Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Slow Cooker Pulled Pork

This recipe knocks my socks off. I pinned it months ago and the weather was finally right for a long, warm meal. Fiance absolutely adored this dinner and it smelled incredible all day. This dinner was also really really easy to make and couldn't have had less ingredients. It is definitely a healthier version of normal pulled pork. Although let's be honest, it's pulled pork. It's not a salad. But it's not terrible. I left out the liquid smoke because the grocery store didn't have any. I also just used Sweet Baby Ray's Barbecue sauce instead of making my own, because I was, well, lazy. Definitely give this recipe a shot immediately!

Slow Cooker Pulled Pork
adapted from here
2.5 lb boneless pork loin roast
2 tsp red wine vinegar
2 teaspoons garlic salt
3/4 cup + 2 tablespoons barbecue sauce
1 medium onion, chopped

I started by putting the loin into the slow cooker and sprinkling the garlic salt and vinegar over the top. Add two tablespoons sauce, cover, and cook on high for 6 hours.
Once the roast is done, remove it to a separate plate and pour the juices into a measuring cup. Reserve 3/4 cup of the juices.
Shred the meat using two forks, add the reserved liquid, and the 3/4 cup of sauce. I also added 1 medium chopped onion. Stir everything together, cover, and cook on high for one more hour.
Spoon some pork onto a bun of your choice, add a little more sauce and have a vegetable on the side.
A close up on the pork. So freaking delicious! Enjoy!

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Half of a Decade/Fall Pinterest Challenge

On November 5th, my darling fiance and I will have been together for half of a decade. Unfortunately we won't be able to spend the date together, so we celebrated this past weekend instead. I got him a relatively extravagant present for his birthday/anniversary, but I wanted to at least do something sentimental for the actual event.

I saw this picture on pinterest and it seemed just right. Then, last week Katie and Sherry announced the Fall Pinterest Challenge and it was as though all of the puzzle pieces were just falling into place. I firmly believe one can never have enough mugs. Fiance may disagree, but I'm sure he will love the sentiment regardless :).

However, since I was making these mugs for him, I wanted the quotes to be a bit more appropriate to our relationship. So I picked two awesome quotes. One I love, one he loves.

The first, I love. Ignore the random subtitles in this youtube video. I am forever a sucker for Pride and Prejudice. Most of my favorite books I read once, maybe twice. But I return to Pride and Prejudice annually. It will forever be my favorite and I will always melt.

The second quote is from Big Bang Theory. Apparently youtube won't let me see this clip, but Sheldon says "I so informed you thusly", a fancy way of saying I told you so. You can see why it's appealing in a relationship.

So I bought two mugs at the dollar store and traced out my quotes.

Then I went over the letters in sharpie.

Cup two.

I baked the mugs for 30 minutes at 350 degrees and let them cool. Then I packed them up and took them to DC with me. They aren't perfect, but I love that they look hand-written. Because of course they are. But anyway, I hope fiance will think of me when he sees them in the morning. Be sure to check out Sherry and Katie's projects too, as well as all the others that are linked up!

I hope you enjoyed this post! If you would like to see more projects like this one, head over to my new blog at

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Fall Pumpkin Muffins

I am on a serious pumpkin kick. It happens every fall when the air starts to get crisp and the leaves start to change. When I'm not baking and eating pumpkin dishes, I'm thinking about what I can make next. I made the Pumpkin Cupcakes with Cream Cheese frosting last week for a class, and I was craving a pumpkin bread this week. I decided another class proved the perfect opportunity to pawn off baked goods on others. My mom sent me this recipe, although the link to the original is below. My review: they are incredibly delicious. Not too sweet and full of spice. Although my absolute favorite part was how chubby and round they got. They literally could not have been cuter! They were also super easy to make, so don't wait to try them!

Fall Pumpkin Muffins
recipe adapted from here

1 1/2 cup bread flour (tends to be a little fluffier and rise better, although normal is fine too)
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 eggs
1 cup sugar
1 cup pureed pumpkin
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon cloves
1/2 teaspoons nutmeg

This recipe makes 12 muffins, so for my large class, I doubled it. I read somewhere at some point that it's better to cook muffins without cupcake liners. I guess they cook more uniformly and are easier to eat. So I just made sure to spray the pan really well so that the muffins came out easily.

I started by whisking together the eggs and sugar in a large bowl. In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, salt, baking powder and baking soda.
Whisk the pumpkin, spices and vegetable oil into the egg mixture.
Add the flour mixture and stir until just combined. You really don't want to over mix muffins because then they are tough and dry. That's why a whisk works well and then a spatula once you add the flour.
Using a 1/4 cup measuring cup, scoop the batter into a well-sprayed baking tin. Sprinkle a tiny pinch of sugar on top of the muffins.
Bake for about 22 minutes at 350 degrees. Make sure you keep an eye on them because all ovens cook differently. Insert a toothpick and when it comes out cleanly, they are done. Cool completely on wire racks.
Aren't they so cute? Enjoy!

Monday, October 22, 2012

Baggage Claim

One of the things I've coveted for years are vintage suitcases. I recognize that we've made advances in efficiency and space, but in recent years travelers have really sacrificed style point. No longer do people dress up and treat flying as part of the experience and they certainly don't pack with care. I'm willing to admit, I'm part of the problem. When I'm going to the airport at 5 AM for a six hour flight, I'm far more concerned with comfort and not going over that crucial 50 pound limit. However, on occasion I still wish we carried elegant leather suitcases, curled out hair, painted our lips, and covered our hands with delicate gloves.

Since that reality is probably never coming back, I'll settle for having the suitcases in my living room. I'e seen so many images of stacked suitcases used as a side table and I was determined to create the same look for my apartment. While my mom and I were at the flea market I mentioned on Friday, I picked up two great vintage suitcases. I would still like to find one more to complete the look, perhaps a cream or tan option would be great. But these two were great deals and I didn't want to buy a third just to buy something. I want it to look right.

Here is the first one. I love the stripes.

Here is the second. I love the blue.

And of course a photo bomb shot.

The suitcases still need some tlc, to get that sticker off the bottom. I don't have any flowers at the moment, but I picture the side table eventually looking something like this picture.

Here is a close up of my quick styling. I need some flowers for the vase obviously. But I think the tray is nice for a drink or snack and the owl adds a nice little touch of fall. Something about owls screams fall...or should I saw "hoos"? Sorry, terrible pun. Enjoy!

Friday, October 19, 2012

Digging for Treasure

A few weeks ago my mom and I dragged ourselves out of bed early on Sunday morning and made our way to the Alameda Flea Market. I first learned about the monthly flea market from a friend and was quickly intrigued when I read that it was largest antique fair in Northern California. I certainly wasn't disappointed! The people watching alone was worth the trip. But there are also treasures for every type of hunter. Everything you could really hope to find, from trinkets to furniture in need of a fresh cot of paint, to vintage suitcases and glassware are available for the find. I myself picked up several amazing finds and could have come away with many more. I will definitely want to go again at some point, especially when I'm looking for new furniture. You could easily make an all-day adventure out of this event. There are food vendors and enough booths to fill up hours of wandering. I was dragging because of a busy Saturday night and the Giants game later that afternoon, so we only stayed a few hours.

The first find I wanted to share with you is a new addition to my letter press collection. Last year I found a "J" and a "L". I originally had them hanging on my wall with a small heart in between them. But, since I am now engaged and  will change my last name once we get married, I wanted to find a "C" for my fiance's last name.

I placed my letter arrangement on a stack of books. I decided to have the paper faced outward because I love the neutral, yet textured look. I also think it really allows the letters to be the star of this little show, while providing a nice, interesting backdrop.

I love that the letters add a little something special to this shelf. Sometimes small changes are really the most exiting. I also really like that the letters are all a little different. Really gives it a collected-over-time-feel. I'm working on sprucing up my other finds, so I'll share those next week once I finish!

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Breakfast of Champions

Usually when I use the phrase "breakfast of champions" I'm referring to dessert. Pie, cake, you name it. My dad taught me early on that when there was dessert leftover after a special day, it was meant for breakfast. Clearly. While I'm still a firm believer in this tradition, I will grudgingly recognize that on days when I have class, a healthier breakfast may work better. The jury is still out. But in the meantime, I've found a breakfast that fills me up for hours and provides a nice alternative to the traditional cereal or yogurt. Because, really, you can only have cereal or yogurt so many times before you'd rather pull out your hair.

I've seen lots of similar recipes for this breakfast floating around online, so feel free to make it your own and adapt it to your needs. I personally think the fruit is a must, but you are welcome to use raisins and nuts if that floats your breakfast boat. Enjoy!

Overnight Refrigerator Oatmeal

1/2 cup oats (tradition, not instant or quick-cooking)
2 tablespoons chia seeds (available at Whole Foods, Nuggets, or stores that carry specialty items)
1 cup milk (regular or soy)
dash of vanilla
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon (I eyeball it and just do a few dashes)
2 teaspoons brown sugar (or more depending on your sweet tooth)
fruit of your choice

Combine all of your ingredients in a small container. You want it to be airtight and have a lid. So any sort of jar or tupperware works splendidly.
I generally make mine the night before and stick it in the fridge. Then the next morning the oats are soft and the seeds have puffed up and you have a thick porridge. The first time I made it, I didn't use berries and it was fine, just a little bland. You can also heat yours up, you just might need to add a tiny bit more milk.
So the next time I tried strawberries and it was just perfect. Raspberries and blueberries have also been fabulous. Especially on mornings when getting up feels more like a chore, it's really nice to have a slightly special breakfast to look forward to! It also travels really well if you'd prefer to have yours for a later breakfast!

Monday, October 15, 2012

Cheap and Easy Weeknight Dinners: Avocado and Goat Cheese with Lime on Toast

This recipe sounds weird. I know. I saw the picture online the other day and it really just caught my eye. Last week I was feeling really healthy and this recipe just seemed right. I picked up a loaf of whole wheat sourdough at the farmers' market and it made such an amazing dinner the other night. I had the leftovers over the weekend when I was sick and those tasted amazing even on cold-hampered taste buds. This meal would be a great lunch and it's a nice light dinner. Although, I will say, it's deceptively filling. I made two toasts and could only finish one. So maybe you could have this meal with a side dish if you are really hungry and it would be a great dinner. Oh and extra bonus, it was on the table in under five minutes. Yes, you read that correctly. Five minutes.

Avocado and Goat Cheese with Lime on Toast
recipe from here
2 slices of thick, hearty bread
1 avocado
2 ounces goat cheese
juice of 1/2 lime
2 teaspoons mint chopped
salt and pepper
drizzle of olive oil

Start by slicing your bread. Lay on a cooking sheet and bake for about five minutes at 250 degrees. You don't want it to be too hard, just warm and a little crunch. Any hearty, flavorful bread would do nicely. While the bread is toasting, scoop out your avocado and smash. Add the crumbled goat cheese, lime juice, and chopped mint and mix.
When your bread is done, spread the avocado mix on top and drizzle a little olive oil on top. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and enjoy! I found mine easier to eat with a fork and knife but if messy hands is your style, dig in!

Friday, October 12, 2012

Chocolate Oatmeal Cookies

Not to be confused with Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies. These are chocolatey, full of oats and absolutely delicious. They are really easy to make, quick, and freeze great. They don't lose their soft texture and thaw beautifully in just moments. they also aren't too rich, so are great in the afternoon with a cup of tea or coffee. They also travel really well, so if you want to bring someone treats, they are a great choice. I'd highly recommend giving them a shot.

Chocolate Oatmeal Cookies
from Maida Heatter's Book of Great Chocolate Desserts
2/3 cup sifted flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder
5 1/3 tablespoons (1/3 cup) unsalted butter
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
1 egg
1/3 cup milk
2 1/2 quick-cooking oats (not instant or old-fashioned)

Start by mixing together the flour, baking powder, salt and cocoa in a small bowl.
In a large bowl, cream the butter. Then add the vanilla and sugar and mix again. Add the egg and mix one more time.
Add half of the flour mixture, mix, then half of the milk and mix again. Repeat until all of the flour and milk are added.
Add the oats and stir until incorporated, but don't over mix.
Using a tablespoon measuring spoon or a cookie dough scoop, ball the dough. Leave plenty of room in between the cookies because they spread.
Bake for about 22-24 minutes at 350 or until mostly firm. The center will still appear a little shiny, but you can tell if it's done by gentle touching the center. If it feels pretty firm, the cookies are done. If it collapses, they need a few more minutes. Let cool for a minute or two on the sheet, then transfer to cooling racks.

Enjoy immediately, or you can freeze in an airtight container!

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Cheap and Easy Weeknight Dinners: Chicken Divan

The other day when fiance was visiting we were at the store and went to my blog to check the ingredients of this recipe. To my horror, the recipe wasn't on the blog. Given that it's an old family recipe, you could have colored me shocked. I think I had it on my old blog and never managed to transfer it over. Either that, or I've been unforgivably remiss. I'm remedying that situation now. This dish takes a little while, so if you can do some of the steps ahead it really speeds up the process. What this meal lacks in speed, it really makes up for in simplicity, deliciousness, and cost. It's been a favorite for as long as I can remember and it's a great way to get kids to eat their vegetables. Over the years I've made some adjustments. I upped the sauce by 1.5 and I use quinoa instead of rice now. But those are optional. The dish makes a lot, so you can either feed many, or have leftovers. If possible, the leftovers are even better than the regular dinner. I hope you try it and love it.

Chicken Divan
family recipe
4 large boneless chicken breasts
2 very large heads of broccoli (or 3 small-regular)
1 bay leaf
3 cans cream of celery soup (reduced sodium if available)
1 cup light mayonnaise
1.5 cups cheddar cheese, shredded
1.5 tablespoons curry
salt and pepper
1 cup quinoa (or two cups cooked quinoa)

Start by cutting up the broccoli and steaming the pieces for about 5 minutes. At the same time, bring a pot of water to boil with the bay leaf. Gently boil the chicken for about 20 minutes on until cooked through. While the chicken is cooking, mix together the soup, mayo, cheese, and curry in a bowl.
Lay the broccoli in a flat layer in a 9x13 baking pan.
When the chicken is cooked, cut into bite-sized pieces.
Spread the sauce over the top, making sure all the chicken is covered.
Bake for 35-40 minutes at 350 degrees. While the food is in the oven, cook the quinoa. The ratio rule for quinoa 1:2. So for every cup of dry quinoa, use 2 cups of water. Put the quinoa and the water in the pot and bring it to a boil. Lower the heat to a gentle simmer and simmer about 15-20 minutes until the water is absorbed.
Ugh this picture is horrible. I'm a terrible photographer and I"m considering abandoning the fancy camera in favor of my tried and true old one. I'm sorry you can't really get a sense for how delicious this food looks. Serve the chicken and broccoli mixture over the quinoa and be careful not to burn your tongue like me!

Monday, October 8, 2012

Just for the Hal-i-but

Har har. I know. I'm hilarious. This dish was the main course at the birthday I mentioned on Friday. I very rarely make fish. Not because I don't like it. It's just more expensive and frankly it makes me nervous. Because I hardly make it, I don't really feel comfortable cooking it. I don't feel comfortable cooking it, so I rarely make it. A vicious circle I know. Anyway, since this evening was my mom's birthday, fish was a must because it's her favorite. My brother had some halibut already on hand, so I just needed to come up with the method of cooking. This recipe was initially one that my mom used for swordfish, but it was incredible on halibut. It would work on any meaty and hearty fish, but not something that's light. It has major flavor, so it needs a fish to stand up to the punch it packs. The fish turned out so well, I actually wanted to have it again a few weeks later. I do like fish, but I never crave it. I do with this recipe.

Halibut or Swordfish with Spice Rub and Tomato Compote
recipe from my mom

1 pound fresh plum tomatoes (about 6)
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 large garlic clove, crushed
2 teaspoons red wine vinegar

For fish: 
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon ground white pepper
½ teaspoon ground cumin
¼ teaspoon paprika
¼ teaspoon celery salt
¼ teaspoon garlic powder
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
Two 8-ounce swordfish steaks or halibut (can cook more too, just eyeball it)
2 tablespoons chopped fresh chives

I have to make the same apology as I did on Friday. I have terribly few pictures. Join me in slapping my blogger wrist.

I started by mixing together the salt, white pepper, cumin, paprika, celery salt, garlic powder, and ground nutmeg in a small tupperware. I was making some of these things ahead of time so they needed to be portable.

I also made the tomato compote ahead of time. I started by boiling a pot of water and adding the tomatoes for about 45 seconds to 1 minute. You don't want them to cook, it just loosens the skin. Put the tomatoes in ice water to stop any cooking. Then remove the skins and the inside seeds. Chop up the remaining tomato pieces. Heat up the olive oil and add the garlic. Cook for about a minute, then add the tomatoes. Cook the tomatoes for 3 minutes or until they are just tender. Turn off the heat and add the vinegar. Let the mixture cool to room temperature.

When you are ready to cook, rub both sides of the halibut with the spice mixture. Press it in firmly and generous. Grill fish. Once cooked, spoon all of the compote on top of the fish.


Friday, October 5, 2012

Cheap and Easy Weeknight Dinner Series: Orzo Salad with Artichoke Pesto and Grilled Corn

I cannot believe it has taken me this long to share this recipe. As you may have noticed, I've been posting three times a week. I've had plenty to say lately, and probably enough to fill posts Monday through Friday, but school is already getting hectic and I know it will only get worse. I'm trying to pace my posts (say that five times fast!) so that when I don't have time to try new recipes or make cute projects, I won't leave my blog hanging high and dry like I did last spring. The trade off is recipes like this one, which I really enjoyed, have been sitting in the on-deck circle for weeks. (Since the Giants are in the playoffs, I figured some baseball metaphors are appropriate). Forgive me.

Anyway, this recipe was super delicious and with the assistance of a food processor, not too difficult. The artichoke pesto was amazing and would be great in any number of dishes. The recipe makes a TON. That's really not much of an exaggeration. There were so many leftovers, I was eating this stuff for almost a week. It's a great summer dish because it's super tasty warm or cold, so for hot nights it's not too heavy. Definitely give it a try.

Orzo with Artichoke Pesto, Grilled Corn, and Tomatoes
recipe from here

Kosher salt
1 pound orzo pasta
2 ears corn, shucked and silks removed
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
2 cups cherry tomatoes, halved
1 1/2 cups grated Parmesan
freshly ground black pepper to taste

12 ounces frozen artichoke hearts, thawed (1 frozen container- I also added 1 thawed container whole into the orzo for great texture)
3/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 cup walnut halves, toasted (optional)
1/2 cup fresh oregano leaves
1/2 cup fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
1 clove garlic, smashed
Zest of 1 large lemon
1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

So I have to apologize in advance. The evening I made this dish, I was also making dessert and the main course, as well as socializing and setting the table for my mom's birthday dinner. Needless to say, I was a bit preoccupied. Hence the total lack of acceptable pictures. I'm sorry. I did get the last two steps, which is at least something.

To start, you want to add one container of artichoke hearts, olive oil, walnuts if you are using them, oregano, parsley, lemon juice, lemon zest, garlic, salt and pepper to the food processor. Mix until smooth.

Cook orzo. While it's cooking, grill your corn on a grill or a grill plate on the stove. You want the edges to be slightly charred. It add's a great flavor.

Combine the cooked orzo and pesto. Mix until all orzo is covered. Add the corn, second package of artichoke hearts, and the tomatoes and mix again.

Add the Parmesan and any additional pepper and stir again. Enjoy hot, room temperature or cold.


Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Happy October

Although it's still ungodly hot in my town, the calendar says it's October. I'm not sure I believe it. My fiance was out this weekend for a visit and he left Monday night. I was pretty depressed about the whole thing yesterday. So naturally I did the only thing that would make me feel better. I decorated for Halloween. Obviously.

The little guy on the right is new! Yay!

My pictures are a little off. My brother lent me his old camera, which is fancier than mine and I'm trying to learn how to use it. Clearly I have a ways to go. Hope Halloween decorations make you smile too!