Dad’s Corner

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It seems like after every family celebration I get to write a post about how I surprised so-and-so with a visit. Sadly, this isn’t one of those posts. I didn’t buy a plane ticket home for Father’s Day even though I really, really wanted to! I’m trying to save up for future visits and such and I had just been home a month ago. I got to feel semi-included though with a FaceTime call and a group text convo complete with picture updates. Dad got a special meal, of course, but as always, the ‘puppy brother’ tends to take over everything. I tried to keep this balanced though and limited the puppy pictures to just two!

I mentioned last time I was home that there has been a casual competition to ‘make the blog,’ which I think dad has already won with his enthusiasm alone! SO, in honor of dad, this is Dad’s Corner. I missed a good meal! They barely had time to digest all of this before my mom and dad were off to ALASKA the next day! I’m so glad they got to go on a trip they’ve been dreaming of for so long to celebrate a very special anniversary. Us kids are so fortunate to have great parents that have taught us that it’s important to work hard and do great things but also how equally important it is to have a sense of humor and see as much of the world as possible! Oops, mom kind of snuck in on Dad’s Corner somehow! I hope dad can deal with that…I really wanted to include a picture of his famous (and probably record breaking) soft serve ice cream cone towers. The only one I could find from my own camera is the first one we ever took and it looks pretty wimpy. Since then, he has really perfected the art. Uh oh, I smell a Dad’s Corner part 2. 20130623-140616.jpg

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I had to throw in a cool picture from another past anniversary (I think) in honor of the most recent one! All you need is love. : )

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This is our puppy brother taking over the whole phone chat and looking right at me! haha! 20130623-140630.jpg

And here he is getting ready to be shipped off to visit me. Why so sad? No overnight shipping for this pup. : P

Mint Cherry Limeade

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First off, I must make a blogger confession…I don’t own any mason jars. Yes, we all know that the top three things that all bloggers must have are 1. a decent camera 2. too much time on their hands and 3. mason jars. I made due with these just as cute (maybe?) soda glasses that we got last summer and have barely used! For some reason we have all these cute ice cream and drink glasses, but we rarely drink alcohol and are typically too lazy to actually scoop the ice cream out of the carton before eating (Ok, that might just be me). Anyway, it’s summer now, so I’ve really been in the mood to make some fancy, fruity drinks! I was going over my grocery list on the way to the store and quickly decided that if I grabbed a whole bunch of limes I could probably fashion some sort of tasty drink. I knew we already had mint and like five cans of tonic water in the fridge and plus I had cherries on the list for a breakfast recipe. Sweet!

Instructions: First step is to make a quick simple syrup – I did 1/2 cup sugar and 1/2 cup water. Then add the juice of 3 or 4 limes, depending on how tart you want it. Then I smashed a handful of cherries and strained the juice into the mixture. Fill your glass up about halfway with the juice and then fill the rest with whatever fizzy stuff you got. I had tonic water, so that’s what I used. Then you must add some extra halved cherries because they taste sooo yummy after they’ve been floating around in the drink for a while! The mint is a great touch, but that’s up to you as well! Feel free to sweeten with more sugar if needed. This made enough for 4 drinks.

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Tip: We had some extra soda left so I soaked some cherries in the fridge, which made a really nice snack for later!

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Puff Pastry Pizza

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According to Paul, this is one of the best things I’ve ever made. It’s hard for me to make such bold statements about my own cooking, but this is one dish that I have consistently craved since I made it. Just like my last puff pastry post (which, funnily enough, Paul also declared as one of my best meals), this pizza was totally improvised using what we already had. Luckily, the combination of toppings worked out so perfectly. With frozen dough, this meal couldn’t be more simple to put together. Puff pastry pizza is such a great thing to have in your repertoire of quick, weeknight, throw together meals.

To make sure the pastry gets crispy, pre-bake until it’s ‘set,’ but not browned all the way. For this pizza in particular, I like it best when it’s crisp, but still a little soft and chewy in the middle. It’s up to you though! Char that thing up if that’s what you’re feelin’! After I pre-baked the crust, I spread some pre-made pesto and then topped it with salami, green olives, caramelized onions, mozzarella, and sage. Ok, and I threw in some extra garlic too. So easy, and seriously delicious. I really, really recommend this combination of toppings, but I can imagine so many other great combos too. Let me know if you have any topping loves/suggestions!

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Cookbook Challenge – Cucumber Dill Salad

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The cookbook/magazine challenge is still doing strange things to my recipe selection. I don’t want to say that I’m not a salad person, because I do enjoy a nice big salad sometimes…but I can’t say that it’s normal for me to flip through a magazine and be drawn to so many salad recipes. Simple ones too! Since I don’t make salad very often, I really like making my own small batches of dressing when the impulse hits. It’s way easier than you might think and it’s pretty sweet that you can make a tasty dressing with only a few ingredients rather than the loads of complicated things that are listed on a bottle. This salad was very fresh with nice crunch and paired well with my…oh.so.sophisticated mac & cheese bites. Heh, kind of cut down on the classy, healthy thing didn’t I? I tend to do that. Paul bought us the Trader Joe’s mac & cheese bites so that I would have something quick to eat when I returned from my Colorado trip. They were good! Try both, I say!

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Crispy & Lemony Salad (From Martha Stewart Everyday Food March 2013)

1 head romain, chopped

1/4 cup dill sprigs

1 english cucumber

1/4 cup olive oil

2 tablespoons lemon juice

Combine the salad ingredients in one bowl. Whisk together dressing ingredients in another; season. Drizzle over salad and toss. Top with cracked black pepper. Serves 4.

Country Fried Steak + Gravy

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Deciding between country fried steak and french toast is always a huge dilemma when I go to a diner. Ultra savory or ultra sweet? I love both, so it depends on the place and my mood, I guess. It took some time for me to find cube steak, but I wanted to do it right no matter how impatient it made me! I asked my mom for advice before I attempted this and she said it’s easy, but it never seems to be as good as the diner. She suggested that Pioneer Woman would probably have a perfect recipe, and duh! She was correct! Definietly satisfied our diner meal craving.

But, really why should we have to choose between country fried steak and french toast? When you cook at home, you don’t really have to…steak for dinner and french toast for breakfast! Yep, that’s what I did – check out this post for those pics!

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…or French Toast

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Country fried steak or french toast? Tough question, right? That’s why I had to make a country fried steak and french toast joint post. I said in the other post that if these two items are on a diner menu, I have a really hard time picking between them. Of course, there’s always biscuits and gravy…pancakes…oh and anything smothered in green chile…oops I’m getting off course. So yeah, I made my country fried steak and then had to make french toast for breakfast.

In addition to this being a joint post, it kind of feels like a continuation of my waffle/blogger brain post, which has been one of my favorite posts to write. This french toast process was a lot less blogger brainy than my waffles…I almost didn’t even take photos! But of course, once they were done and lookin’ so pretty, I had to snap a few pics. We still got to eat warm french toast though! I really try not to keep people waiting too long when I take pictures of our food. Maybe someday I’ll plan ahead enough to create a nice food styling ‘set.’ But, for now, I guess I’ll continue with my casual, in-the-moment style. We’ll see how it goes! It’s always nice to have something to strive towards. : )

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Egg Salad Appetizer Night

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Appetizer night is probably my all time favorite way to eat. I was prompted to make egg salad sandwiches after Paul and I shared one from a convenience store…it was terrible. We were in a rush! Maybe it’s not fair to say it was disgusting because it didn’t really taste like anything. It was like eating a sponge. Anyway, I promised Paul that I would make some awesome egg salad (mostly because he wasn’t as disgusted by it as I was and I needed to prove that I could do better). We saw a picture of a really delicious looking open-faced egg salad sandwich only to scroll down and realize that it was made from fake eggs…sorry, not really our thing. I copied the look, but used real eggs and added stuff that sounded good to make it more ‘gourmet’. I did a basic (chunky) egg salad recipe with some lemon, chopped mint, paprika, plus a little cayenne, I think. Ah, so simple, but so much better! We cut up a baguette and created a spread of egg salad, burrata, tomatoes, and avocado. We were two happy eaters!

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Yes, It’s Kale

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Are you sick of hearing about kale yet? Yeah, me too, but I had to try out the craze. It seems like everyone is always completely surprised that they end up enjoying raw kale. Needless to say, I was skeptical and thought wow, this stuff must taste really weird. Turns out, it doesn’t taste weird at all. It tastes like leafy broccoli to me, and I love broccoli. I can’t say that I’ve purchased a bundle of kale since I made these chips, but I’m certainly not scared of it anymore.

These kale chips actually were really tasty. I tried out three flavors to make this experiment more interesting: sesame oil, soy sauce, and plain olive oil with sea salt. I liked all of the flavors, but be really careful about adding salt. See, I tossed my whole tray with olive oil and salt before I decided to break them up into three groups. Sooo, my soy sauce chips were mega salty! Valuable lessons in this post: 1. don’t over salt your kale chips and 2. don’t be scared of kale because it just tastes like broccoli…really leafy broccoli that kind of gets stuck in your throat…do you think it tastes like broccoli, or am I the crazy one??

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All Used Up

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Lately, I’ve been in a constant state of trying to get rid of stuff. We live in a really small place. Really small. Which could be part of why I’m always wanting to downsize. The place isn’t super cramped or anything, I just don’t like having stuff that I don’t need/like. I still have a ways to go in downsizing my beauty stash. I find reading these posts to be really helpful and creating my own is nice for keeping track of what I like and what I don’t. I’ll probably have enough stuff for a new post soon! I took these photos quite a while ago when some of them still had product left. They are all empty now, so I thought it was time to finally post! Here’s what I’ve used up and what I thought about everything.

The Great stuff: Neutrogena Healthy Skin Liquid Makeup – I’ve only owned a few liquid foundations in my life, but this one seemed pretty nice! I’ll prob try again someday. Maybelline Dream Fresh BB – I really liked this! Was great for winter, so I’ll probably get it again then. Origins VitaZing – also great! Similar to the Maybelline BB, but much more expensive. Will stick to the Maybelline. Philosophy Hope in a Tube – I actually noticed a difference in the morning when I used this, so I did purchase another Philosophy kit, which included a larger tube of this.

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The Good: Kiehl’s Creme de Corps: This was a gift that I savored for almost a year! I love it and really want to get more! Great scent and consistency. FAB Ultra Repair Cream: I was excited about this because I thought it would be good for my sensitive skin. It was really nice, but since I was alternating it with the Kiehl’s…it just didn’t compare! L’Occitane Hand Cream: Have been using these for years and will continue! Olay Sensitive Skin Foaming Face Wash: This was fine and it was cheap. It somehow got filled with water in the shower though and was kind of useless. I used it to clean brushes for a while, but eventually tossed it.

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The OK: ion Deep Daily Conditioning for Color: I wouldn’t mind having a full bottle of this! It has a similar almondy scent to Creme de Corps, which I’m addicted to. Garnier and L’Oreal conditioners (came with boxed hair color): Not much to say about these. Conditioners that come with hair color always seem to feel nice! LUSH Buffy: Such a nice treat for a pamper night. A little rough on the skin and might be bad for your drain, but makes your skin feel awesome right out of the shower.

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Would I buy these again?: Revlon Brow Fantasy: Probably not, but it’s wonderful for travel. Great Lash Clear: Yes. L’Oreal Lineur Intense: Yes. Sugar Lip Balm: No. Enjoyed the freebie though! Maybelline Color Tattoo in Too Cool: No! Not a fan, but I used it under my brow anyway. L’Oreal Power Volume Mascara: No, it dried out in a really weird way…Revlon ColorStay Liquid Eye Pen: Probably not, but I would like to try another brand. L’Oreal Liquid Pencil Eyeliner: Maybe, don’t have much of an opinion. It’s soft and very pigmented, so I guess it’s good!

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The Bad: LUSH Breath of Fresh Air: No! Refreshing, but didn’t enjoy using it and let it expire. Benefit Posy Tint: No, too scented and makes my skin look irritated. Hard Candy Glamoflage: No, too heavy and has a weird scent. Revlon Balm Stain in Charm: No. Bad color for me and don’t like wearing the product in general. NYX Cream Blush: I thought this was breaking me out so I tossed it. ELF 6-Eyeshadow Palette: No. I got this on sale and thought it would be nice for travel, but the colors didn’t show : ( Coty Airspun Face Power: Too scented and a pain to use.

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Seche Vite Clear Coat: No, great stuff, but I hear it’s not great for your nails. Bobbi Brown Eye Cream: Probably not, but I really liked the sample for travel! LUSH Sweet Lips: No. Tastes good, but I never used it and it dried out. Clinque Take the Day Off: Maybe, but I’ll try others first. Olay Age Defying Night Cream: Yes/maybe, I like it, but will try other first because I didn’t like the scent. Psssst! Dry Shampoo: Yes. La Roche-Posay Effaclar Duo: Not sure, I was excited to try the sample, not sure if it’s worth all the hype though. Aveeno Detoxifying Scrub: No.

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Bye bye stuff! That was a lot…I didn’t realize how much I like L’Oreal stuff until now! What are your must-haves?

Quinoa Two Ways

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Ok, so I’m not really that into quinoa. And these are pretty much my only two quinoa recipes. But, they are really good and I’ve been making them for years. I was inspired by a Southwestern style quinoa salad that my mom and I picked up randomly at Whole Foods once. It was surprisingly enjoyable so we decided to recreate it for our work lunches. Quinoa salad makes a great to-go lunch because it’s filling, flavorful, and doesn’t even need to be heated up. Plus, there are tons of ways to switch up the recipes to get some variety in your daily brown bag.

There are two variations that I tend to stick to: Southwest and Mediterranean. When I have the urge to make these for the work week, I usually make one big batch of quinoa and then divide it in two containers. That way I can make both flavors at once and alternate throughout the week. Once you’ve made the quinoa, the rest is just tossing in veggies and seasonings. There’s not really a recipe, but I’ll list the combinations I use below. One big tip though: the last time I made these I added taco seasoning to the Southwest salad, which is now a must! Gives it a nice kick and ties the theme all together. Let me know if you have any quinoa combos that I should try! We have way too much of it in the pantry and it would be nice to switch things up a bit!

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Mediterranean: cucumber, tomato, lemon juice, feta, salt and pepper. I can’t remember the exact herbs/seasoning I used, but I think I kept it simple! I had a little extra steak and avocado from the Southwest salad, so I threw it in here too.

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Southwest: corn, black beans, tomato, avocado, taco seasoning, lime juice. Perfect lunch!

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