Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Lots of Random Things

I've been a bad blogger yet again, it's been over 2 weeks since I last posted. To be completely honest, there just hasn't been much going on worth writing about until this past weekend.

To start, it's finally spring here in Chicago. This is always good news and I am glad to finally be able to wear skirts and flip flops again. Hopefully this weather is here to stay. I wish we had this kind of weather when newlywed friends AH and BH were in town last weekend.

I'm now obsessed with Lands End Canvas. I've always been a fan of Lands End -- my mom used to buy me the kids stuff when I was little. She's always ordered cashmere and swimwear from there. I've always been a fan of the cashmere and thought the quality was fantastic but thought the other clothing was a little to momish. I was very surprised to discover the Canvas line which is very similar to J.Crew but half the price and better quality. The bf got me their heritage cardigan (monogrammed nonetheless) for my birthday and I LOVE it! I think the fit is better than the J.Crew Jackie cardigan and the quality is great (all for $39.50 plus $5 for the monogram but the bf had a 20% off with free shipping coupon).

My birthday was this past weekend and it was a great birthday, very low key which is what I wanted. Besides the aforementioned cardigan the bf also took me on a $20 shopping spree at the Salvation Army. Ended up getting a suit and two Ralph Lauren polo shirts.

Celebrated my birthday with friends at Dicks Last Resort on the Chicago River. We had a great time; Dicks is super touristy but it brought back really fun memories from Myrtle Beach in high school. After dinner we all went back to the bf and my place for drinks and desert; I made an awesome hot fudge cake that is not only delicious but super easy as well (see recipe below).

I think that's about all for now, except for the hot fudge cake recipe -- Enjoy!

Easy Hot Fudge Cake:
3 tablespoons cocoa powder
1 stick melted butter
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 eggs
1/2 cup all purpose flour
1/4 cup boiling water (add last)
Preheat oven to 425. In a medium size bowl add all dry ingredients. Mix well. Add the eggs. Mix well. Add the melted butter. Mix well. Finally, add the boiling water.
Pour all ingredients into a baking dish. Bake for 8 to 20 minutes (depending on your oven -- my 425 isn't a hot 425; temps will vary). The center of the cake should still be runny (this will be the sauce).
Spoon into bowls and top with vanilla ice cream.
Optional: you can bake the cake in individual ramekins (like the ones used for individual chicken pot pies) to make the cake seem a little more fancy pants. This will reduce baking time to probably closer to 8 minutes.
Optional: you can drizzle the pieces of cake (or the ramekins) with Kahlua before topping with vanilla ice cream as another fancy pants option.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Another Quickie

Get your minds out of the gutter, it's not that kind of quickie! Ha ha! Since starting my new job, I've had a few really long days and it appears that my normal day is going to be around 10 hours. Very good scheduling plus some quick and easy dinners are going to become a necessity so that I'm able to maintain a somewhat normal existence. On a brighter note, I got another great suit from Goodwill today (well shopgoodwill.com to be exact).

Tonight's dinner is one of the best that I've made in a very long time. I have to thank my go to cookbook, Reader's Digest Quick and Thrifty Cooking, for the inspiration for this dish. Not only was it delicious but it was simple and just a little bit different. As an added note this is a great one to make with the special someone else in your life as both dishes take about the same time to make. I also love the title to this dish in the cookbook--Chicken Scallops in Marsala--what a retro title!

Modern Chicken Scallops in Marsala
1 package chicken tenders
1/2 cup all purpose flour
1 teaspoon of the following: salt, pepper, granulated garlic, Emeril's Essence (or Adobo seasoning)
2-3 tablespoons olive oil
1 small onion minced
1 clove garlic minced
1/3 cup Marsala wine (or vermouth)
1-2 tablespoons butter
2 teaspoons each: salt, pepper + more to taste
2 sprigs fresh basil rolled and chopped into ribbons
handful of frozen peas
splash of milk or cream (optional)
Preheat large nonstick skillet or braiser over med. low heat. Mix flour, 1 tsp. salt, pepper, granulated garlic and essence. Pound out chicken until about 1/2 thick. Dredge chicken in the flour mixture. Add olive oil to skillet and increase heat to medium. Add the chicken cooking 2 minutes on one side then turn and cook 2 minutes on other side. Remove from pan.
Reduce heat of skillet. Add the onion and garlic. Season with 2 tsp. salt and pepper. Add the Marsala. Stir well and bring to rapid boil. Add the butter. Allow to melt. Bring back to a boil and reduce heat. Add a splash of milk if you'd like. Return the chicken to the pan. Turn chicken to make sure it is coated in the sauce. Add the frozen peas and basil. Stir.
Serve with garlic mashed potatoes (see my previous post for recipe).
P.S. If making this with your special someone, have him make the mashed potatoes.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Easy Weeknight Dinner

I have to admit this is one of my favorite more recent recipes so I'm very excited to post it. It literally took 20 minutes to make and there were tons of leftovers for lunch the next day. Also, I am completely in love with the refrigerated tortellini from Costco which inspired this menu.

Tortellini with Tomato Cream Sauce:
1 package refrigerated tortellini
1 can tomato paste
1 onion minced
2 cloves garlic minced
1 can evaporated milk
1 tablespoon each: pepper, Italian Seasoning, granulated garlic
1 teaspoon each: Emeril's Essence, salt
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon flour

Bring a medium size pot of water to a boil. Add the tortellini.

While waiting for the water to boil in a large dutch oven or nonstick skillet heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the garlic and onion and soften. Then add the tomato paste, granulated garlic, salt, pepper, Italian seasoning, Emeril's Essence. Mix well and let the tomato paste melt. Add the butter and the flour. Stir well. Reduce heat to medium low. Add the evaporated milk. Stir well. Add the cheese. Reduce heat to low.

Once the tortellini has finished cooking (it will float to the top of the pot when it is ready) drain reserving 1/2 cup of the pasta water. Add the pasta water to the cream sauce to loosen it a little bit. Stir well.

Add the tortellini to the sauce and toss well. If you've got some on hand, add some frozen peas or shredded rotisserie chicken. Top with additional Parmesan cheese serve and enjoy!

Happy Hump Day!

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

New job = New clothes

Since my new job's dress code is business professional, I've definitely had to do a bit of shopping in order to round out my big girl wardrobe. I've actually had to pick up more stuff that I originally anticipated because my wardrobe is certainly more business casual than business professional because every office I've ever worked in has been more relaxed.

Of course I thought I'd share some of my recent purchases with all of you since true to form, they are all thrifty purchases.

Upon getting the offer my first stop, shopping wise was to my tailor in order to have two thrift store suits altered to fit me perfectly. One of these suits was the aforementioned Armani suit which I purchased at the thrift store near my gym.

As usual, my second stop was at the Salvation Army. While I didn't find any good suiting on this trip (will go back this week to see if they have anything new) I did find some great layering pieces! I got another Armani jacket, a cute Ann Taylor button down, 2 Banana Republic blouses, and a Michael Kors trench coat. All for $23. Exciting I know.

I also made use of my discount at the retail store that I'm currently working at and purchased some great dressy t-shirts in jewel tones and a great black cotton pencil skirt to pair with a black blazer that I already own.

Finally, I'm a little obsessed with Target's work pieces right now. Last night when I went to pick up cat food I ended up picking up one of their layering shells and the cutest orange and white pencil skirt. I'm definitely going back to pick up some more basics once I get my first big girl paycheck.

Monday, April 5, 2010

It's been a long long time

I owe all of you a huge I'm sorry for being away for so long! My absence, while inexcusable, was for a reason. You see my fellow readers, March was a very rough month for me -- the job search finally got the best of me and to be completely frank, I was not in a great place mentally. Because of my foul disposition, I decided to take a break from the blogging world so as not to bore all of you with my woes.

Anyway, now that spring is officially here my mood has lifted and I have great news -- I am now gainfully employed (which had A LOT to do with the lifting of my mood).

I am still planning on finding time to post yummy yet cheap and fast recipes so do keep reading! In the meantime, happy spring/baseball season all!

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Thrift Shopping Post # I'm not sure

I realize that I post about going to the thrift store as much as I post about food. I actually wasn't planning on going to the thrift store this weekend but one of my best friends SNR is in town and she wanted to check out my Chicago thrift store finds. While today was a bit of a dry run, I did come away with a new black polo from a consignment shop for $9. Not bad considering that I needed a new black polo anyway.

Anywhoo, I thought I'd share some of my best thrift shopping advice with you today. Because thrift shopping often includes digging through piles of clothing and not so organized racks of clothing what you wear can make or break a good day at the thrift store. Thanks to Polyvore I put together what I wore today and will attempt to explain why I think today's outfit choice is the best type of thing to wear.

As you can tell I went for comfort. As you can see I chose to wear my Wallabees because they are both comfortable and warm. Comfortable shoes are a necessity when thrift shopping because you don't know how long you will be on your feet. You can also see that I'm wearing a simple sweater and jeans combo -- again comfort is key and since many thrift stores do not have fitting rooms wearing a sweater with a cami underneath allows you to try on things like jackets and tops with relative ease. My purse is also a key choice -- you want something with a shoulder strap so you can have free hands for digging. This is the most important thing to remember. I also chose a lighter coat that wasn't too bulky to carry or wear while shopping.

So there it is, my thrift shopping advice from today. I hope everyone is having a very nice weekend!

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Valentine's Day/Weekend Recap

The bf and I celebrated Valentine's Day on Friday this year, mostly because one of my favorite artists, Robert Earl Keen, played at a club here in Chicago on Friday. The concert was amazing and as usual the bf knocked it out of the park in terms of making Valentine's Day special and not overly mushy/romantic (see previous post as to why).

Since we celebrated on Friday, we stayed home and watched the Olympics and did housework on Valentine's Day (which suited me just fine). Anyway, we had a great day and I made a special dinner that we ate while we watched even more of the Olympics (we're a bit obsessed). Because I wanted to make a special dinner, of course I needed to run to my local Aldi to pick up a few things and I'm glad I did for two reasons: (1) avocados were on sale for $0.25 each and (2) they had a large supply of roses ($3.99 for 6) so I picked up a dozen for myself and was entertained by all of the freaked out boyfriends/husbands doing extremely last minute shopping.

While I did want to make something special for Valentine's Day dinner, I didn't want to spend all night in the kitchen so I made one of my "steakhouse" meals that look super fancy but are quick and easy to make. We enjoyed a meal of fresh made guacamole as an appetizer, takeout sauce steak, cheesy garlic mashed potatoes and sauteed zucchini and onions.

Easy Guacamole
2 ripe avocados
1/2 small onion minced
1 handful fresh cilantro chopped
1 clove garlic chopped
juice of 1 lime
1 teaspoon each: pepper, granulated garlic, Emeril's Essence, chili powder
1/4 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
2 teaspoons salt
2 tablespoons salsa
Add the onions, garlic, cilantro, salsa and spices to a small bowl. Mix well. Add the avocado (I cut mine in half and then score them while they are still in the shell and scoop out the already chopped avocado) to the bowl. Mash up and mix with the existing ingredients. Now add the lime juice. Stir well, chill for a few minutes and serve with tortilla chips.
Take Out Sauce Steak
1 med. to large piece of top sirloin steak (or other inexpensive cut of steak)
1 med. to small container take out red sauce (either pizza or marinara -- whatever they serve with garlic bread)
1 small container take out salsa
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
2 tablespoons tonic water
1/4 cup red wine
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons each: steak seasoning, granulated garlic
1 tablespoon each: pepper, Emeril's essence
Mix all ingredients (except steak) in a gallon size food storage bag. Add steak. Marinate for a few hours. Grill to desired level of doneness. Make sure to allow the steak to rest before slicing.
Cheesy Garlic Mashed Potatoes
1 lb potatoes (I used red)
1/2 cup shredded cheese
1/2 milk and/or sour cream + more if you like your potatoes creamy
2 tablespoons butter
2-3 tablespoons granulated garlic
salt, pepper and Essence to taste
Boil potatoes. Drain and return to pan. Add butter, milk, cheese, garlic, salt and pepper. Mash with potato masher or electric mixer. Taste and adjust seasonings.
Sauteed Zucchini and Onions
2 med. zucchini sliced
1 med. onion chopped
2 tablespoons olive oil
salt, pepper, granulated garlic and Essence to taste
Heat oil over med. high heat. Add zucchini and onions. Add spices. Saute for a few minutes (don't turn too much so that the zucchini will brown a little bit).
For desert I served slice and bake cookies. I don't make desert since it usually turns into a disaster.
As a side note, I realize the steak marinade sounds really weird (trust me, the bf definitely asked me what I was thinking when I created it) but I promise that it gives the steak a great flavor and is actually quite subtle. Also, you should serve the wine you use in the marinade with dinner, I did and it definitely enhanced the flavor of the steak.
I hope everyone had a nice Valentine's Day weekend!