Thursday, August 30, 2012

baked jalapeno poppers

Oh yum. 

Jalapeno poppers are a coveted thing. Whenever I hit a sports pub/bar (that's where you seem to find these delicious treats), I must order them. Their is something about the heat of the jalapeno, the creaminess of the cheese, and the crunch of the crumbs. 

I've never made them myself, but let me just say...success! The exact combination of flavors I have missed. 

Here's the recipe:

Baked Jalapeno Poppers

What You Need (adapt recipe to however many poppers you want to make):
*makes 6 poppers*
3 whole jalapenos, cut in half lengthwise, seeded, with membranes discarded 
2 oz. low fat cream cheese
2 oz. shredded cheddar cheese
1/8 tsp. chili powder
1/8 tsp. paprika
1/8 tsp. garlic powder 
1 egg, beaten
1/2 cup panko bread crumbs 


Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Begin with the peppers. Important note: handle with gloves! Cut each jalapeno in half lengthwise. Remove all seeds and membranes. 

Filling time! Combine the cream cheese, cheddar cheese, chili powder, paprika, and garlic powder in a mixing bowl. 

Prepare for assembly: In a small bowl, beat egg and set aside. Pour panko crumbs in a separate bowl. Get ready for assembly time: grab a halved pepper, use spoon to fill pepper with cheese filling, dip pepper in egg, and dunk pepper in panko crumbs. Place each complete pepper on baking sheet that has been covered in cooking spray. Repeat process till all peppers have been filled. 

Bake poppers in a 350 degree F oven for 30 minutes. You could eat these by themselves (I certainly did) or serve them with a dipping sauce, like sour cream. 


Wednesday, August 22, 2012

pepperoni pizza quesadillas

Why have I never thought of this before? *shakes head*

With the bf out of town, I was by myself for the evening last night. That meant dinner alone. Which I don't mind. Except last night, I didn't want to spend all my time in the kitchen. I wanted something quick, but tasty. I wanted to sit and watch countless episodes on Netflix. I can't help it. Last night I had priorities. 

Enter: pepperoni pizza quesadillas. 

I originally pulled out the fixings for a quesadilla---Mexican style. Only I had a brief moment of clarity and thought to make it with pizza fixings instead. Best decision I could make on a Tuesday night. 

Here's the recipe:

Pepperoni Pizza Quesadilla

What You Need:
Mozzarella cheese
Onions, diced
Marinara, pasta, or pizza sauce, for dipping

It's that simple. Pull out a skillet, and turn the stovetop to medium-high heat, and place a tortilla down. 
While the skillet starts to heat, assemble your pizza quesadilla. Mine included mozzarella cheese, diced onion, and pepperoni. Add whatever sounds good to you. (Oh, the combinations.) 

Place the second tortilla on top and let cook for a couple minutes. When bottom tortilla is lightly browned, flip over. Continue browning till crispy. 

Take off the skillet and plate your masterpiece. Cut into wedges for easy dipping. Serve with warmed marinara, pasta, or pizza sauce.  

The perfect quesadilla. I think it's the simple things in life that are important. And pepperoni pizza quesadillas are one of them. 

Thursday, August 16, 2012

crab meat and cream cheese wontons

Is there anything better than a crab meat rangoon? 

Ordering Chinese takeout is a pasttime (or even a current time!) and crab meat rangoons are a necessity when ordering. There is something about that creamy mixture with a bit of crunch on the outside that gets me every time. 

Walking around Jewel (my new grocery store) led me to find wonton wrappers in the fresh fruits/veggies section. I instantly knew their would be success and was excited to use them! 

Utilizing wonton wrappers made the process easier, and it completely worth it. 

Here's the recipe:

Crab Meat and Cream Cheese Wontons

What You Need:
-1 package of imitation crab meat (12 oz.-16 oz. package)
-6 oz. of cream cheese, softened
-salt, to taste
-garlic powder, a shake of
-onion powder, a shake of
-garlic salt, a shake of
-wonton wrappers (my package had 48, and I used them all for this recipe)
-bowl of water, to use for sealing the wontons


Prepare the crab. This step may have been unnecessary, but I cooked the crab up in a bit of butter, and added a couple shakes of garlic powder, onion powder, and garlic salt while it was cooking. I used a spatula to break up the crab to small enough pieces.  

After cooking the crab, combine the crab and the softened cream cheese. Add salt to taste. 

Now it's time to use those wonderful little wonton wrappers! I used a baking sheet to assemble, as it gave me much more room. I laid out a handful of wonton wrappers at a time, and kept a small bowl of water next to me, as well as a damp cloth in case the wrappers dried out too much. 

Using a small spoon, plop a small amount of the crab/cream cheese mixture into the center of each wrapper. 

After filling a few wontons at a time, it was time for the final steps. Dip your finger in your water bowl and moisten the edge of the wonton wrapper. 

After moistened, fold the wonton in half diagonally, making a triangle. Try to push any air out of the pocket, and make sure to seal the edges as best a possible. The water helps seal the wontons during this process. 

These wontons can be folded in a numerous ways. They could stay triangular, but I decided to fold the edges in. Using a bit more water on my finger, I put water on the corner before and after folding it in. 

Now repeat. 48 times. It felt like this process took awhile, but I watched a show on Netflix to pass the time. 

Once the wontons are made, you are set! I chose to freeze most of them, so I put the cookie sheets full of wontons in the freezer so they would harden. Once the wontons are hardened, put in a freezer-safe bag in the freezer. Pull out however many you'd like as you need them!

This wouldn't be a happily ever after story if I didn't make some right away. 

So I did.

I went with the baked option, for ease and health. Preheat your oven to 450 degrees F. Spray a cookie sheet with cooking spray, and place wontons on sheet. Lightly spritz the tops of the wontons with cooking spray. Cook in the oven for 8-11 minutes. 

I checked on mine early on because my cookie sheet was darker, and I pulled them out at the perfect time. Crunchy, lightly browned, and perfectly hot. So tasty! I'm used to the fried version, but baked was delicious. 

If you choose to have them fried, heat a couple cups of oil in a deep pan. When the oil is nice and hot, carefully plop them in a few at a time. Fry them until they turn golden. 

Since creating these little delights, I have baked some from the freezer. After freezing, the same rules apply. 450 degree F oven, 8-11 minutes. 

So, so good. 

Monday, August 13, 2012

bathroom cabinet transformation

Sometime in high school I got this small white cabinet for my bedroom. I used it as a side bedroom table, as it was the perfect height. It also did double duty as a clothes hamper, as the front knob pulled out an entire drawer. Bonus. (I do not do clothes in a hamper where you can see the clothes---I can't handle the mess!)

Well, that very cabinet is still with me today and is housed in my bathroom.

It's cute, fairly small so it doesn't take up space. but very white. My old apartment was covered with color, as I painted the walls bright royal blue and deep roasted red. I'm not painting any walls here, so I'll take color where I can get it! 

Here was my free furniture project that made the world of difference!

I set up my work station in the living room (hello apartment living) and got to work. 

A couple coats of white primer made the cabinet not so sheen, which was very welcomed! I could have skipped this step, but this poor thing was in dire need of a few coats. In high school I was painting my nails and set my soaked cottonball on the table. Needless to say, it left me a nice paint void reminder so I'd never forget! 

After the primer came my roasted pepper red color from my old apartment. It always pays to save those remnants! I decided to keep things simple and paint a portion of the trim around the top of the cabinet and the inlay portion on the front of the cabinet drawer. 

The simple addition of color made all the difference! It looks fantastic, and magically matches the color scheme I picked for my bathroom. 

Sometimes all a piece of old, slightly sad furniture needs is a bit of attention. It can make a world of difference! 

Thursday, August 9, 2012

homemade samoas

Homemade samoas. Let's have a collective "yum." Yum. 

It all began when I entered a contest to win some products from Bob's Red Mill from a blog I read often, Design, Dining, and Diapers. I happened to win, and soon after received this lovely box in the mail. Thanks Taryn!

1 bag of gluten free shortbread cookie mix! Now the question was, what to make? I've used some other Bob's Red Mill products, but never this mix. I've also never done anything gluten free. 

I brainstormed, consulted my other half who would be eating whatever I created, and decided to make homemade samoas, our all-time favorite Girl Scout cookie. Almost every one I know favors Thin Mints, but we both always favored Samoas growing up. I think we were meant to be. And this homemade version? Probably much cheaper and we can have them year round. :) 

The process is a bit lengthy, but worth it. Oh so worth it. Who doesn't love a buttery cookie with chocolate and gooey caramel with flavorful bites of toasted coconut?

Here's how I did it.

Homemade Samoas (approx. 40-45 cookies)

What You Need:
1 package of Bob's Red Mill GF shortbread cookie mix (or your own favorite shortbread cookie recipe)
1/2 package of unsweetened coconut flakes, toasted
1/2 package of caramels (I used Kraft caramel bits), melted
1/2 package of semi-sweet chocolate chips, melted with a bit of butter added


With this recipe, you've got the shortbread cookie base to worry about and then the add-ons.

To start, I toasted up half a bag of coconut flakes. Heat the oven to 300 degrees F, empty half the contents of the bag onto a baking sheet, and pop in the oven for an hour. Do this while you're working on the shortbread cookies. When it's finished, set it aside.

Back to the cookies. I utilized this awesome mix, and it was a lifesaver! I followed the directions on the bag exactly, except added an extra tablespoon of water to make the mix not as dry. 

I rolled the dough out (the thinner the better I think), used a circle cookie cutter, and made a ton of cookies. I made the customary center circle cut-out, although with all the added toppings you couldn't see them very well! You could skip this step, make the circles after you add the topping, or carefully apply the topping so you can see the centers. I got carried away with the topping, and I don't regret it one bit. Oh well little circles. 

As I said, this mix was easy and tasted quite good! It was nice to use a mix and not have to worry too much about that part of the process. After making and baking the mix according to package instructions, take cookies off the baking sheet and let cool on a wire rack. 

Here comes the fun, messy, and rewarding part of this process: making these shortbread cookies into samoas. 

Take half the bag of caramels and melt in the microwave. As I used caramel bits, the time in the microwave was minimal, as they melted quick! I'd do 30 second intervals, and stir until smooth. Once smooth, add all that amazing toasted coconut to the bowl and mix well with a spatula. 

I took my cookie sheet, covered it in wax paper, and topped away! Top each cookie with 2-3 tablespoons of the caramel/coconut mixture. I used a large dinner spoon and this seemed to work well. Be careful-- this caramel/coconut mixture is hot! 

If the mixture becomes hard to work with, pop it into the microwave for a little bit to loosen things up and get things back to being easily spreadable. 

Let the cookies sit with the caramel/coconut mixture so it hardens a bit. If you want to speed up the process, pop the sheet into the fridge for a few minutes. 

While the topping hardens, the chocolate makes its debut. Melt half the bag of chocolate chips. My method was with the microwave and using a bit of butter to make things thinner. You want the chocolate in a consistency that where you can easily dip the bottoms of the cookies in.

Once the chocolate is ready and melted in its bowl, take out all those cookies. I just used my hands to hold the cookie around the edges, and then I dipped! It's as easy as that. You could let the chocolate harden with the cookies face up or face down. I found the chocolate on the wax paper was too much, and found greater success with the chocolate facing upwards instead of directly on the wax paper. 

I popped mine in the fridge again. I was anxiously awaiting my chance to eat these bad boys. Once everything is set, there is one last step. Melt a little more chocolate, fill a ziploc bag, and cut the corner. Use your little piping creation to drizzle the melted chocolate all over the tops of these little treats. 

Cookies complete. I'm not going to lie--it's a lot of steps. A bit of work, but when you eat one (or three), you'll think "job well done". 

Job well done indeed. I kept these in a tupperware container in the fridge, and they've kept well.

Now the real question arises: are they better than the Girl Scout Samoas? They aren't the same, but I love them because of what they are---homemade! You have control over the size of the cookie, the amount of topping you want, and how much chocolate-to-topping ratio you enjoy. (We determined lots of topping with minimal chocolate!)

I think they are amazing. Paired with a glass of milk, it makes me feel fulfilled. A time of joy and happiness, all thanks to a bit of shortbread, a heaping helping of caramel and coconut, and a smear and drizzle of chocolate. 

Buon appetito! 

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

closet doors: from drab to fab

Our apartment in Chicago is cute and quaint--perfect to start with after relocating to the city.

One plus is we have tons of closet space...a front closet, a linen closet, a large "storage" closet, and an entire wall of closets in the bedroom. While this is fabulous (it truly is--I have a lot of stuff!), the entire wall of closets in the bedroom is quite blah.

Witness it here:

The closets are awesome, but the view of the entire wall is not. 

Enter project: closet doors: from drab to fab. I mentioned hanging ribbon from each door to Jacob and he suggested using fabric. This was a perfect idea, because I bought royal blue fabric a long time ago in hopes of using it for pillows or something. (Royal blue is one of our original and continuing bedroom colors.) That clearly never happened, so fabric it was!

Let's set the mood:

Sleepless in Seattle. I had a Nora Ephron movie marathon day when she passed.

I gathered what little supplies I needed. And everything I needed I had on hand, making this a free project.

What You Need:
Large ruler
Writing utensil (like a scrapbooking marker)
Fabric (hello, royal blue!)

I took the remnant of fabric I had and measured what it was. I had 8 doors to do, and the piece was around 18 inches, so 2 inches in width per strip would do. I marked it out, drew some lines, and snipped away. 

Next came the fun part--actually putting them in the door slats. I did one at a time. I fed the top of the fabric strip into the slat, reached around the other side, and made a "knot" in the fabric to hold it. I did this to each of the doors before tucking the bottom of the fabric strip into the bottom slat. 

The finished look: 

I like how it looks! The bits of color break up a rather large blah wall, so I can't complain. Jacob has made the suggestion to add buttons down them, which sounds intriguing. The other colors in our room are cream, black, and silver, so I think these closets are about to get even more fabulous.