Where Did January Go?!?

Well, I’m off to a terrible start this year blogging. Believe it or not, it’s been a pretty busy month, despite the freezing temps and frigid weather. I had several things I planned on blogging about this month. For one, I thought I was going to do Bachelor recaps. However, after the first show or two, I realized this season is REALLY not very interesting. The lead barely speaks English, and the girls are pretty blahh. So I didn’t have much motivation to blog about it. Then G & his dad painted our kitchen/dining room, and it looks AWESOME! We still have some projects to finish it off, but the paint looks great. We went with Naval (navy blue) and white, and I’m really happy with how it turned out. Maybe this weekend I will get my kitchen put together enough to take some pictures and post the before and afters.

Last weekend I got to celebrate my friend Tiffany’s 30th birthday at her 90’s theme party. We had SO much fun reliving the 90’s in costume, complete with lots of denim, clogs, and some butterfly clips. I was so impressed how into it everyone got. Lots of great costumes and fun games. One guy even came dressed as a TY BEANIE BABY. It was awesome.

Me and "Cher" - the birthday girl!

Me and “Cher” – the birthday girl!

He's got his tag....how much is he worth?!

He’s got his tag….how much is he worth?!

Bottom's Up for the Birthday Girl!

Bottom’s Up to the Birthday Girl!

It’s going to be a fun year with so many of my friend turning the big 3-0 this year! (I still have another year, though, YIPPEE!)

Tonight I tried a new recipe that I wanted to share while it’s still bitterly cold outside. This chicken noodle soup recipe will make your house smell amazing and will warm you right up–and the best part is it’s SUPER easy and only takes about 30 minutes to make! I did make a few changes to the original recipe found on Pinterest.

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Homestyle Chicken Noodle Soup

Ingredients:
1/2 medium onion, chopped
1 bag of egg noodles (medium or wide)
2 cans of cooked chunk chicken breast, strained
1 can sliced carrots, strained
8 cups water
Chicken Boullion cubes
Spinach leaves, cut in thin strips
Parsley Flakes

Directions:
1) In a large soup pot, saute onion in olive oil until translucent.
2) Add 8-10 cups hot water and add bouillon cubes (I used 8 cubes)- you could also use canned chicken broth.
3) Bring to a rolling boil and add bag of egg noodles.
4) Boil until noodles are tender (approx. 8-10 minutes, according to package), and stir occasionally.
5) Add carrots, spinach, and chicken and reduce heat to low. Simmer for 10 more minutes. (I did a quick taste test here and add more seasoning if it needs it including some salt/pepper.)
6) Sprinkle parsley flakes on top and serve!!! (Don’t skip out on the parsley flakes- it really adds to the “homestyle” look of the soup.)

This recipe makes a big pot of soup, so you’ll have left overs for a couple days. It is so easy and delicious, and perfect for this time of year. Enjoy!

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That’s What I Love About Sunday

It was an emotional week last week with lots of ups and downs. We were traveling through Christmas day, then home to work for a day, then back in the car to go to the Quad Cities to pay our final respects to an amazing man. On December 21st, we got the news that my college roommate and close friends’ dad had passed away after fighting pancreatic cancer for 10 months. Bill always called me the 3rd Laird daughter, and was someone who could always make me laugh and had the most warm and caring smile of anyone I’ve ever met. He loved and appreciated everyone he met, and I am so sad for my friends who will now miss their dad every single day. We went to the visitation on Thursday night, then spent the night and attended the funeral on Friday morning. It was a beautiful service and I’m so glad we were able to attend.

When we got back on Friday afternoon, I had to go back to work for the rest of the day, and then babysat in the evening. Saturday we met G’s family in Cedar Falls for a really nice lunch and our family Christmas. I must say we were really spoiled by both of our families this Christmas, and feel very blessed to have such amazing parents and siblings.

But by today, I was EXHAUSTED. I knew I needed to do some laundry and go to the grocery store, and didn’t feel like making anything too complicated for dinner. Cue up my Yummy Food and Drinks Pinterest Board and I had the perfect recipe in mind to try. One of my favorite Illinois staples that my mom and I always HAVE to hit when we’re visiting our family is White Castle. Love it or hate it, I don’t care….I love a delicious slider! So when I saw the recipe for Easy Cheeseburger Sliders, I pinned it right away! Tonight I finally tried it and must say, it is SO EASY and INCREDIBLY yummy! One of my new favorite pins!

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Photo from betterrecipes.com

Since I was just cooking for G & I, I used a smaller pan and cut the recipe in half. Only using 1 pound of ground beef was enough for us to each have a couple sliders, and still have more left over for tomorrow. Click the photo above for the original recipe, or here’s how I did it:

Easy Oven-Baked Cheeseburger Sliders

 

1 pound, 90% (or leaner) lean ground beef

1/8 cup seasoned bread crumbs

1/4 cup chopped onions

Pinch of salt

Kings Hawaiian sweet dinner rolls (or slider buns)

4 slices cheddar or American cheese

Heat oven to 400 degrees.   In a bowl, combine beef, bread crumbs, onion, and salt.  Gently press mixture into a 8 x 8-inch pan so that it makes one large patty of even thickness.  Use the tines of a fork to poke holes throughout the meat.  Bake for 20 minutes.  As it bakes, the meat will shrink away from the sides and liquid will accumulate around the edges of pan.  When fully cooked, remove the pan from oven (keep oven turned on) and carefully drain off the liquid.

Top the meat with an even layer of sliced cheese; return pan to oven for about 2 minutes or until the cheese melts.  Remove from the oven and allow to rest for a few minutes.  Cut into 2-inch squares (or the size of the buns used), making about 8 mini-hamburgers.  Serve with dill pickle slices, ketchup and mustard.  Serves 4 at 2 sliders each.

I would use this recipe to make regular sized hamburgers again, too. It was so easy baking the meat, and was pleased how all the patties turned out the same size and thickness. You could also add bacon, or other favorite toppings for some variety, or make a double cheeseburger who wants to eat less bun and more burger!

Now I’m back to work tomorrow for the last day of 2013, and then off on Tuesday and Wednesday for New Year’s Eve and Day. After such an emotional week, today was exactly what I needed – relaxing, yet productive, with a comfort food dinner. Now, THAT’S what I love about Sunday!

Candy Bar Cookies – NaBloPoMo Day 17

This weekend went way too fast! The weekend in Des Moines was a blast. It is always so fun to get back to my old stompin’ grounds and catch up with old friends!

When I got home today, I did wanted to do some baking so I made one of my all time favorite cookie recipes. One of my best friends from high school used to make them and bring them to school all the time, and people would basically fight over these things. And once I made them for my husband to take to work, and people were calling them “crack cookies.” They couldn’t get enough, so it’s safe to say you don’t have to be from Traer to know they are amazing. When I posted a picture on Facebook of the Candy Bar Cookies–I had a couple requests to share the recipe. So here it is!

Candy Bar Cookies – The Kupka Family Recipe

1 c. sugar

1 c. brown sugar

1 c. oleo (margarine)

1 c. peanut butter (I use creamy)

2 tsp.vanilla

2 eggs

3 c. flour

1 tsp. baking powder

1 tsp. baking soda

1/2 tsp. salt

1 bag of miniature candy bars (I used Snickers, but Milky Way bars are great in there, too.)

Pre-heat your oven to 350 degrees. Cream together sugars and margarine. Add peanut butter and mix well. Mix in vanilla and eggs. Sift and add dry ingredients. Take 1/8 cup of dough and wrap around 1 unwrapped candy bar. Flatten it out a little so it is not still in a ball. {It won’t flatten very much on it’s own during baking.}  Place on ungreased cookie sheet and bake at 350 degrees for 8-12 minutes. They should be slightly under-baked. Keep on the cookie sheet for 5-10 minutes before removing. Makes about 40 cookies.

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The recipe makes a lot of cookies! But they won’t last long!

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All the yummy goodness of the melty candy bar in the middle and peanut butter on the outside!

 

FIVE on Friday – NaBloPoMo Day 15

I am so excited to know that I am HALF WAY through November and the NaBloPoMo blogging challenge! It has been just that–a challengebut I can honestly say I’ve enjoyed the fact that it has helped keep me motived and has given me a reason to write every single day. My friend Brittney at Our Poverty with a View has been linking up with The Good Life Blog for their Five on Friday series. I decided to give it a try since I love sharing my favorite things! {Show and tell for grownups??} Yes, please! So here we go!

5onfriday
{1} One of the first blogs I ever started reading was Iowa Girl Eats. She has some AMAZING recipes and life style ideas that I absolutely love. On Fridays she links her favorite online finds–and boy, does she do a great job scouring the internet for the best stuff out there! One thing I saw on her site recently that I CANNOT STOP DROOLING OVER is this recipe for Chocolate Chip Peanut Butter Oatmeal Skillet Cookie. Let’s be honest, the only reason I haven’t made it yet is I’m scared of eating the whole. thing. Who wants to help me???
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{2} Last year we ordered our Christmas cards off Minted.com and were super thrilled with how they turned out. This year, I helped my mom place her order for some super cute holiday greetings from the same site, and they just arrived today! I can’t spoil the surprise and show you the design we ordered before they get sent out, but let me tell you, Minted gives you SO many options and they are really high quality, professional cards. They can be kind of pricey, but if you use a coupon code and order off Ebates {5% cash back right now!}, you can generally get a pretty reasonable price. Here’s last year’s card below. Still haven’t figured out what we’re sending out this year!

christmas card

{3} It’s so hard to get friends together for the holidays because everyone is busy with something. I saw this idea to have a winter brunch with your nearest and dearest to celebrate the holidays and absolutely loved it! Hot chocolate station, YES! French toast sticks in shot classes of syrup, YES! The details from this party are just unreal and adorable and I would be happy if my party were just a fraction of this cuteness!

hotchocolatestation

{4} You know the band Train??? Well turns out they have a winery called Save Me San Francisco Wine Company and they make delicious wines with names that come from their best songs. I first tried their red blend Drops of Jupiter which wasn’t my favorite, but still pretty good. Not wanting to give up on their brand, I tried a bottle of the Soul Sister Pinot Noir and WOWWEE it is amazing. “…expressive, medium ruby wine with flavors of ripe cherries and strawberries, a hint of vanilla and a smooth finish” but it is the perfect mix of dry and sweet, and at $8.99 a pop, you can’t go wrong.  It will be perfect for sharing with friends and family this holiday season {I’m even taking it as a house warming gift to a friend tonight!}

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{5} And speaking of San Francisco, have you heard about the amazing kid in San Francisco {battling Leukemia} who is getting his wish through the Make-a-Wish foundation to be “BatKid” for the day? San Fran has turn the city into a Gotham City and Batkid is off fighting crime today! Crowds of people are following him around–you can follow the live action on Twitter with #SFBatKid. It’s an unbelievably heart-warming story. Prayers to Batkid in his fight with Leukemia, and thanks to Make-A-Wish for making this happen!

Twitter

batkid

That’s all for today! I’m off to Des Moines this evening for a girls weekend celebrating my dear friend Megan’s 30th Birthday! I’m sooo excited and can’t wait to share pictures with you next week! Happy Friday!

Happy Veteran’s Day! – NaBloPoMo Day 11

It wouldn’t be right if I let today, Veteran’s Day, pass without posting a big THANK YOU to our United States veterans and their families.  It’s safe to say I do not think I could handle being a member of the military {surely I wouldn’t make it a day in boot camp!}, so I am incredibly thankful for the people who volunteer to serve so I can enjoy the endless freedoms of living in the United States. I also can’t imagine my husband being the the military, having to endure a deployment, or worrying about my other half being on the front lines. So I thank the families of our veterans, too–as they also give up so much and make so many sacrifices. Thank you from the bottom of my heart.

When I wrote my summer recap in September, I totally forgot to mention our wonderful 4th of July. We spent a couple days on Lake Michigan with one of my sorority sisters and her family at her fiance’s family beach house. It was so fun staying right on the water near the Indiana sand dunes. We ate, drank, soaked up the sun, and had bonfires on the beach while watching fire works at night. We are definitely hoping to make the beach house a summer tradition for many years to come! After a couple days in Indiana, we headed back into the Chicago suburbs for a graduation/send off party for my cousin Jake before he left for Air Force boot camp. My sister and her boyfriend flew in from Colorado, and we got to spend time with lots of family members giving Jake a proper goodbye before joining the military.

To celebrate the Red, White & Blue, I made a festive bundt cake for 4th of July weekend. Since I slacked on posting the recipe then, I’ll post today in honor of Veteran’s Day. It is super easy, and a definite crowd pleaser.

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Ingredients:

1 Box white cake mix

Ingredients called for on box mix

Red and Blue food coloring

1 container white fluffy frosting

Directions:
1) Pre-heat the oven as instructed on the box and prepare the cake mix according to instructions. Make sure you do not use whole eggs–only egg whites to keep the white color. Spray the bundt cake pan with Pam cooking spray.

2) Pour 1 cup of batter into a small bowl, and another cup into another bowl.  Use food coloring to make 1 bowl red and 1 bowl blue. You will need to use quite a bit of food coloring to make the colors nice and bright. Leave the remaining batter white (you should have the most amount of white batter).

3) First pour the red battery into the bottom of the pan. Carefully add the white batter on top. DO NOT MIX. Pour blue batter on top of the white. It is okay if the blue doesn’t completely cover the white.

4) Cook according to the directions on the box. Cool the cake for at least 5 minutes before turning over on a cooling rack. Let it cool on the rack for 30 more minutes.

5) When the cake is cool, divide frosting into 3 bowls. Melt 1 bowl in microwave on high for a few seconds until it is smooth enough to drizzle. Drizzle back and forth in a striping pattern. Do the same with the other two bowls, using food coloring to make one blue and the other red. Let the cake stand at room temperature until the frosting sets.

The hardest part for me was moving the cake from the cooling rack {where I did my frosting drizzling}, to my cake plate. You really can’t do the drizzling on the cake plate because you want the excess to drip off the cake. So I had to take a big spatula in each hand and carefully slide it under the cake, then move it to the cake plate. It was risky, but it did work. If anyone has a better idea, let me know!

Bundt Cake

You could really use this for any holiday or occasion with colors of your choosing {I’m thinking Christmas holiday Red, GREEN, and White cake}. It’s a delicious dessert, easy as can be, and very festive!

Happy Veteran’s Day again to all our veterans and their families! THANK YOU for your service and your many sacrifices! I hope you felt loved and appreciated all day today!

Pinterest Best and Worst Part 2

We had a big bummer hit our house a couple of weeks ago. It was one of those things you just want to kick yourself for not preparing for. Our computer crashed.  A blue screen/no data/no helping yourself kind of crash. And just a month or two ago G had said we should back up our computer, because he thought it had been running slower than usual. {Ya, yah, yeahhhh we’ll do it sometime} Well, we should have done it. Luckily, working at a technology company, I have access to a lot of smart computer people. I brought it in to my favorite IT guy who tried everything he could to get the data off the corrupt hard drive. It was no luck…all gone. Pictures, documents, music. Gone, gone, gone. He pointed me in the right direction to buy a new hard drive, and he rebuilt my computer–which means it is working like new again. Luckily we didn’t have to buy a new computer. Sadly, everything else is still gone. He kept the old hard drive and said he’d keep trying to see if there was anything he could do, but my hopes aren’t very high.

So here is my PSA for the day– BACK UP YOUR COMPUTER FRIENDS!!! You never know when it will be too late!

I guess we are lucky that lots of my pictures are posted on Facebook, and I have several SD cards from my camera that I just saved with pictures, so not ALL is lost. But it was still very sad! Today I am going to make cookies for the IT guy who helped me for no charge. He saved us a ton of money and I’m so grateful for that!

Obviously I’ll be heading to Pinterest to find a delicious cookie recipe. He did warn me that he doesn’t like any peanut butter in his cookies {which, how crazy is that!?} so I’m thinking some sort of chocolate chip recipe will be the way to go.

I’m still using Pinterest to feed G and I several times a week. Here are a few favorites I’ve found recently:

Zesty Lime Shrimp & Avocado Salad

Pinterest Best 1

Now, I know this recipe might not be very “fall like”, but this is one of the most delicious salad’s I’ve ever made. It is so, SO easy and can really be a main dish OR side. G loved it, too. If you haven’t tried it yet, now is the time while we can still get avocados easily. Check out the recipe here.

Crispy Smashed Potatoes

Crispy Smashed Potatos

These potatoes take a little more time to make, but I made about half as many as the recipe calls for since there are only the two of us, and it took a lot less time that way. My advice would be to start the oven as soon as you get home from work & get them cooking right away before you start cooking your main dish. Or make them on a Sunday for a terrific Sunday Dinner side dish. Totally worth the time, they are absolutely delicious. We dipped them in ketchup {of course} and the crispy outside/soft inside was a perfect combo. You can find the recipe here.

Carrots Au Gratin

Carrots Au Gratin

This one might surprise you! Carrots are not always delicious. In fact, very rarely would I call them delicious. But if you’re trying to eat healthier, this Carrots Au Gratin recipe is a great substitute for its unhealthy potato version. The only thing I didn’t like about this recipe, was it was not very good reheated the next day. When I make them again, I will likely cut the recipe in half and only serve it fresh. I might also try making it for a holiday side dish. Recipe can be found here.

And for some Pinterest Worst’s…..

Banana Pudding Poke Cake

Banana Poke Cake

I probably should have taken the hint when I had a hard time finding banana pudding. I can’t say this recipe was TERRIBLE, but I definitely wouldn’t make it again, and with a million other amazing recipes on Pinterest, I wouldn’t recommend you waste your time trying it either. The pokes really didn’t work that well, so the pudding just kind of sat on top of the cake. They say it gets better the longer it sits, but the Nilla Wafers and Bananas turned soggy/brown which is just kind of nasty. Don’t waste you time here…..(but if you don’t believe me, the recipe can be found here.)

And my last Pinterest worst is not a recipe but a craft. I have seen all kinds of these quotes on canvas projects and decided to try one on a lazy Sunday. Here was the inspiration:

Craft Canvas

You can find the tutorial I used here. When I started out, it was looking great. I really thought I was going to like the finished product. I looked through magazines and made a great collage. Then I put the letters down and painted over the whole thing. And that’s when things went downhill. I couldn’t get the letters up easily so they pulled some of the magazine up with them You couldn’t even read what it said, so I took a black Sharpe and went around the letters to make it more clear. I also added some little fabric rosettes to make it a little nicer. It didn’t turn out exactly how I wanted, but it’s okay. I have it hanging in our room because G told me he liked the quote. Here is my version….

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That’s enough for today! Have you tried any amazing or terrible ideas from Pinterest lately?? Let me know if there is something I should or definitely shouldn’t try!

Tasty Tuesday — Easy Pot Luck Recipe

G & I had a pot luck tonight, and after being out of town for the weekend, {not to mention being super busy at work}, I had to come up with a fast, easy, and obviously delicious side dish or salad to share. I thought about trying a fruit salad, baked beans, or even cheesy potatoes in the crock pot, but I found this little gem and decided it would be perfect for my pot luck dish. I wanted something light and springy, since pot lucks tend to be fully of heavy, fatty foods, and I made a perfect choice because others ended up covering the beans and potatoes.

My Mexicorn Salad is super easy and uses ingredients that I either had at home, or could easily pick up during my lunch break.

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I also put some avocado in there at the last minute, and of course salt and pepper. I can also think of about a million other things you “could” put in your salad, depending on what you have an how you want to eat it.

Basically, I love any recipe in which I get to use one of my favorite kitchen gadgets, too–the Vidalia Chop Wizard! This bad boy was a wedding gift from one of my besties, Tiffany, and I am obsessed with it! I used my trusty chop wizard it to chop up the onion, green pepper, and red pepper.

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While we’re on that subject, though, does anyone have an easy way to clean these?? If you recall, I learned how to clean one of my other fav kitchen gadgets here, and while I thought it was a revolutionary tip, others of you {kindly} let me know you had been doing it like that for years. So please share if you’ve got a way to make clean up a breeze with this bad boy, too, and once again change my life!

So back to my salad–I just mixed all the veggies together, sliced up some cilantro, and tossed in some store bought Italian dressing–then popped it in the fridge for an hour, and wah-lahhh…..time for a pot luck!

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It went over very well at the pot luck, traveled easily, and I will totally be making this again throughout the summer. Other things you might consider putting in the salad are:

  • Bacon or bacon bits {obviously, because you can put bacon in anything}
  • Black or Pinto Beans
  • Avocado
  • Salsa {and serve with tortilla chips}
  • Jalapenos
  • Cherry Tomatoes

And basically anything else! I think it would also be good in Ranch dressing instead of Italian, but I haven’t tried it, so I can’t say for sure. And you could also serve the corn salad over a bed of lettuce if you wanted to make it more of a meal salad rather than a side dish.

Here’s the full recipe!

What You’ll Need:

  • 2 (15-1/4-ounce) cans whole-kernel corn, drained (could also use fresh corn)
  • 1/2 green bell pepper, finely chopped
  • 1/2 red bell pepper, finely chopped
  • 1/2 sweet yellow onion
  • 1/4 cup Italian dressing
  • 1 tablespoon fresh cilantro, finely chopped (optional)
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Any of the other optional add ins listed above
What To Do:
  1. In a medium bowl, combine all ingredients; mix well.
  2. Cover and chill for at least 1 hour before serving.

See! Really easy and really, really yummy. Mix and match it up to suit your family’s tastes and Enjoy!!

Any other Mexicorn Salad lovers out there? Or am I missing another perfect Pot Luck recipe that I must try next time?