Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Find a Way

I've been so inspired by the many gestures of kindness and gratitude happening all around, it seems, this holiday season! It makes it so much easier to be an optimist in this seemingly more and more pessimistic world that we live in... but even more than that, it is a great reminder of the things that this season is really all about and how much even the smallest "gifts" (whether a smile, homemade cookies, a favor, etc.) mean so much.

I personally don't do a great job of showing my absolute gratitude throughout the year and around this time each year, I pledge to be more grateful and less selfish; here I am again, I figure it can't hurt to renew those vows, right? Imagine if each of us (myself included!) were willing to do something nice for even only ONE other person each year (or get ambitious and go for monthly) - I didn't do the math but I'm pretty sure we'd be helping quite a few people.

So to start... I hope you like coconut, peanut butter and chocolate because I baked all of you some yummy Triple Layer Brownies!

Baking for others is one of my very favorite ways to say Thank You
(shameless plug, but this is clearly why I love the
Baking GALS). My only regret is that you aren't here to enjoy them; I promise that we saved you some!

Do you have any inspirational stories of something you've done or that someone has done for you?

Be thankful for all that you have and even just that you have the ability to give others something as small as a smile this season and always...

*and of course, send our troops a small reminder of your

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Special Sauce

This is no time for mincing words - I'm ready to declare that I've 150% officially joined Team Velveeta. I fought it for years, having not ever tasted it until the great year of 2007, but no longer; I believe the words "we're stocking up on that stuff if it ever goes on sale" have been uttered more than twice in the past few weeks in our house.

Some pretty obvious foreshadowing preceded this revelation; last fall, my mom first introduced us to Spicy Chicken Pasta (after which Chris declared that it might be one of the best meals ever), so of course, I made it again (to the same rave reviews... admittedly by the same person), and then we indulged in Heather's Rotel down in Mobile earlier this fall (try "her" recipe but when you're reaching for your elastic waisted pants, don't say I didn't warn you) which I quickly made again once we got home.

Suddenly it all become clear, it was so obvious - staring me right in the face. That beautiful rectangular box - goldish-yellow with those magic red letters... VELVEETA. It really does make everything better.

Spicy Chicken Pasta

12 oz. spaghetti
2-3 TBSP butter
1/2 one large onion, chopped
1 can Rotel (undrained)
8 oz. Velveeta, cubed
4 chicken breasts, cooked and cubed
1 can cream of chicken soup

Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees. Cook spaghetti according to package directions.

Meanwhile, melt butter in large saute pan over medium heat; add chopped onion and cook 2-3 minutes, or until soft and mix in Rotel stirring thoroughly. Turn heat to low and add in cubes of Velveeta stirring occasionally to melt. Add chicken and cream of chicken soup, mixing until smooth and incorporated.

Put cooked spaghetti into greased 9x13 baking dish and pour chicken-cheese mixture over the spaghetti, stirring ever so slightly to ensure even coverage.

Cook for about 45 minutes or until mixture is bubbly!

BONUS recipe: Heather's Rotel
*quantity can be increased or decreased using the same ratios

16 oz. sausage (flavor and heat to your liking)
16 oz. Velveeta
1 can Rotel

Brown sausage in skillet. Drain and add to the Velveeta and Rotel in a large saucepan on low heat or in a crockpot over low heat. Stir occasionally until combined.

Can be served on Buffet setting in crockpot or directly out of saucepan. *it really doesn't matter, it won't last long anyway

If not using a crockpot, monitor dip occasionally and reheat over low heat as needed.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Made the List!!

I considered calling this post "Ode to Ina" but I think I've made my devotion to the Barefoot Contessa adequately clear in the past... besides, I know there are some of you out there who don't share the same love for her as I do (which I still don't fully understand) so I didn't want to let the title turn you off.

In that spirit, I will make this quick. I came across this article in my weekly Washington Post e-newsletter and being someone who loves all things Ina (though I haven't ventured into her line of packaged food and mixes), it caught my eye. They had me with the information about her new book (I hesitate to call it a cookbook) as even the picture on the cover brightened my day - but she also hints that many of the specifics from the recent barn renovation (into her office and new set) are woven into the details of the book as well! Recipes AND Ina's care-free decorating and entertaining tips? I admittedly wasn't a hard sell but with that, it's on the list!

Really, how can you not love someone who admits '"I'm really a nervous cook..."' Music to my ears.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Rookie Attempt

More sports references, I know... they get kind of old. But I promise that the only thing sports-related about this post is the title. My creative juices apparently were dried up so that's all I've got for now... though it is true that this use of puff pastry was indeed, my first time. Gasp, I know. However, now that I've made it over the hurdle, I can say with no hesitation that I will be back.

Since we had guests in town for the weekend (and not just any guests - my in-laws!), a special breakfast was in order. I'd seen this recipe for French Apple Turnovers in a recent Bon Appetit and was waiting for just the opportunity to try Molly's easy version of the delicious pastries that I, too, have always enjoyed when I've been fortunate enough to be in France.

Turns out they were perfect for a Saturday morning - and complemented perfectly with some fresh coffee and a side of turkey bacon. I will make these again, without a doubt, and highly recommend them to everyone; I didn't change a thing about Molly's recipe, and the apple filling was perfect, just as she described it.

My only beef with the entire experience was that no one called them "Chausson de pommes" which just adds a certain level of sophistication; so, my suggestion is to make sure you have at least one French-speaker in your audience when you serve these for the greatest impact, although after one bite, you all will think you've been transported to France!

Saturday, November 15, 2008


Sometimes in life, we are lucky enough to be faced with two good options... I will admit that when this (rarely) happens, I am one of those people who sometimes (though I'm working on it!) complains because I just can't decide (if only life was always this hard, right?).

Well, last night we were some of those fortunate people... torn between two great choices, not surprisingly related to sports (yahoo - it's college basketball time). Bucknell's mens' basketball team was nice enough to grace us metro-DC folks with its presence against the Terrapins... and as you may remember, Chris is an alum of both schools.

Thanks 100% to our amazing friend Mark, all the way up in New York, we were lucky enough to score seats on the floor. Since tickets to this game were Chris' birthday present, sitting on the floor close enough to hear Gary Williams screaming at anyone who would listen and to catch a rare smile from Greivis, was a super special treat.

And as an added bonus, we (and by "we", I mean Chris) are fairly certain that we had our own little celebrity spotting in College Park. Anyone able to ID the man in this picture below? It is believed to be one of the Sports Junkies (by the way, I'm linking to them but not taking any responsibility for what's on their website), Lurch. Also, just in case he's reading, EB was also there, and my husband tells me I have a bone to pick with you over a story you so inappropriately laughed yourself silly over sometime last year.

Again, we can't thank Mark enough for his super generous tickets - I have to believe this night was the perfect end to Chris' 30th birthday celebration. (oh, and Maryland won)

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Heart of Dixie

In the most unlikeliest of places, we were fortunate enough to have made some really great friends! I should have known we would fast become friends - after all, we share wedding dates - almost to the minute!

As would figure, on our honeymoon at the great Sandals Grande in St. Lucia, we met tons of other honeymooners... but only one couple are we still in touch with to this day - and we were lucky enough to visit that same couple in their hometown of Mobile, AL, this past weekend! We enjoyed a long weekend catching up with Heather and JB, hearing how they've spent their first 8 months being married and learning more about life in their quaint Southern town. I have to admit, small-town life can be enticing!

We spent Thursday afternoon in Biloxi, Mississippi - a quick but necessary visit since it was discovered that I'd never gambled before. One little piece of wisdom that I came across - just because you're at a "quarter" BlackJack machine doesn't mean you only can play quarters. Who knew?!

The Hard Rock Hotel and Casino is quite impressive; we spent some time (and luckily not a lot of money!) there as well as at the IP.

Friday afternoon, Heather and I waited out the downpours at Heroes in downtown Mobile (my first spinach and crawfish dip - and NOT my last - yum!!) and then met up with everyone at Mobile's annual Greek Fest. Such a fun night complete with gyros, Vendange Chardonnay, and delicious honey-covered pastries!

Saturday was 100% (maybe even 150%) dedicated to college football. We are loyal college ball fans but down in SEC country, it's something else. You can see from the pictures that they even make us wear their colors... note that this was taken later in the night once we'd change from our Alabama jerseys into our Florida garb. Luckily, both teams won.
Not surprisingly (I think all my trip re-caps conclude similarly), our trip came to an end WAY too soon. Sunday morning we made our way downtown for a yummy last meal in the fun city of Mobile. You must try Spot of Tea for brunch if you are ever in the area - such a cute atmosphere and tasty food.

Thank you thank you to our gracious hosts Heather and JB - we had an absolute blast hanging out with you two! We can't wait to show you around our neck of the woods and any other adventures that await us! See you soon!

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

For Your Service and Sacrifice

Today is Veteran's Day! Take the time today to thank anyone you know (and even those you don't!) who's served our great nation!

click above for a beautiful tribute to our troops

To commemorate the special day (and of course, since this round of Baking GALS happens to coincide perfectly with this great holiday), I baked some delicious Pumpkin White Chocolate Chip muffins to send along with some Great Pumpkin Cookies to my soldier this month!

And what a delicious fall treat! I'm pretty sure the soldiers aren't too picky anyway, but these little gems are certain to be enjoyed (don't tell, but we just HAD to taste-test!).

Thank you to all of those (and their families!) who have felt the call to sacrifice for the freedoms that the rest of us are so lucky to live with!

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

November 4th, 2008

Top 3 best things about voting today:

1) Free Starbucks!

2) It means today officially marks the END of all the campaign madness (right? RIGHT?!?)... you think it's bad where you live, come to DC!

3) The reminder of this great democracy that we live in... whether or not you like the end result, we all had the equal opportunity to participate in it... and for that, I am and will always be thankful.

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