Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Get it together CNY - New Spring Artwork

I am beyond excited for spring. Last winter was a bah-east, seriously. Brutal. So I'm thinking that we're all set for this winter and so far we've had it pretty easy. Fairly mild temps and even a few days with blue skies. I'm not looking for much here. On the other hand if we had some snow I'd get some mileage out of the brand new snow shoes I bought in December.

Anywho, I'm excited to put away all of my cozy-winter decor and freshen the place up with bright and cheery accessories. I realize it is a ridiculous for this time of year to hope for spring - heck I've seen snow flakes in May so we're far from out of the woods. Nonetheless I need a little fresh and bright business up in hurrr. I hustled my booty down to Lowe's and picked up some white spray paint and set out to make some changes.

I started with this frame that I had kickin' around. It's just fine but I have a thing with black frames and I still like black frames but remember I'm thinking light, fresh, spring in the dead of winter.

Now it was a warmer day, just below the recommended 50 degrees or so. Whoops, mistake one. Do you spot my second mistake? Yep - it's a windy day out. But I won't be deterred. Determined often means acting a fool. 

Yeah, I bet those flimsy rocks will hold down the newspaper that I over sprayed anyway, doh. Anywho, it worked out. I brought the little sucker in and after drying for a day I starting looking for what I could put in my new white and crispy frame. Well as it turns out I have two sheets of paper from the Paper Source from a visit I had in Boston literally years ago that I had tucked away and forgotten about. But I tried em out. 

Omg I was giddy. How perfect that the matte was gray? It totally picked up the gray from the cheery yellow print. Also, the grey and yellow combo has been trending for what almost a year? Sure, I'll jump on that band wagon now. I like my trends to be well tested. I'm not what you would call a "trend setter." It's ok, I like me. 

How much do I love this print. Bigger is better. hehehe I crack myself up. 

Then I remembered I have this beast of a frame I could also fill up. Double the fun! 

Also, what is the staging happening up there? Or lack there of. What a hot mess. Here's the swap out.

That's more like it! Please avert your eyes to the piling dust pile at the front. Look away. 

This is so fun and perfect. I am going to set up a little spring fun on the side board. Stay tuned.

In other spring related news, I decided I'm going to run another 5k at the end of March. Why God, why? If you haven't heard I'm turning 30 later this year and I thought a 10k may be a good and yet torturous way to ring in the big 3-0. After all that's how I roll, fun and torture full. Hmmm, I may need professional help stat. A 5k seemed like the first logical step toward a 10k and putting it all out on the internets may help keep me on track. It's not going to be pretty friends.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Banana Oatmeal Bread & Weekend Update

This weekend has been coo-coo. I dragged Joel all around Ithaca to find cheap and used goods (read: Salvy's and Ithaca ReUse) and then chatted his ear off about the things I didn't buy but thought I should, then finally was a whirlwind of starting and finishing projects and cooking up a storm. Seriously, I'm tired just thinking about it - so I thought I'd update you and share another quick bread. You all know Joel adores quick bread and I aim to make him happy happened to have the old bananas.

Quick sidebar - I have a total blog crush and got sucked into reading Katie over at Bower Power. Seriously, I'm embarrassed how much time I've spent on her website in between my projects this weekend giggling along with her posts. That gurl is funny. I wish I was half as funny. Oh and her house. to. die. for. Anywho, she's totally reinvigorated me with her thrift-shopping ways.

Like I said I coerced my man-friend to go with me and tried to tease out of him the level of excitement and reverence thrifting deserves. I think we can all agree it's a success that he once again tags along with my strange adventures. Picture me oo-ing and aah-ing over someone's former dresser or kitchen table and him remaining engaged in the conversation-while-secretly-dreaming-of-running. I only managed to pick up a few things, a new glass canister to hold our steel cut oats, a small pitcher for my spring display (I'm seriously dying inside waiting for spring, come on April May), and a white Pier One serving tray that I will show you at the end of the post.  However, there was a pair of matching lamps that I may go back for at $10 a pop and hope for a sale because I am a cheapskate. I have visions of a PB redo. Also, there was a huge and I mean huge ceramic lamp that could use some love but would look divine on my sideboard. Stay tuned folks.

On to the real reason for today's post...banana bread. I have several favorite recipes for banana bread and one includes oatmeal. Naturally, I decide to try a new recipe - yipee. I like trying new things. I found this goodie by digging through cooking light. Don't worry I have a non-cooking light treat at the end.

Here we go.

This is *almost* all of the ingredients - doh! I forgot a few things for the line up. Cooking light did not call for vanilla in its recipe and I called foul and dumped some in. You should too - vanilla and banana bread are like bert and ernie or peanut butter and chocolate. It just makes sense. Silly cooking light. 

Obviously with a household with two adults a double batch is in order. Actually, I always do this to save time as I mentioned Joel insists on being knee deep in quick bread at all time. Often his mother helps out and pitch-hits by having a loaf or two ready every time we see her - thanks! Seriously, the man loves his breads and carbs. Quick breads freeze really well so I made one regular loaf and some muffins to freeze the muffins so that he could defrost one or two or six as his heart desires. 

Mix up the gooey stuff. 

Add naners, oatmeal, and milk. 

The dry goods take a whack at the mix. 

Don't forget to scrape the bowl. 

Then I decide to un-cooking light the whole thing and tossed in some dark and milk chocolate chips I had laying around. Chocolate and bananas are my favorite. 

Bake, bake, bake. 

Tada! Also, can someone help a sister out and hook me up with a photography class? Seriously, the blue light - ugh. I'm clueless here (you knew this). I love the new camera but honestly, what do I do here? People, I am not going to READ a manual. I am too busy painting chair legs and talking about spring decor in January, in upstate New York. 

In three hours Joel ate two muffins at which time I informed him the muffins were for freezing not for eating. Then he lobbed off a slice of the loaf. That's my man. 

Here's the money shot. And by money shot I mean me showing off my $2 tray from the ReUse store. Please ignore the blue light coming from behind.

Please do try this bread it's so good and dump in some chocolate for good measure. It's the right thing to do.

Banana Oatmeal Bread
Adapted from Cooking Light

Yields 18 servings

1 cup packed brown sugar
7 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 large egg whites or 1/3 cup egg whites from a carton
1 egg
3 extra ripe bananas mashed
1 cup regular oats
1/2 cup fat free milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4-1/2 bag of chocolate chips, optional
non stick cooking spray


Preheat oven to 350 degrees and spray pan or muffin tin with nonstick cooking spray.

In a medium bowl mix brown sugar, oil, egg whites, and egg together using hand mixer or whisk. Add the mashed bananas, oats, milk, and vanilla extract and mix until combined. Lightly measure the flour and toss into mixing bowl as well as the baking powder, baking soda, salt, and ground cinnamon. Mix until ingredients are moist. Fold in chocolate chips.

Pour ingredients into loaf pan or muffin tin. Bake until wooden spoon comes out clean about 70 minutes for loaf pan and 22 minutes for muffins.

Cool for 10 minutes before removing from baking dish and cool on wire rack.


Friday, January 27, 2012

New Obsession....dressers

You guys, I have a true confession to make. I am officially obsessed with dressers. Wait, what? Back that up. Here's the deal, I am blog-lover almost to stalker proportions. For instance, I'll go through and check out all the juicy details of diy projects and transformations of my favorite bloggers and then I'll check out their favorite bloggers and so on and so on. You get the picture. I have a problem.

Enter dressers. 

You guys, these puppies are so versatile. And the storage. Shut your mouth. I have literally been dreaming of all of the uses and perfect places for my newest obsession. Cut to the scene of my half-finished upholstered chair. Ooopsies. I am hoping in the next couple of weeks to wrap up that project. Hence the need to line up my next project.  Joel is a lucky man, no? This weekend we have a dinner and a movie date planned and I've slipped in a pre-date plans....Salvation Army and the ReUse store. What, what! (Amy Poehler style in Baby Mama - you know what scene I'm talking about).

Let me show you some of the dressers I'm drooling over and that are inspiring me to take up a new project. These are all re-dos from bloggers. They are so good. I actually prefer their custom looks over store-bought fresh that I've check out online. 

I just love the pulls and the office organizer slots on this one. The top drawers add interest with their wood shape detail.

Basically everything Centsationalgirl does is beautiful and perfect. I love that she kept the original pulls and hardware. It turned out beautiful, didn't it? 

Another re-do by Life In The Fun Lane, so much love. I love the warm and neutral color. 

These are some of the beautiful dressers I've recently become obsessed with. As you can see none are necessarily bedroom dressers - I am winning Joel over on this idea. I love how a beautiful and solid piece can anchor a room with its presence. Clearly, light and white-neutral is my current obsession. I cannot wait to check out thrift stores this weekend! 

What about you? Am I the only weirdo, or are you all drooling over a new piece of furniture or itching for a new DIY? 

Monday, January 23, 2012

Black Bean Soup

Happy Monday! It is common knowledge that I am crazy about soup. I am absolutely willing to crack open a can of soup but I really love home made soup. With winter officially taken hold I've upped my soup consumption by approximately 947% give or take - or about once a week. And really, is there anything more comforting than a bowl of soup to start the week? 

You can see why I love soup so much. This was really easy and a crowd pleaser and by crowd I mean the friends we had over that also loved the soup. 

The soup does require a little forethought which as you know I hate in a recipe. Maybe I'm experiencing some personal growth in 2012 that I still made this recipe? Unlikely. I just was very motivated to make this happen. Ideally you soak the one pound of dried black beans over night. Clearly, I forgot to do this but I did remember that you can simmer the beans for an hour before starting the recipe - this step I remembered. 

Once you've done the initial simmer or soak throw in some more water and roughly chopped onion and garlic. 

Boil until the beans are soft. This step took me yet another hour. 

In the meantime, I was chopping veggies I wanted in the final product, more onion,  garlic, carrots, and red pepper. 

Next up, soften these puppies in a saute pan for 10-12 minutes. As you can see I tossed some salt into the mix. Season, season, season. I try to keep the salt to a minimum because it's the right thing to do. 

Now that I've been simmering for most of the morning I'm ready to move on from just cooking the beans, yes! I throw in the veggies, add chicken stock, dumped in a few glugs of red wine for no other reason than I had it on hand and opened but I think white wine would be wonderful in this business as well, and more seasoning specifically some cumin for some smokey-flavored deliciousness. 

To smooth out the soup a little I zipped about 3 cups, give or take, of the beans and the business in the blender. 

Stir and serve.


Obviously it was imperative I dollop some sour cream into the mix.

I can't wait to make this again!

Black Bean Soup
Serves 6-8

1 lb. dried black beans
2 onions, chopped and divided
5 garlic cloves, chopped and divided
3 carrots, diced
1 red pepper, diced
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1-2 cups chicken stock
1/2 cup wine
2 teaspoons cumin
1 teaspoon salt, divided
1/2 teaspoon pepper

Sour cream, optional


Prepare the dried beans, soak overnight in water or simmer for one hour submerged in water.

Drain the black beans. Combine beans with water until submerged in a medium sauce pan or dutch oven. Add one chopped onion and two chopped garlic cloves and simmer for one hour.

Dice the remaining onion, garlic, red pepper, and carrot. Saute vegetables over medium - low heat in olive oil in medium saute pan. Add 1/2 of salt. Remove vegetables from heat when translucent, about 10-12 minutes.

After the beans have softened, about an hour, add in the sautéed vegetables, chicken stock, wine, cumin, remaining salt and pepper. Simmer to reduce the liquid for 5 minutes. Place 3 cups of mixture into blender and liquify. If you are lucky enough to own an immersion blender feel free to zip it through the soup pot for a few seconds. I prefer some chunkiness but if that's not your thing blend the whole thing up.

Serve with a dollop of sour cream.


Thursday, January 19, 2012

Sisal Rope Bowl

You know how some people are really into celebrities and watch E! and Entertainment Tonight to keep up with the shinanigans? Well, I'm like that but with bloggers. Ok, ok and with the Kardashians. Keep your judgment to yourself people, I have guilty pleasures too.  I have some blogger favorites who I follow closely and see their crafty genius and am both inspired and jealous of their skills. Now I'm not some crazy-stalker (isn't that just what a stalker would say?) but sometimes I copy cat some of the ideas other bloggers craft.  Here's a secret...I'm not much of a crafter. Really it's only been the past year and a half that I've dipped my toes into crafting waters. See I have had friends teach me to knit or host crafting afternoons while I sip coffee and chit chat while they are hard at work. Maybe it's my age (remember, I am turning 30 this year) but I'm getting into crafting a little bit.  Today I'm going to show off one of my recreations.

Fun right? And it's a super simple craft, natch. I love the natural texture and had visions of hosting this guy on my counter for fruits and veggies that are not refrigerator types.  Ultimately, I've decided to give it to my mama as a thank you for helping me with the chair reupholstery job. Oh right about that. 

Quick update, I am tackling the legs this weekend. Next up...the actual reupholstery job. EEEK! 

Back to the sisal bowl. I started with a cheap-o bowl.  

Bought some Sisal Rope from the Home Depot. This business was about $5 and I needed two. 

And slowly started hot glueing the puppy on. 

Here's the end result again. 

I think I may make one for myself. That's right people, I'll give my mother the test version. 

Feel free to check out real skill at Centsational Girl and her version. 

Monday, January 16, 2012

Rosemary and Apricot Cookies

Have you ever perused Tartlette's blog? She has the most beautiful photography and her main subject is often desserts and sweets - I'm all in! Oh, did I mention she's French too?  Let's just say I'm slowly gaining the desire and needed confidence to tackle a macaron thanks to Tartlette. Her photography is just so enticing and I could not resist giving these Rosemary and Apricot Cookies a whirl. They do not disappoint. Below is my take on these cookies.

I tend to gravitate toward sweet cookies that are chocked full of chocolate and maybe peanut butter. These, for sure, are a deviation from that formula but maybe I'm a convert? Ok not really, I will always love chocolate and sweet-sweet cookies but I may be interested in throwing in a little variation from time to time. People, old habits die hard!

This recipe is so simple. It doesn't even include eggs.

Dry ingredients start off the show. 

Next, cut in the butter. Oh and please don't mind my ratty sweatshirt. 

Knead into a ball. This is a fun way to work out your aggression.  Just thump, thump, thump until it's combined and not so crumbly. 

Use an old shot glass to cut out even-sized circles. I guess you could use biscuit cutters but people I do not own those. 

Pop in the oven.

Allow to cool before adding the sweet apricot fruit spread. 

Give one to all of your friends because sharing is caring.


Rosemary and Apricot Cookies
Adapted from Tartlette and Better Homes and Gardens

Yields between 20-25 sandwiched cookies


1 3/4 cup flour
1/3 cup sugar
1/4 cup yellow corn meal
1/2 cup butter
2 Tbsp. fresh rosemary or 2 tsp. dried rosemary
3 Tbsp. milk
Apricot preserves


Preheat oven to 375.

In a medium bowl combine four, sugar, and corn meal. Cut the butter into the mixture using a pastry cutter or a fork will work. Keep cutting in until the mixture resembles small peas. Stir in the rosemary and milk.

Knead mixture until even. The mixture will look even and come together into a ball easily when this is done. Cut ball in half. While one half is in the refrigerator roll out second half dough to 1/4 inch thick.  Cut with biscuit cutter (or old shot glass) into 1 1/2 inch circles.

Bake on baking sheet lined with parchment paper or silpat for 10 - 12 minutes. The cookies should be very light brown on the bottom. Don't over cook.

When cooled spread apricot preserves and form cookies.


Thursday, January 12, 2012

Lighter Shephard's Pie

Did I tell you all I bought snow shoes earlier this winter? Last year Joel and I went snow shoeing a few times and it was a fun way to get outside in nature during the winter. Naturally, we haven't had more than a dusting so far in winter. In general, I don't mind but on the other hand I'm itching to break in the new snow shoes. Weather.com is forecasting 3-5 inches of snow tomorrow. I'm not holding my breath because I've heard that before but I'm also hopeful that this weekend we'll be able to enjoy the snow.  If it doesn't snow I have no doubt that we'll make up for it in the next 3 months of winter...

In other news our CSA has been exploding with potatoes, generally of the white variety. What to do, what to do. 

I've been eyeing this on pinterest as a possibility for my surplus. Of course this only calls for 3-4 potatoes and this really just puts a dent in my supply. Stay tuned for the forthcoming recipe/ pinterest review. 

Since this is winter, sans the snow,  I've been craving warm and cozy foods to cook and warm up with. Naturally, these tend to be of the less-than-healthy variety.  This is how I came to make a lighter shephard's pie. 

You guys, this is so easy, delicious, and sin-free! 

Here we go: 

Start with 3-4 medium potatoes. 

Boil until fork tender. Did you know you should start with cold water when boiling potatoes? Yeah, it's true I've read it on the internet and heard my "friends" on food network talk about this. Evidently, by starting with cold water it brings the potatoes to a boil evenly. Seems to make sense so I dutifully do what I'm told. 

While the taders are doing their thing get to-workin' on the yummy pie center.  Begin by browning ground turkey. As usual I use the 99% fat free ground turkey. 

Here's the deal use a big enough pan for this because if you over crowd the meat you'll get grey steamed meat. EEEwwwww. 

Aren't I chocked full 'o tips today? 

Next up is the veggies. Now I just threw in whatever I had on hand but feel free to stay with the traditional peas and carrots. 

I also threw in some leaks because I had them on hand from a past CSA. This is a double-onion situation here since I also chopped some onions. But in my defense leaks have a much more delicate taste and it was fun. 

Preparing leaks is easy as pie (Shephard's pie?). First, chop 'em up. Second, soak them in water. Since these little buddies grow in sand they can have dirt and sand stuck between the leaves. Soaking them and swishing them around a bit will release that ugliness and leave you with just the leaks m'am. 

After I softened the veggies and threw in some frozen peas I combined the meat and veggies together. Now to season this business. I used ketchup and worcestershire sauce. You guys I loooove ketchup and the worcestershire sauce adds a nice depth to the dish. 

We're ready to assemble the pie.

For the taders I barely did anything. I just ran them through a potato ricer and dumped it on the baking dish with the turkey-veggie mix below.  Rather than preparing the potatoes like regular mashed potatoes with butter, cream, and the rest this allowed the dish to stay light. Honestly, it didn't take away from the flavor because the inside was so delicious that mixed all together I didn't miss the other business with potatoes. But if you can't imagine doing this I suggest to mash up with chicken broth and maybe even roasted garlic to kick up the flavor without adding the fat. I may even do that next time but was  not in the mood to and wanted to use the ricer. 

Bake until the top is a little crispy.

Joel went crazy for this stuff. I couldn't keep my little paws out of it too. In other words it was a success. 

Lighter Shephard's Pie

4 servings

1 lb. 99% fat free ground turkey
1 onion, diced
3 carrots, diced
2 celery stalks, diced
1/2 cup frozen peas
3-4 white potatoes, large dice
1 tablespoon olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
3-4 tablespoons of ketchup
4-5 dashes of Worcestershire sauce
1/4 cup of fat free chicken broth
1 tablespoon flour
Nonstick cooking spray


Preheat oven to 375 degrees. 

In a medium pot bring potatoes to a boil starting with cold water. Boil until fork tender. While the potatoes are cooking work on the inside of the pie. 

In a large nonstick saute pan spray with nonstick cooking spray. Over medium-high heat brown the ground turkey being sure to cook completely. Break up the ground turkey with wooden spoon. Transfer to plate and set aside. 

Turn the heat down to medium and add olive oil to pan. Saute the onion, celery, and carrots and don't forget to season with salt and pepper to taste. Sweat the veggies until they are translucent, this takes about 5-7 minutes. I also added some Italian dried seasonings I had on hand. Add the frozen peas for one minute. Add the ground turkey to the mixture. Sprinkle flour over mixture and heat up to rid it of the raw flour taste, about one minute. Add in chicken broth, ketchup, and Worcestershire sauce and cook for a few more minutes to thicken. 

Spray a medium baking dish with nonstick cooking spray. Spread the turkey and veggie mix evenly in the pan. Using a potato ricer squeeze potatoes evenly over the mixture. I needed to also use my hands to spread a little more evenly. Bake for 20 - 25 minutes until potatoes are slightly browned. 


Linked up at Chef-n-Training.com