Monday, October 31, 2011

Slow Cooker night 2

Slow Cooker, night 2. It's Halloween and my husband is a bit of a Halloween scrooge. I love the kiddos in costume. I love handing out candy. I love sneaking pieces of candy out of the candy bowl between door bell rings. C hates it. This year I agreed to turn off the lights and watch a movie. So we did just that. We literally turned off all the lights in our house and sat in darkness in hopes that people wouldn't think we weren't home. True story. It's sad, it's shameful, it's....kind of amusing. We ate dinner by the light of the laptop screen while watching last week's episode of The Office. Good thing we had dinner ready in the crock pot. Cooking by candlelight probably would not have been fun.

I found this recipe last week online but I honestly can't remember where. Women's Health maybe? I can't remember so I'm sorry if you created it and I didn't credit you appropriately. Maybe you should make your printable version include a link to your website. There, I put the blame back on the author.

Anywho, this was the first time I'd made this and I'm not sure if I would do it again. It tasted fine, but was pretty bland overall. And, as you can see from the picture, lacked all visual appeal. On the bright side, it took minimal ingredients and completely met my criteria for "throw stuff in the slow cooker and leave" method. Prep time was very minimal since we already had some leftover chopped onion in the fridge. I just had to wash and cut a few potatoes into about 2-inch chunks.

Alsatian Smoked Pork Chops and Sauerkraut
serves 6 (I halved the recipe so it only made about 3 servings)

2 lbs smoked pork chops (I couldn't find smoked ones so I just bought regular, boneless chops)
1 bag (2 lbs) refrigerated sauerkraut, rinsed and drained (again, I couldn't find this so I used the canned stuff)
3/4 lbs prescrubbed small red potatoes (I had some russet potatoes I needed to use up, so I used those instead...did I follow any of this recipe?)
1 cup fruity white wine (I followed this step!)
1/2 cup bagged baby carrots
1/2 cup prechopped onion
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 teaspoon dried thyme (I used rosemary. I thought I had thyme, it turned out that I didn't.)

Coat the inside of a 3 1/2 quart slow cooker pot with cooking spray. Cut the pork, if necessary, into pieces to fit into the pot. Place the pork, sauerkraut, potatoes, wine, carrots, onion, pepper, and thyme into the pot. Cover and cook on the low-heat setting for 8 to 9 hours.
**Note: these can also be cooked on high for 4 to 4 1/2 hours.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

A Week of Crockpot Cooking

We are officially in fall here. The nights are coming earlier and earlier, and C and I's training runs are getting longer and longer. This is not a good combination. Last Wednesday, we didn't eat dinner until 8:30 due to a combination of getting home a little late, going on a run, and then cooking dinner. We were pretty hungry by 8:30.

Enter this week. We can't stop running (at least not for about 3 more weeks) so we needed a better way to get dinner on the table faster. I'll be making dinner every night this week in the slow cooker. My slow cooker is rarely used. I frequently find recipes that sound delicious, but usually require too much preperatory work or mid-cooking steps. These recipes go against everything I see the slow cooker to be. A slow cooker is a turn it on and forget it kind of cooking method. It's a way for me to throw a bunch of stuff into the pot and let it go. The extent of my prep work for a slow cooker meal is chopping some vegetables or browning hamburger. That's all. If the recipe requiers more than that, I'm out.

Tonight I made chili. This is the first chili we've had this season and of course it's a beautful sunny day outside. Not exactly the perfect "Chili Day". However, since we refuse to turn our heat on until we absolutely have to, it's a little cool in our house and chili will warm us right up.

Turkey Chili
serves 6-8
1 lb ground turkey
1/2 large onion or 1 small onion
1 bell pepper
2 cans of chili beans, with juice
1 can red kidney beans, drained
2 cans tomato sauce
1 packet McCormicks Chili Seasoning
Extra chili powder for taste
Brown the ground turkey on the stovetop. Drain if necessary and put in the slow cooker. Add all other ingredients to the slow cooker and cook on low for 4-5 hours. Top with shredded cheese, onions, sour cream, whatever you like!
This can also be made on the stovetop by putting all ingredients in a stockpot and simmering for about 30-45 minutes. The slow cooker just gives it more time for the flavors to develop.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Still failing

Remember this post? I'm sorry to say that I have made little to no progress on it since March 4th. It's October 18th. This is a fail. I've updated this list below, and you'll see that the few things that did get crossed off, were mostly because I chose not to do them, not because I completed them.

To be honest, I've thrown away all the to-do lists I had in my purse because I was tired of feeling defeted for still having these items on the list. Most of the unfinished items got put on my "26 before 27" list, no worries.

1. Read my gardening book to start planning my garden-I'm just really excited for spring! (Update: I planted a garden. I didn't really follow what the book told me to do and my crop only yielded about enough to feed us for a few weeks at best. I would have been a terrible farmer).
2. Paint the bathroom-Our front bathroom has been primed since the beginning of December and we haven't even picked a color yet. Pathetic. (Update: This actually got done. See this post)
3. Finish (or start?) our wedding scrapbook-In all fairness, I have started one, I just don't know if I like it. Maybe I'll give it to my parents and make a new one for Chase and I, who knows. (Update: I ended up giving the one I started to my mom as her mother's day gift. I've yet to start one for us. Maybe this winter when I'm couped up inside again).
4. Repot the plant that is on our mantel. This is a plant I took home last year after my uncle's funeral. Somehow I only managed to kill half of it this year so I'm thinking I should repot the other half in hopes that it survives. (Update: I did repot this. And it immediately died. Again, I would be a terrible farmer).
5. Decorate clip boards to store lists on! I know this sounds crazy, but I really like organization and I found this adorable idea to decorate clip boards to assign a place for things like the grocery list. (Update: I think I gave up on this idea. So I guess I can cross it off the list, right?)
6. Schedule Boulevard Brewery Tour. This is something Chase and I have wanted to do for a really long time. Who wants to join? (Update: Still on the list...)
7. Frame wedding posters. We had these awesome movie posters made for our wedding and want to hang a few in our house, but have yet to get them framed. It's only been 5 months, what's the acceptable amount of time for this to take? I figure we haven't printed any wedding pictures yet so we should probably do that before worrying about the poster frames. (Update: This too, is still on the list...)
8. Print wedding pictures-Okay, this one was not actually on any of the lists but number 7 made me feel like I should add it. (Update: This actually can be crossed off as of last night! I finally got copies of a few pictures in the mail last night. Our anniversary was two weekends ago. Is it bad that it took over a year for me a print a single wedding picture?)
*Of course, now that I have those wedding pictures, I have to add framing and hanging them to the list, right? Let's hope this goes better than the wedding poster framing is going.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

A Baby Shower!

Yesterday I had the honor of cohosting a baby shower for my beautiful friend C. She is having a boy! C and I were roommates in college for 2 and a half years, 6 of those months her (now) husband lived with us too. So I can say with absolute assurance that they are going to be wonderful parents, because they always took care of me! :)

The mommy-to-be!

I have had so much fun planning the shower. They are doing Winnie the Pooh in the nursery so we opted to have a red and yellow themed shower (based on Winnie and his shirt) with a few Pooh touches here and there. If you have never checked out Hostess with the Mostess, do it now. I LOVE this blog. I love planning showers and hosting parties and this blog has tons of great ideas. I can't wait until I have my own kids someday and can plan their birthday parties. But for now, I'll stick to the planning of holiday parties and baby showers.

For the shower, I made this adorable banner out of construction paper and glue dots! I was really happy with how it turned out. And it looked great hung over the mantel against our red wall. I also made the yarn balls down near the floor. I think I'll keep those there for awhile. I'm pretty sure my house was made for red and yellow baby showers. And Christmas. The red wall looks great next to our Christmas tree too.

I also made this "hunny" jar. We filled a baby bottle with sixlets candy and had people guess how many were in the bottle. I printed little yellow and red papers for people to write their guesses on and then put them in the jar. I think the jar turned out pretty cute, and it will be a cute little decoration in C's nursery.

And finally on to the food. We tried to stick with red and yellow foods for the most part. My cohost doesn't do much cooking and baking and since I love it, I offered to handle the food. I was really excited with how cute the mini cupcakes turned out. I just wish I had taken a picture close up. These are all pictures my mom took since I was a little to busy to remember to get out my camera. Don't worry, I had that part covered. One of C's good friends Laura is a professional photographer in Springfield and I lined her up to be the designated photographer for this shower! Hopefully she got some great shots. You can check out her site here, Foster Photography.

The food table

I also made treat bags filled with pretzels dipped in almond bark for guests to take home, but the only picture I got was on my phone during the making process. Here's one shot, and then I also made some with red sugar sprinkles.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

What's Been Going On

It's been over a week since my last post. A few months ago, that would be right on track with my posts, but I felt like I'd been getting better at this posting thing. I guess not.

C and I have been keeping busy these past few weeks. We are training for a half marathon in November and our runs are getting longer and longer. It just takes up so much time! But it's good. We feel strong. We feel good. Or at least, that's the positive self talk we give because the running book we're reading tells us to say those things. We are runners. It's a fact.

Our first anniversary was Sunday. We thought about doing all sorts of fun things and leaving town, but when it came down to it, we opted for simplicity and relaxation. We spent a few hours on Saturday afternoon at Summerset Ridge Winery in Paola, KS. It was a nice winery. Most of the wines are semi-sweet and we have drier tastes, but we found a dry red to bring home and sipped on their Oktoberfest (semi-sweet white) while we were there. The weather was beautiful and their was live music, so I call the day a success.

I am co-hosting a baby shower for my lovely friend Colleen at my house on Saturday and I could not be more excited. It's keeping me super busy this week, but I'm really happy with how some of the details are coming together. I'll post some pics after the shower. I wouldn't want to ruin the surprise!

Finally, it's Thursday. Here are the things I'm loving about this particular Thursday:
1. It's beautiful outside. Okay, I'm chained to my desk but it looks beautiful through the window and my boss told me it was nice out. I'll take his word for it I guess.
2. I had leftover spaghetti for lunch. I made a huge pot of sauce last night, ate some, kept some for leftovers, and froze some. Isn't leftover spaghetti delicious?
3. Today is my Friday! I'm taking off tomorrow in preparation of the shower. This is serious stuff.
4. David Guetta's "Without You" was playing on my morning drive into work and I really like that song.
5. The St. Louis Cardinals won last night. I love my Royals, but I'm a Cards fan second, so woo hoo!

I hope your having a glorious Thursday and I promise to post something with pictures/recipes/ideas soon!

Monday, October 3, 2011

Bikes and Burgers: The Inaugural Year

Somehow it is already October. I have no idea how we got this far into 2011, but I feel like a bit of a failure for the things I have not gotten done this year. Is it wrong that our 1-year anniversary is on Sunday and I still don't have a single wedding picture printed, let alone framed anywhere? Really I blame my sister on this one. I requested the prints 8-10 weeks ago at least.

I love October. Like everyone else in the universe, I love the colors and flavors of fall, but I love October especially. I think its because I love candy and this month is full of special Halloween candy! Plus I love the pumpkins and blooming mums. I love the hope associated with the fall season. Everything is starting to die out, but it's still warm enough to get outside and enjoy yourself. You need a jacket in the morning but you can usually ditch it by mid-afternoon. By November, all I see is the cold long winter that lies ahead. I hate winter.

This October, C and I have a lot of fun stuff planned. We kicked our month off with an event my in-laws named "Bike and Burgers". This event started with a 26 mile bike ride and ended with burgers and brats. The weather was gorgeous and the food and fellowship afterwards were just what we needed to refuel from our long ride. I think everyone considered the event a success and my in-laws have decided to make it an annual event. Hopefully next year we can get more people to participate in bike ride portion! We also hope all bikes are functioning next year. Unfortunately my father in law's axle locked up on him in about mile 20 and he had to drag his bike the rest of the way. We eventually sent a van out to "rescue" him.

In other news, C and I are still running...a lot! And I'm still mostly loving it. We ran 6 miles Saturday morning and I felt great. However, it's just taking up so much of my time and energy that I don't feel like I'm getting much else done around the house. After November we'll be back to a normal routine hopefully. C will be glad, he hates running.

What exciting things do you have planned for October?