Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Ebates! Ebates! Ebates!

Ebates folks! I WISH I'd started using this amazing site sooner. Don't waste time like me. Sign up NOW! 

If you do any shopping online, changes are good that you could be earning some cash back. I did some early Christmas shopping and got 90% of my list through Ebates! And because I did that - I got money back!!! Granted, it's not a lot. Not a lot at all. But it's basically FREE MONEY! If I was going to buy a book from Amazon.com anyway, why not get a percentage of the money I'm spending back? 

So if you're not using Ebates yet, start using it now! Signing up is SO easy. Just follow this link: http://www.ebates.com/rf.do?referrerid=VnXRkH%2BNDRhoc8v%2B%2FlituA%3D%3D and don't purchase another thing online before checking if you can get money back. 

And to prove to you it works - here is my very first "Big Fat Check" as they call it! 

$6.54 isn't a Big Fat Check in my opinion, but like I said before it's basically FREE.  
And isn't an extra $6.54 in your pocket better than nothing! 

Note - this is not a sponsored post, all the opinions in this post are mine and I'm not being compensated in anyway.

Thanksgiving with Girlfriends 2013

I usually spend Turkey Day at a family member or close friend's home, but last year I hosted my very first Thanksgiving! I did almost all of the cooking myself and was exhausted by the end of the day, but I wouldn't have changed a thing! I had so much fun hosting that I looked forward to doing it again before the day was even over! 

I'll be honest - when people started talking about their Thanksgiving plans this year, I was a little sad that I wasn't going to be hosting again!  That is, until I decided I was going to host a very small Pre-Thanksgiving get together with a few of my close girlfriends.

After very little thought, I decided I'd make a few things, but have everyone else pitch in so it wasn't as much pressure on me. This year, I was in charge of the turkey, stuffing, gravy and cranberry sauce. My girlfriends were responsible for everything else. Take a look below at my fun Thanksgiving with Girlfriends!

A little decor.

The table all set for dinner.

Carving the turkey. 


The whole spread and a plate of deliciousness!

Everything came together so well and all the food tasted AMAZING! While I do like sweet potatoes, I've never been a huge fan of  the mashed sweet potatoes with toasted marshmallows on top. After this weekend though, I think I've officially been converted to liking them and couldn't get enough!

Chicken Soft Tacos

If you haven't figured it out yet - I LOVE to cook. 

I love it even more when I can cook for a group of people like my amazing family or my close friends.

 I love searching cookbooks and online for recipes (heck - I do this for fun all the time!), I love going to the market (sometimes more than one!) to buy all the ingredients, I love the whole cooking process (yes, even all the prep work too!) and I love seeing the happiness and full bellies once the meal is all over.

 Without boring you even more about how much I love to cook, let me tell you about an amazing and SUPER EASY meal I made for myself and two of my girlfriends a few weeks ago!

I was randomly browsing recipes online one night (surprise surprise, right?) and I round a recipe for chicken tacos. I've made chicken tacos countless times, but this recipe sounded so simple and looked amazing! I called for a crock pot, a few ingredients and not much else.

I used this recipe as a starting point, but made a few modifications. I didn't use green chiles because I didn't have any. Instead of using a jar of salsa, I made my own, which is so easy too! Lastly, I used chicken thighs AND chicken tenders because...I wanted to and I did! The only thing I'd do different next time would be to use "fajita" sized instead of "soft taco" sized tortillas. Sounds odd, I know, but the "soft taco" ones are quite large.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Homemade Spaghetti and Turkey Bolognese!

I hadn't made homemade pasta in awhile, so a few weeks ago I busted out my trusty pasta maker and went to town! I made half a recipe of a simple egg dough, letting it rest for a few hours before rolling it out and cutting it into spaghetti.

 I usually serve my homemade pasta with a simple marinara or an olive oil based sauce, but this time I wanted to change things up and give turkey bolognese a try! I'd never made a bolognese  but I thought I could handle it! After looking at a few recipes, I decided on this yummy sounding one from Giada de Laurentiis.

Take a look below at the process of making both the pasta dough and the sauce.

The Pasta Goods:
A lil Salt 

Put flour in a big bowl and make a well. Crack the eggs and mix them in with a fork until dough is starting to come together. Continue to mix it a little longer by hand.

Then dump it onto a floured surface and go to town kneading. 
I kneaded the dough for about 5 minutes, give or take. 

The top shows what it should look like when you're done kneading.
Wrap it in plastic warp and let it rest for a few hours, or even a few days in the fridge!

Once you're ready to use the dough, cut into 4 pieces. Flour the top and form each piece into a flattened disk. Run the dough through the pasta machine and then cut into spaghetti.  

Now that the pasta is done, let me tell you all about the sauce!

The Bolognese Goods:
Ground Turkey
Crushed Tomatoes
Flat Leaf Parsley
Parmesan Cheese
Olive Oil

Prep all your goods!

Heat a little olive oil, sauté your onions and garlic. Once onions are translucent, add the carrots and celery and cook a few minutes. Then add the ground turkey and cook completely. Finally, add the crushed tomatoes and fresh herbs. Stir everything to combine and simmer for about 30 minutes. 

Since I made fresh pasta, it only needs to cook for a few minutes. While that was cooking, I added fresh parmesan to the sauce. Toss the sauce with the pasta and save a little sauce to add on top. I served mine with homemade garlic bread and some oven roasted corn on the cob. 

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Elina and Robyn Make...Chinese Food!

I love cooking with Elina and since this is the third post of the section, I thought it'd be fun to have Elina as a guest blogger! We had so much fun making this meal (as usual) and I would love to eat it all again. Keep reading and Elina will tell you all about this cooking adventure!

Every once in a while Robyn and I get a crazy idea, and that's exactly what happened recently! We decided to make something really special and outside of the box...at least for us! We decided to give Chinese food a try! 

There are about a gazillion delicious Chinese food options out there, but we decided on just three: Chinese BBQ Pork, a take on P.F. Chang's Chang's Spicy Chicken and Chicken Lettuce Wraps...also a take on the popular dish from P.F. Chang's. And of course some steamed white rice, because what is Chinese food without rice!? As usual, we used all the recipes above as a guide, but changed a few things along the way to our liking.

We don't have much experience in Chinese food, so I must admit we were a little nervous going in. We frequented our local Asian market and picked up some of the not so standard ingredients that we needed and got to work.

Chinese BBQ Pork Goods

Making the BBQ Pork

Chicken Lettuce Wrap Goods

The Lettuce Wrap Sauce

Cooking the Chicken Lettuce Wrap filling

Chang's Spicy Chicken Goods

 Making Chang's Spicy Chicken

 And FINALLY the yummy rice!

The finished product!!!

In the end, I am happy to report that everything came out delicious and even authentic!

Fall Decoration Changes & Additions

I think I've mentioned before how much I LOVE Fall. And also how much I LOVE decorating for the holidays. If I haven't mentioned either, well now I have! :) Even though I already posted about Fall decorations here and here, I couldn't help myself and just had to post again because there are some changes AND additions. 

After Halloween I took down all the creepy and scary Halloween decorations like I've done in past years. I normally don't add anything else to my Fall decorations, but this year I thought I could use more and went to town modified existing decorations I already have and making a few new ones! I recently discovered FREE Printables and let me tell you they are wonderful! I used two for my decorations and will link to them when pictured below. 

 My Sister-In-Law recently sent me a picture of her Fall mantle and it had a really cute "Give Thanks" banner/theme going. I was inspired and after some quick searching, I came across this amazing FREE Printable for an oh so cute Pumpkin and Pomegranate Give Thanks Banner. I made the banner and used it as inspiration for the whole mantle. I really do like the outcome and it's so different than past years!

After finding my first awesome FREE Printable, I was inspired and went searching for more fun ways to decorate without spending much money, if any at all! I wanted a 4x6 "Subway" themed sign for Fall, but couldn't find many in that size. After thinking I was out of luck, I found this beauty and couldn't wait to make use of it! I really love how the entry table turned out and I'm tempted to do something similar for other upcoming holidays. 

I couldn't help but decorate with more lil corn too! The photo of my grandma and nephew just happen to make for some cute decor as well! I also got a really cute lil fern for my entryway plant stand and I'm hoping it last longer than the last plant I had there! HAHA! I'll keep you updated... but if nothing else, I'll have the cute little "Happy Harvest" sign. 

When I went went to Michaels for banner supplies, I found a few other Fall goodies I couldn't pass up and am really happy about how they worked out! I love the new little garlands and the acorn/leaf scatters I have in the jar. And of course - it's not Fall in my apartment if there aren't these falling leaves! 

Last but not least, an overall look at some Fall aspects in my Dining and Living rooms.

Have I mentioned that I love Fall?!!? 

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Butternut Squash Risotto

I had a Butternut Squash that I needed to use, and I didn't want to just roast it like I usually do so I did a little searching online. After looking at a few recipes, I found one that sounded amazing from my ol' favorite, The Pioneer Woman. It looked great and I couldn't wait to a make it, so last Saturday I tried making risotto for the very first time! To be honest - I was a little nervous, but I haven't screwed up a recipe too bad in quite a long time so I got busy cooking and hoped for the best! Take a look at the whole process below.

The Good:
Butternut Squash
Arborio Rice
Chicken (or Vegetable) Broth
Olive Oil
Chili Powder 
Parmesan Cheese
Fresh Parsley

Cut the squash in half, scoop out the seeds, peel, bag half the squash, and dice the other half.

Melt butter, add the squash, season with salt, pepper and chili powder. 
Cook until tenter, but not falling apart. Set aside until rice is cooked.

Melt remaining butter and saute onions until tender and translucent.
Add the rice and stir, cooking about a minute.

Add the broth to the rice one cup at a time. 
Simmer and let absorb, adding more broth until rice is tender but still has a little bite. 

Add freshly shave parmesan and the cooked butternut squash.
Fold into the cooked rice and season if needed. Top with freshly chopped parsley. 

The finished product with a yummy green salad!

Was my first time making risotto a disaster? Absolutely not! In fact, every time I think about this recipe, tell someone about this meal, look at the pictures I took while cooking - I can taste the deliciousness! I actually ended up omitting the turmeric and cream, but wouldn't have wanted it any other way. I cannot wait to make this again and share it with someone else who will appreciate how great it tastes!

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Halloween Fun!

Last year, I had an AMAZING time celebrating Halloween in the Kansas City area with my brother and his family. It was so much fun to relive my childhood and go trick-or-treating with my nephew, but I have to say that this year was equally as fun with a little more of an "adult" Halloween!

This year, I spent the night at home with with a few very close friends. It was a low-key night, but still quite festive and I had a SUCH a great time! Who knew that fog machines and dry ice could be that much fun?!?!

Instead of a big meal,  we had a bunch of tasty appetizers and drinks that everyone contributed to.
Caprese Salad with Buratta, Bacon Wrapped Bleu Cheese Stuffed Dates, Brie Cheese and Blackberry Jam Pockets, Zombie Eye Deviled Eggs, Mini Mummy Dogs, Chips, Salsa, Guacamole, Pumpkin Beer and last but certainly not least - Blackberry Moonshine! 

And because Halloween just isn't Halloween without dressing up in SOME way, 
here's a look at a few of the costumes I wore this year!
Devil Robyn and Devil Ming while prepping the yummy apps, Toga Robyn for the fun Halloween night festivities, and Black Cat Robyn for work!