into the pan.
  3. Add sour cream and stir mixture together. Add lemon zest and salt. Taste, then add more salt if necessary.
  4. Combine mixture with drained spaghetti. Transfer spaghetti to an oven safe dish.
  5. Bake, covered with foil, for 15 minutes.
  6. Remove foil and bake for an additional 7 to 10 minutes. (Don’t bake too long or the pasta will dry out.)
  7. Squeeze a little more lemon juice over the top after you remove it from the oven.
  8. Top with Parmesan cheese and chopped parsley. Enjoy!

Servings: 3

Makin’ Banana Pancakes

HG's Fab Five Banana Pancake Minis

Here’s the thing. I’m not a big whole wheat person. [Almost] Every bread I’ve ever tried that’s wheat has been either too “oat-y”, too “grainy” or tasted too much like chalk. So when I saw the ingredients for banana pancakes, a la HG‘s 200 Under 200 book, I was hesitant. Also, I’ve been afraid to try soy milk. Lucky me, this recipe calls for both.

As soon as the cinnamon-y dry ingredients combined with the banana-y wet ingredients I knew this would be a winner. Boy was it ever, if I hadn’t made them myself I wouldn’t even have known they were low-cal and healthy. The texture was perfect, no grainy or chalk taste here, only fluffy pancake goodness.

As for my topping, I didn’t leave them plain as you see in the picture above, nor did I drown them as syrup (because? as much as I wanted to do that I wanted to NOT go to the grocery store more). Instead, I sprinkled them with Splenda, it added the extra sweetness the syrup would’ve provided, without all those calories.

Orange Chocolate Cupcakes

Orange Chocolate Cupcakes

Orange Chocolate Cupcakes

A blog I follow almost daily is Design*Sponge. Last week they featured these cupcakes and I fell in love with them immediately. Long story short, tonight I finally had time to bake them, and boy were they worth the wait! The cake is moist and fluffy, the frosting has just the right balance of orange flavor, and the smell, oh the smell! My apartment smells phenomenal! Who knew adding/subbing a simple ingredient could make a seemingly perfect cupcake something unexpected and fabulous? Best of all, you won’t believe how simple these were to make!

Here’s the recipe:

Orange Chocolate Cupcakes
adapted from Day to Day Wonderments

  • 1 Box Chocolate Cake Mix
  • Replace Water with Orange Juice
  • 1/2 Orange Zested

Follow box directions, replacing and adding the ingredients listed above. I’m blaming the fluffiness of the cake on the orange juice, I’ve never had cupcakes turn out like this!

Orange Zest Frosting
adapted from Day to Day Wonderments

  • 4 Cups Powdered Sugar
  • 8 Tablespoons Butter, Softened
  • 3 Tablespoons Orange Juice (add more juice if needed)
  • 1 Orange Zested
  1. Mix all the ingredients until smooth.
  2. Use a round piping tip to pipe the icing.
  3. Zest an additional orange for to garnish and sprinkle a little sugar on top.

Servings: 24 cupcakes