Friday, December 31, 2010

The Skinny.

We're stranded.

Well, not really. We arrived safe and sound in Vancouver, got our keys to our apartment, and then discovered that our truck STILL hadn't left Salt Lake City. 


We had spent 2 days driving through snow storms and treacherous conditions in our small 2-wheel-drive vehicle, only to have some weak-sauce professional driver decide to stay in Salt Lake City!? 
The irony is that because the truck waited, as opposed to leaving when we left, it probably had a harder time of it--the storm in the blue mountains only got worse. The morning after we passed through it was completely closed off. It made for very empty roads for us, since there was no one else getting through west-bound I-84.

Okay--to be fair, I don't know the whole story. But considering they were originally estimating our truck would get to Vancouver on Thursday, I feel like my frustration is justified. The lady on the phone told Kirby that they would do all in their power to get our trailer to us this weekend.

Our truck is in Portland now. It arrived late this afternoon. Great, we thought. We'll be able to unload tomorrow morning. Just a day later than we'd planned. Not too bad. The panic of not having anything to wear to church on Sunday subsided. 

Kirby called the company to try and arrange a specific time for the truck to be dropped off tomorrow. And apparently it can't be dropped off until Monday? Oh wait, maybe they can get it to us on Sunday? Call on Sunday and they'll see what they can do. 

...resume panic about Sunday...

Admittedly, it's not as bad as it could be. We could be staying in a hotel, dishing out a good chunk of money for four nights hoping and wondering if we'd actually get the trailer on Monday. Instead, we are at the in-laws.

Have I mentioned that Kirby starts work on Monday? We're going to have to do all the unpacking AFTER his first day of work, most likely. Another hard thing is that Kirby's family were all prepared to help us unload the truck this weekend--but it's unclear who will be able to help once Monday comes.

One good thing has come from the delay. I have had nothing to do besides read the entire first book of the Hunger Games series. Loved it. Although there were times I wanted to slap Katniss upside the head. Clueless.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

It Really IS Christmas!

I love me a good smoothie. A lot. 

While we were in Florida we discovered a smoothie shop called Tropical Smoothie Cafe.


I mean Jamba Juice is good, but there isn't really a comparison to TSC.

Lemme 'splain. 

My favorite flavor is called Bahama Mama
First off--AWESOME NAME. 
It has strawberries, pineapple, white chocolate, and coconut. Oh. My. Heavens. It is divine.

Oh. And then there's the Cranberry Truffle. It's not on their normal menu, but you can pretty much get it year round. I believe it has cranberries, strawberries, and white chocolate. Probably some other stuff, too. I like to throw in some coconut every now and again. It is also sent straight from heaven. 

What does this have to do with Christmas, you may be asking yourself?

There is a Tropical Smoothie Cafe in Portland!

I googled "smoothie vancouver, wa" to see what kind of options I was going to have when we got there and the TSC website was the first on the list! There aren't any other locations nearby--just the one in Portland--only 10 miles away from our apartment!!! It is an east coast chain, so I was shocked and giddy to find out I no longer have to mourn the loss of TSC.

Merry Christmas to ME!

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Vancouver--It's Coming.

One week from right now we will be getting the keys to our new apartment in Vancouver, WA. 

Happy and sad feelings.

What I will miss:
Zumba with Adriane. 
I don't know if Zumba will be the same without Tanya, either.
All the wonderful friends I've made through my photography.
(But no snow can be nice, too, depending on the season.)
Free rent.
(Hopefully we'll still be able to watch football games.)
The sun.
My primary kids.
The young women in my ward.
Our huge pantry. Where will be put our food storage!?
Did I mention my FAMILY!?

What I'm Looking Forward To:
The adventure.
A much younger ward.
No state income tax.
No sales tax across the border in Portland.
Starting fresh with my photography. New Pricing. New clients. New locations.
Milder summers and milder winters.
Fresh start with the design of our home. 
I liked what I did to our place in Orem, but a lot of my tastes have changed. Plus it's always fun to try something different. :)
A salaried job.
Cheaper health insurance.
All the greenery.
Getting to know Kirby's family better.
No preconceived notions about who we are, or what we're like.
Half of the people in our ward right now knew me and my family when I was born and growing up. 
So a lot of them think they know me really well, even though they haven't actually spoken to me in 10+ years...

Our apartment is at least half packed already. We successfully sold both of our office desks. The corner of the kitchen where Kirby's desk used to be is now piled high with boxes. Food storage is packed. Emily's room is packed. All our books are packed. Journals, photo albums, board games--all packed. I'm typing from a makeshift desk in the corner. All the photos and artwork is off the walls. Curtains are down. It looks so sterile in here. 

But I am so thankful right now to have a husband who loves to pack. Seriously. I have zero motivation to do anything productive, and yet half our house is packed brilliantly. I'm sure I'll be much more helpful when it comes time to unpack. :)

Monday, December 20, 2010

Chicken Marsala

I LOVE Chicken Marsala. If we go out to eat somewhere and it's on the menu, there is a very good chance I'll be ordering it for dinner. So when I found this recipe, I had to give it a shot.

Chicken Marsala

¼ c. all-purpose flour for coating
½ tsp salt
¼ tsp ground black pepper
½ tsp dried oregano
4 skinless, boneless chicken breast halves—pounded ¼ inch thick
4 Tbsp butter
4 Tbsp olive oil
2 cup sliced mushrooms
¾ cup Marsala wine
Heavy cream

1.     In shallow dish or bowl, mix together the flour, salt, pepper, and oregano. Coat chicken pieces in flour mixture.
2.     In large skillet, melt butter in oil over medium heat. Place chicken in the pan, and lightly brown. Make sure to cook it on both sides!
3.     Remove chicken from pan.
4.     Cook mushrooms and add heavy cream as desired to make the sauce.
5.     Reduce the sauce (add the wine, and then let it simmer for a while so all the alcohol cooks off.)
6.     Add the chicken to the sauce, and serve. (Can be served over pasta.)

When I made this, I thought the Marsala cream sauce would have enough flavor to serve as a pasta sauce as well, so I served the chicken with some penne. Turns out the sauce was delicious over the seasoned chicken, but was kind of bland over plain pasta. I would recommend maybe some garlic and basil pasta? Something with some good flavor already, that will be enhanced by the Marsala cream sauce.  I'll post an update to this once I find a fabulous pasta option.

White Chicken Chili

PERFECT for those cold, wet, and dreary winter days! Kirby loves this stuff. He ate it for three or four meals in a row--out of choice, not out of lack of options. :) And then once he ran out, he wanted me to make it again. 

White Chicken Chili


3 cans (15½ oz) great northern beans, rinsed and drained
3 cups cooked chicken (shredded is best... 
I'm thinking about using canned chicken next time I make it. It would save a lot of prep time!)
1 jar (15 oz) alfredo sauce
2 cups chicken broth
1-2 cans diced green chiles
1½ cups frozen corn
1 cup shredded Monterey jack
(At Walmart, the shredded Great Value cheese is actually cheaper than block. But they didn't have plain monterey jack in the shredded variety, 
so I just used a blend. It was Monterey jack and cheddar, I think?)
1 cup shredded pepper jack 
(I have to buy block and shred my own... Couldn't find it pre-shredded.)
1 cup sour cream
1 small sweet yellow pepper, chopped
1 small onion, chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 Tbsp ground cumin
1 Tbsp oil
Salt and Pepper to taste


1.     In a skillet, sauté chopped pepper, onions, and garlic in a tablespoon of oil until tender.
2.     In a 5-6 quart slow cooker add all of your ingredients and stir until combined. Let cook on low for 3-4 hours or until heated through.

**Top with cheese, sour cream, and tortilla chips!

Pretty darn easy. It can take some time if you need to cook the chicken beforehand. The lady I got this recipe from cooks a bunch of chicken up at the same time, shreds it all, then freezes it. Once we have a bigger freezer I'm planning to do this, as well. Shredded chicken can be used in so many things!

Sunday, December 19, 2010


We would be doing this all day long if Emily had her way.

p.s. I'm thinking about going private. If I do, and you'd like an invite, leave me a comment with the email I should send one to! :)

Sometimes life is just more fun in the nude...

She likes to "drink" everything. Plastic... air... lotion.
Side note: No, I am not announcing a pregnancy with the test box on the floor. I stashed the extra test in our bottom drawer with hotel samples and other random junk. (Which is also where Emily got the hotel lotion bottles from.) This drawer is raided on a daily basis while I'm doing my hair, and it's contents are strewn about the entire room. Once Emily tried to put the extra prego test in the toilet. I think she's trying to tell me something...

Oh. And she really doesn't like my boots.

I wish I made these. Truly I do. Kirby some some girls making these on BYU campus on his way to the testing center. They were so impressive he had me go find them when I came to pick him up.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Just Call Me TRUBBLE.

Love it.

Saw these shirts while shopping at Harmons. 

I'm totally going to make my own. How darling would "iPood" be on a newborn's onesie? 
You know... When the pooping is all too often catastrophic? 


Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Vancouver, WA

 A week ago today, Kirby and I went to the temple with nLight in mind. That's the company located in Vancouver, WA. We were heavily leaning towards them, and felt really good about it overall. We did sealings and then asked to be taken to the Celestial room. We sat down, and before I'd even started my prayer an incredible feeling of peace and joy flooded through my body. It was SO powerful. I said a prayer anyways, even though I knew I'd already received an answer, and got hit with another wave of emotion. Kirby had a similar experience.

Vancouver, here we come.

I couldn't actually find any full-city pictures of Vancouver. Only pictures of people's homes that are (or were) on the market. Oh yeah. And a bunch of a skate park. Cool.

But here's Portland. We'll be just across the Willamette river from it, and will spend lots of time there, I'm sure. It will be really nice living close to Oregon, because we can make big purchases there and not have to pay sales tax. :)

We'll be packing the moving van on the 28th of this month, and we are planning to take off as soon as that's done. We'll be making the trip in 2 days. 

And then our new life begins. 


This is Why I Coupon

It makes building food storage a possibility for those on a tight budget.
Yes, I know we are lucky to have space to put all this. I just hope we'll have room for it all when we move!

After I took the picture of our pantry, I realized there was a another cupboard in our home bursting at the seams thanks to coupons.
The bathroom cupboard!

Toothpaste :: free
Kleenex with lotion and aloe :: .69 each
Olay soap and body washes :: free
Floss :: free
Toothbrushes :: free
Chapstick :: .50 each
ThermaCare neck thingy :: 1.00
Stayfree pads :: 1.00
Renuzits :: .69 each
Tide :: free
Johnson's baby items :: can't remember, but somewhere around 1.00?
Deoderants :: 1.35 (?)

PHEW! I just hope I can do as well when I'm on my own once we move!


It's a good thing Adriane is on top of it. She already posted her savings, so I can end your suspense. :)

Monday, December 6, 2010

Geeking Out Over Coupons.

So. Here's the deal, guys. I used to think clipping coupons was lame-sauce because really--how much of a difference can saving 25 cents on a normally $3 item make?

Ummmm... a lot.

Especially when Smith's is having their double coupon event. But it's even better than doubling. Every single coupon that is less than $1 is rounded up to $1.

Every. Single. One.

Oh baby, oh baby. 

In my haste to put my groceries away, I neglected to preserve my haul for time and all.... time. 
But my sister didn't. My load was similar in size to hers. Check it out HERE.

And holy goodness--watching a receipt that size print out of the machine is the best feeling. And saving an average of 77% on everything I bought comes in at a close second. :)

Plus--you can't really beat FREE Krusteaz cookie mix. Their snickerdoodle mix is DIVINE.

I'm not going to say how much I spent, or saved--just yet. I would hate to spoil Adriane's guessing game. So I will bide my time. 

In the meantime, though (cause I know you'll all be checking google reader every 5 minutes to see if I've told you about my incredible savings), you can check out the website we use to find these screaming awesome deals.

Feeling overwhelmed? Think it would be totally awesome but sounds too confusing? It's not. And here's an even awesome-er thing--Amy (THE savvy shopper) will be doing a FREEEE seminar in Provo to show just how easy it is to save money and stock up your pantries. 

Pure genius. She is lots of fun and is very easy to understand. And she gives out prizes. :)
If you are in the area and are even remotely interested in this--GO. I was reluctant because I didn't want to be an epic failure at something that seemed too awesome to be possible. But I got all fired up and love being organized with my coupon, not to mention saving hundreds of dollars!

Oh yeah. And it's all 100% FREE.
Besides the monthly subscription to the Daily Herald (or Deseret News, if you live in SLC).

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Free Music! is sharing the Christmas spirit by putting out a promotional code for three FREE mp3 downloads! 
And it's not just on Christmas music! 
Technically it is $3 of free music, so if one or more of your three songs is $1.29, you will pay the extra, but still!

Here's the code:

So here's how it works, for those of you who who have never purchased music from Amazon. 
This was my first experience with it...

You don't put a bunch into your cart and then purchase them all at the end. You purchase them all one at a time. When you click "buy MP3" by the song, you are directed to a page where you select which credit card you would like to use. Select one, and be sure to enter in the promo code underneath. Then you select to purchase your first song, and it will take you to a "Congrats, you just bought a song!" page, but not to your receipt. If you want to see the receipt there is a link from that congrats page, and then you can see how you paid $0.00 for it! :) 

I may or may not have viewed my receipt for each song I got...

You do have to download their MP3 download program. The cool thing, though, is that the program sends the MP3s straight into iTunes when your downloads are complete!  


I have two Amazon accounts (one from before I was married, and one current one), and Kirby has an account as well, so I was able to use the code three times!


Tuesday, November 23, 2010


Kirby has a 6 hour interview today with a company in Vancouver, WA
Technically Portland, but the offices are in Vancouver (just over the Oregon/Washington border)? Don't worry. I don't really get it, either. 
A cold front has hit the area hard--our flight was delayed a couple hours last night because the pilots of our plane got caught in a storm in Denver on one of their earlier flights, which made them late late late. 
I just got a severe weather warning text. Apparently Utah is going to be hit hard later today with extreme cold, snow, and wind. I wonder if it's the same storm that passed through here? It's funny to me how scared people are of snow here. It snowed last night, and one of the head guys at the company here in Vancouver called Kirby to let him know that there was a possibility that they would be closed if the weather continued to be "this bad." :) To be fair, the roads were CRAZY slick last night, but I still giggle inside.
We didn't get to our hotel until about 2:30am, after which Kirby ran (well, drove, technically--the company rented a brand new Corolla for us. Pretty awesome.) to the nearest 24 hour grocery store to get some baby oatmeal (the one thing we forgot to pack.) 
What? Our child needs to EAT!?

Meanwhile, I was with Emily in our hotel room trying to soothe her and keep her from waking up the entire lodge while setting up a pack 'n' play with one hand. 

All things considered, Emily did GREAT. She loved ripping up the in-flight magazine, and was surprisingly pleasant three hours past her bedtime. Thank heavens for goldfish. She actually slept through most of the second leg (we had a stop in Vegas... BOOOO...), which allowed Kirby and I to sleep for most of that flight, too!

Now I'm just chilling in our cozy lodge hotel room, taking a break from straightening my hair. Emily is sleeping right next to me. I've got some sweet tunes playing.

Life is good.

Our main purpose in the Great Northwest is to celebrate Thanksgiving with Kirby's family. All of Kirby's siblings will be there, so we are really excited. 

There is about a 60% chance we'll be moving out of Utah in January. Kirby is in final round interviews with some companies, and waiting on offers from a couple others. Looks like our options will be:
(Drumroll please...)

Portland, OR
If all goes well today, of course...

Madison, WI
Have official offer...

Salt Lake City, UT
They've told us they want him. Should have official offer in about a week.

Orem, UT
Kirby needs to send in a sample of his technical writing before the interviewing process is considered complete.

Dallas, TX
Kirby's wanted. Offer is in the works.

I'm pretty sure I did a fabulicious jig when we got the official offer from the company in Wisconsin. 
I mean, it's an OFFICIAL OFFER.
With details and salary and health benefits and everything. 

I don't feel grown up enough for this! 

But I am crazy excited.

We should have offers/rejections (let's me optimistic, though, shall we???) by the end of the month, and we've told the company in Wisconsin that we'd let them know by December 6th, so our decision will have to be made by then!

It seriously blows my mind every time I think about it.

Aaaand, that's all I have to say right now.
I need to finish my hair...

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Gut Buster

I came across this tonight as I was editing. 
Pretty sure I laughed out loud for about five minutes. 
For reals.

Out loud. 

Five Minutes.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Check Out My Moves!

**Update: Come see new and updated photos of this project HERE! :)

Does anyone else feel like their spice cupboard and/or baking cupboard is full to the max? Or overflowing, even? I used to dream of a spice rack that would allow me to have all my spices organized and at my fingertips. 

And then I got one. And it collects SO. MUCH. DUST.


I have been saving and washing Emily's baby food jars ever since we got back from Florida in order to do this:
(see that dusty spice rack????)
In order to eliminate all of these from my spice cupboard:

I still have some spices left in my cupboard, but I ran out of magnets, so I was only able to make 10 jars.

These took a bit of time, but very little skill. 


I just collected baby food jars, rinsed them out, and pulled off as much of the label that I could. Then I popped them in the dishwasher (the lids, too). I didn't worry about the sticky spot left over since it would be covered by the paper/cardstock I wrapped around the jar.

I had some nice powerful magnets. I got mine from some store on ebay. 

To eliminate any need to coordinate colors on my part, I used the DCWV Latte Mat Stack, with its coordinating solid mat stack to decorate the jars. I had bought them a long time ago when I was on my paper kick. It was fun to be able to use them for something besides eye candy!

I Mod Podged 1" strips of paper around the jar. The Mat Stacks I had were 8x8, and I found that a 1"x 8" strip is the perfect size to wrap around standard baby food jars. I Mod Podged them to the jars, and then covered the strip in Mod Podge, too, to give it a nice finished sheen and to make sure the end of the strip wouldn't ever start peeling up. 

I made the labels out of two circular pieces of paper. I used a half dollar for my big circles, and a quarter for the cream colored circles. Hi-tech, I know. I wrote the names of the spices on the cream circles and let them dry for a bit, just to ensure they wouldn't bleed at all when I put Mod Podge over the top. I the glued the big circle to the bottom and let it dry a bit. Then I covered it in Mod Podge and put the cream circle on it, let it dry, and then covered the whole thing in Mod Podge again. 

Now for the magnets. The ones I had were smaller, so I used two on each jar. Kirby is a genius and pointed out that if I just hot glued the magnets straight to the lid, they might not end up being level, which would make the magnetic bond with the fridge weaker, and could even cause the magnets to pull free from the lid. So we got out an old card table and I stuck the magnets to it, put hot glue blobs on those, and actually set the lid (with the jar attached) on top of the magnets. That way, when the glue hardened, the magnets would be perfectly even. Worked like a charm. That wouldn't be an issue if you had magnets with a nice big radius, though. I reinforced the magnet by putting a ring of hot glue around the edge of the magnet. 

Whew! That's quite an explanation for a project that requires little skill!

So far I am loving it. It's SO easy to find the spices I need. No more rummaging around like a mad woman. Plus--my fridge is right next to our stove, so it is the most convenient spot to keep them!

I LOVE being able to see the colors and textures of the different spices through the glass. 
Yes. I am a texture junkie.

This is the less-than-creative way I'll have to keep them most of the time, or the cupboard can't open all the way.

It feels so great to finally have finished a project that's been on my to-do list for a while now.
Okay, so I'm wanting to make more so I guess I'm not technically FINISHED, but you get the idea...

Friday, November 12, 2010


I'm sitting here waiting for my unexpected load of laundry to be done. Emily decided to overturn an entire bowl of oatmeal in her lap this morning. Hardly any got on the tray of her high chair. Her pajamas were thoroughly gloopy. The pajamas would have to wait, though--we were running late for her 1 year checkup.

Did I mention my daughter is a YEAR OLD!?

While at the doctor's office, she slipped and bumped her face while cruising along. I snuggled with her until she stopped crying. When she pulled her face away, there was blood smeared all across her face. I felt so bad that she was bleeding. 

Poor Emily.

Then the doctor pointed out that there was a decent amount of blood on the shoulder of my sweater.

Poor Me.

And thus the spontaneous load of laundry came to be.

In other less melancholy news, here are Emily's one year stats:

Weight :: 25th Percentile
Height :: 50th Percentile
Head Circumference :: Between 25th and 50th percentile. 

Cuteness :: Unmeasurable. Off the charts. 
The doctor said so.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Splish Splash She Was Takin' a Bath!

Friday, October 29, 2010

The Tent Monster

I left him alone for ten minutes, and this is what I found when I came downstairs.
It's no wonder I love this man.

Not So Itty Bitty Anymore...

My little girl's growing up! 

:: sniff ::

Emily's been cruising around furniture since she was about 6 months old, but she has finally started standing on her own! Kirby and I get so giddy when she does it with us. The other night she was on a roll--she even took one step unassisted! I whipped the camera out, hoping to catch her doing it again, but we couldn't get her to actually take steps again. But we got her to stand for the camera!

Several times, in fact.

Which is why the movie is a whopping 3 1/2 minutes long.

BUT--it's full of giggles, screeches, clapping, posing, and sky-reaching! :)


Thursday, October 28, 2010

I Love Me Some Picnic Fun!

(I surely hope you read that title with a good thick southern drawl.)

Remember back before it got freezing cold here in Utah?

I do.

Once upon a time way back then Emily and I had a picnic.
With no food.
And in our back yard.

BUT--I got to use the rag quilt I made for Kirby! He kept stealing the one I made for Emily to use as a lap quilt, but it was a little too small. So I figured it was only fair to make him his own. 
Aaaand I also figured it was only fair for it to be made of brown, pink paisley, and green polka dot flannel.

'Cause that's manly and stuff.

Have I mentioned how much I love being able to sit in my yard again? IN THE GRASS!? You can't really do that in Florida, unless you have a death sentence involving being eaten alive by bugs.

I am SOOO loving those teeth right now. Adorable. Don't try and deny it!

Cute, yes? Emily hates grass. Nuff said.

Ummmm, so yeah.

Yup. A month.

Just call me LAME BRAIN.

The skinny of it all is that I got several photography jobs that kept me busy. Not to mention the adorable almost-one-year-old I have running (okay, not quite yet) around. 

Some nights I sit in bed and try to analyze what I did that day. Sometimes it takes me a while to remember. 

I'm guessing some of you can relate.

My house is a mess, but I feel like we just cleaned it. And... rather than getting up to do something about it I am sitting on my patoot to accomplish something that's been on my list even longer :: B.L.O.G.

Priorities, right?

Here's the deal though. I feel so monumentally behind, that if I don't just let some stuff go, I think my head might pop off out of the sheer pressure to get it all posted. Phew. So I'm gonna post a couple of my favorite pictures and move on. :)

Occasionally, when we are having a shortage of food, we feed Emily giant orange rubber balls. 

Sometimes life is just hard, you know?
Especially when you are two feet tall and have someone waiting on you hand and foot...

She's trying SO hard to look innocent here. Yup. Not buying it.

Oh, and um... check out this chair!
I know what you're thinking. "Looks cool, but couldn't possibly be comfortable..."
Well, you would be wrong. 
'Cause it was CRAZY COMFORTABLE! Sold, though. And a million billion dollars.

The company we interned with paid for us to get out to and home from Florida. We discovered we LOVE Hampton Inn & Suites hotels. Here's the coolest one we stayed in...
Yup. I'm totally one of those people who takes pictures of cool hotel rooms.

AND... We got alphabet magnets. 
My life is now complete.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Eggs Davison

A delicious and easy twist on the classic Eggs Benedict.

Seriously, though, guys--this is divine

Once upon a time I tried to make Eggs Benedict, but failed at the sauce. So then we decided to make our own egg and sausage McMuffins, and they were pretty good. But then Kirby decided it was tasty (and cheaper) with just the egg and cheese, and would make it for himself periodically for an easy meal. Today was INSANE, and I couldn't make it to the grocery store before dinner, so we went with what we had--english muffins, eggs, cheese, and our newest addition to the dish--SALSA! 


1 English muffin
2 slices cheddar cheese
2 eggs (fried)
You favorite salsa


1. Halve the English muffin and toast it.
2. Meanwhile, fry your eggs.
3. When the muffins are roasty toasty, place one slice of cheese on each half, 
followed by a fried egg.
4. Top with salsa to taste, and enjoy!

YIELDS: 1 Serving.
Okay, so Kirby and I actually each eat 3 halves each. But it isn't practical to put "1 1/2 english muffins..." SO. There you go. :)

Easy peasy, lemon squeezy! And SOOO good.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

We All Get Caught in a Hard Place Sometimes...

Monday, September 20, 2010

Zuppa Toscana :: Olive Garden Style (only BETTER)

Do I have any Olive Garden fans here? 
Dumb question, right?

If any of you haven't tried their Zuppa Toscana, your life is not complete.
Or, at least not as delicious or as complete as mine... :)

What makes it so delicious you ask? Well, it could be the juicy chunks of ground Italian sausage, or the melt-in-your-mouth potato slices. Or perhaps it's the creamy, I-could-drink-this-stuff-from-a-glass-because-it-warms-my-cold-exhausted-body-while-simultaneously-warming-my-soul broth?

Oh yeah. And it's a little bit spicy, too. Which, let's be honest, is probably one of the reasons Kirby likes it so much. And the good news? It's super easy to adjust the spicy level according to your own preferences.

And? If I can make it--YOU CAN. It's that easy. :)

Mmmmm... Kinda makes you long for a cold drizzly day, yeah? 
One where you can snuggle up under a handmade quilt with a mug of soup and watch chick flicks all afternoon?
If there are any gentleman readers, please forgive my obvious catering to the ladyfolk...


1 Tbsp Olive Oil
1 lb. ground Italian sausage, mild
(Make sure you get mild! The first time I made this I wasn't paying attention at the grocery store and accidentally got a spicy version--it was hot, hot, HOT! 
The kind I get is usually labeled as "sweet and mild" or something.)
1 onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
(I actually put in about 4-5 cloves, but this is what the original recipe called for...)
½ tsp. crushed red pepper, or more to taste
(I usually put in 3/4 to 1 tsp. in ours. Want it more mild? Just add less red pepper!)
2 ½ cup water
2 (14 ½ oz) cans chicken broth
3 cans sliced potatoes
(the original recipe called for 3 large russet potatoes that you chop by hand, but I prefer to shave off 15 minutes of prep time by using canned potatoes. 
If you want to go the un-canned route, increase the simmer time in step 5 to 10-15 minutes.)
1 tsp salt
½ tsp freshly ground pepper
½ bunch kale, stems removed, chopped
(I don't put kale in when I make it, but it's just my preference...)
1 cup heavy (whipping) cream


1.     Saute sausage in oil. Remove sausage to plate and set aside.
2.     Add onion to pan with sausage grease and oil (you may need to add a little extra oil than the original tablespoon), sauté until translucent. Add garlic and crushed red pepper, cook 1 minute.
3.     In a large pot, combine water and broth; add onion mixture. Add potatoes, salt, and pepper. Heat to boiling.
4.     Reduce heat, simmer about 10 minutes.
5.     Add kale and sausage, simmer until potatoes are tender, about 7-10 minutes.
6.     Stir in cream. Heat to simmer over medium heat, cook 2 minutes.
7. Serve.
YIELDS: 4-6 servings.
It usually feeds me and Kirby for three meals! And it is just as good reheated as it is fresh off the stove!

Not tough at all! I have it down to a system. Here's my actual workflow (as opposed to the recipe's listed order), if anyone even cares. :) Yes, I'm an efficiency freak.

1. Prepare water and chicken broth mixture in large pot and set on medium heat.
2. Saute sausage, remove to plate.
3. Cut up onion, peel garlic, get out my crushed red pepper. 
4. Tip plate with sausage (I keep the sausage from sliding off with my spatula while I do this) over skillet to get all the grease back in the pan that settled from the sausage to use when I saute the onions.
5. Add a little extra oil (just a little) to my pan of grease (YUM).
6. Saute the onions until translucent. 
7. Crush my garlic cloves in my handy dandy garlic press directly into skillet.
8. Add crushed red pepper, and cook 1 minute.
9. Dump onion mixture into pre-warmed pot of chicken broth and water, and then add potatoes, salt, and pepper.
10. Bring to a boil, then turn down to medium and simmer for about 10 minutes.
11. Add sausage (and kale, if you choose to do so), and simmer until potatoes are tender, about 7-10 minutes. 
12. Stir in cream. Simmer over medium heat for an additional 2 minutes. 
13. Serve!

This is obviously why I don't write cookbooks for a living. 13 STEPS!? That would scare anyone away! But seriously--I have found that doing things in that order saves me a lot of stress. Cause I do that when I cook. :)

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Tuna Melts

Okay, folks. I've got good news and bad news. The good news? These are so good, and so easy--especially if you already have the tuna sandwich filling made up. We usually make up a batch using 4 cans of tuna and keep it in the fridge so we can have a quick and healthy sandwich any time we want it. The bad news? I don't have exact measurements on the tuna mixture. We just kind of make it up at our house, which used to intimidate me. I'd always get Kirby to mix it up. But finally I decided to put my pride on the line (yes--I was worried it would make me a terrible wife if I failed at mixing tuna sandwich filling), and try it myself and whaddaya know! It was delish.

Here's how I go about mixing it:
Put tuna in a bowl--we usually mix up 4 cans at a time to simplify our lives later on. Throw in a spoonful of mayo, a spoonful or two of sweet relish, and a a spoonful or two of mustard until it's a nice consistency. The end. Tricky, huh? And hey--some people like celery in their tuna. I don't. I pretty much hate celery. So we have relish instead.

On a caloric note--mustard has a fraction of the calories of mayo. So you can always replace some of the mayo you would normally put in with mustard to get the right consistency with fewer calories. Yada yada. Still, though--as long as you aren't drowning your tuna in mayo you'll be throwing together a pretty healthy sandwich!


Sweet Pickle Relish
Canned Tuna
4 English Muffins, split and toasted
8 slices ripe tomato
Shredded cheddar cheese


1.     Take tuna salad mixture (mayo, mustard, relish, and tuna mixed to desired taste—will seem more moist once it’s out of the oven) and spread on the toasted muffin halves and place them on a baking sheet.
Please note that you won't use all four cans worth of tuna filling if that is how much you mix up!
2.     Top each half with a slice of tomato and a small amount of shredded cheddar.
3.     Broil until cheese is melted, about 3 to 5 minutes.
For some reason, our oven makes us set a temperature when we select broil, and we just go with the default 500 degrees...

YIELDS: 8 tuna melts (about 4 servings)

It was so tasty I couldn't help myself and I had to take yet another picture!

What did I learn from this recipe? It is HARD to make melted cheddar cheese look divine on camera. But oh well. You'll just have to take my word for it! :)

...Bath Time...

In the sink. :)

Blurry, yes. But let's be serious here--this girl NEVER STOPS MOVING!
Observe the water in the sink...
So it's perfect. :)


©2009 DAV.I.SON. | by TNB