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!

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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!

We Kept Austin Weird…And Then Some!

Seriously, friends. If you need a new job, go apply to be in sales at Nationwide RIGHT NOW! My amazing GF Megs won an incentive trip through her job at Nationwide and was kind enough to take me as her +1. Boy did I luck out! We traveled a day early to Austin so we could spend a full day and night checking out the city with some of her work peeps. {Check out my travel shenanigans here.} I cannot tell you enough about how fun these cats she works with were, though. Megs is lucky to work with such a nice and fun bunch of people–and I was lucky to spend a long weekend and my first trip to Texas with them all!!

When we got to Austin we walked around 6th Street and immediate chose The Jackalope for our first beer and lunch. I had a Jalapeno Honey Bacon Burger, and it was freakin’ delish. Plus, we learned that in Texas you drink Lone Star Beers and there was a GIANT JACKALOPE THAT YOU COULD RIDE at the entrance. Enough said!

Megs riding the Jackalope!

Megs riding the Jackalope!

From there we pretty much bar hopped and walked around 6th Street and the Industrial District. {Waterloo Records was a pretty sweet spot, and we even got ice cream at Texas’ own Amy’s Ice Cream} Oh, and we took this awesome group photo. Yah…it was a pretty good day!

Austin Group

That night we got dressed up and we to an AMAZING dinner at La Condesa…a restaurant that I recommend 200%. It was AH-MAZ-ING. The ONLY thing I negative I can say was that I didn’t really think the marg I had there was the best. But the food more than made up for it. Plus we started with this rock star guac and salsas mix. You really cannot go wrong with this appetizer. Get to Austin, and eat there NOW!!

Salsa

I looked for more pics from our night in Austin–dancing to live music, drinking, laughing–but I guess I was having too much fun to document it. Oh well….lets just say it was a blast! There were roof top patios on many of the bars and the Iowas were lovin’ it in the Texas heat! My only negative comment I could say about 6th Street was that pretty much every bathroom I went into made me want to gag, and several of the bars reeked of vom. BUT we were definitely in a “college town” area and we weren’t going to fancy places, so I shouldn’t really complain. I’ve seen Iowa City bars look worse on a football Saturday!!!

Early the next morning we got up and walked to the capital to do some site seeing and I played photographer for Megan’s fashion blog. I wore my adorable new dress my mom had given me from Loft that she’d picked up while working her one weekend day a month job {helllloooo employee discount!}.

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Then we walked, and walked, and walked looking for a little coffee shop to eat some brunch, but when we got to where we thought we were going, we were disappointed to know it had closed. Ugh, so we went into this little dive bar looking place to ask where we should go. They convinced us to stay, and we sat at the bar chatting with the manager while we waited for our lunch. Turns out, the Texas Chili Parlor is actually a kind of famous place. Watch this video to see it featured on the Travel Channel!

TX Chili Parlor

It was too hot out for chili, but we were sure glad we literally stumbled into the restaurant, because the food was great, the beer was cold, and turns out we hit a landmark without even trying! AND I was able to get my dad and G a sweet souvenir t-shirt there, which I really think they’ll like {sorry for the spoiler, Dad!} We crammed a LOT into our short 24 hours in Austin, but I think we did a great job seeing as much as possible and getting {a piece of} the full experience. And I am DEFINITELY making a trip back sometime. G would love it there, and I’m sure there’s plenty more to see! The weather is pretty much to die for, too–at least this time of year.

Tomorrow I’ll tell you about the rest of our weekend at the incredible Horseshoe Bay resort and how much Nationwide hooked us up. I’ll also share the story of Megan meeting her dream man while we were getting our nails done at the salon!

Oh, and before I go I wanted to give a shout out to one of my favorite bloggers —Sheaffer over at Pinterest Told Me To–because she JUST HIT 1 million views on her blog {ummm, I was REALLY PUMPED when I hit 1 THOUSAND views}, AND she was really sweet to comment on my blog about what to wear in Texas. Her advice about the cardigans came in handy and was spot on, and it was just awesome to hear from someone I think is pretty cool!  So congrats on your milestone, Sheaffer!! Can’t wait to see where you’ll go from here!!