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!

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Book Review

One of the best things about not having to drive to work anymore is the fact that I now have extra time during the day to read. I've actually read some pretty good books lately during my daily commute and thought I'd share some of my recommendations with all of you.

Before I do so, I must give you a bit of a disclaimer -- I really dislike chick lit. Seriously, I'd rather stab myself in the eye than read anything by Nicholas Sparks. It's just not my style, not that I judge any of you Nicholas Sparks fans out there. For those of you who know me this comes as no surprise since there isn't a romantic bone in my body -- all of that mushy crap just makes me uncomfortable and fills me with a need to incessantly mock any attempts at it. My poor boyfriend I know. Therefore, keep that in mind when I mention my book selections.

Also, these are my recent reads and they are listed in the order in which I read them not by how much I liked them.

The Zookeeper's Wife by Diane Ackerman
I actually read this one in the early fall. If you love WWII history especially the Nazi occupation part and the Holocaust you will really enjoy this book. It is based on a true story about the wife of the Warsaw Zookeeper and how the zookeeper and his wife were able to hide Jews in plain sight in the zoo during the Nazi occupation of Poland. I honestly couldn't put this book down, I found the story fascinating and was filled with admiration for the main character as she and her family put their lives in danger to save the lives of others.

The Greatest Generation by Tom Brokaw
Another great WWII read. Written in 1998, Tom Brokaw does a great job in telling the stories of a few of the Americans who served in WWII. I thought he did a great job showing how the war affected both average Americans and those who became superstars alike. Also, the layout of the book is very conducive to train reading as it is more of a collection of profiles than a history book. As a side note, if you can't tell, I'm a little into WWII.

Friday Night Lights by H.G. Bissinger
I'm sure you are noticing a nonfiction theme here. What can I say, I like nonfiction. Plus I really liked the movie. I still can't believe that both the movie Friday Night Lights and the movie Varsity Blues are based on this book. Again, I thought this book was great, Bissinger really captured the essence of small town high school football mania.

I Hope They Serve Beer in Hell by Tucker Max
One word - HILARIOUS. I've heard the movie sucks, haven't seen it yet and not sure if I want to (although I do think that Logan from Gilmore Girls is super hot so I may see it anyway). Anyway, I started this one today and thought it was so funny that I was actually laughing out loud on the train (yep I was that girl). I know a lot of people think that Max is an asshole and found the book offensive; however, I find the offensiveness charming and funny. Plus I've totally dated that type of guy which makes it even funnier.

Do you have any good suggestions?

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Party Snacks are Here!

I planned on posting this recipe yesterday but was busier than planned so it didn't happen. Anyway, this snack is a great use up for the oven braised chicken I made last week (see previous post). It is also a healthier alternative to the fried version of one of my all time favorite snack items -- taquitos.

Anyway, without further adieu... my oven taquito recipe.

Oven Taquitos
6 corn tortillas
Shredded Mexican cheese blend
Stewed chicken (or leftover braised chicken)
Nonstick cooking spray
Preheat oven to 425. Heat tortillas in microwave for 15 seconds (they need to be soft, it makes it easier to roll up). Fill the heated tortilla with cheese and chicken. Roll up rather tightly and place seam side down in a baking dish that has been sprayed with nonstick cooking spray.
Once all of the taquitos have been placed in the baking dish spray the top with nonstick cooking spray.
Bake until golden brown. Serve with salsa and sour cream if you'd like.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Here's to new thrift stores

The bf and I had a "Katie Day" today, meaning that he tagged along as I did whatever I wanted. Essentially this means that we checked out a new thrift store that I discovered while walking from my gym to the train.

I'm certainly glad we checked out the shop. Why you may ask? Well, because I found a lovely charcoal grey Armani suit for $20. yes you read that correctly, an Armani suit for $20. Now I'm not going to lie, the suit definitely needs to be cleaned and it also needs to be taken in, but the suit is in great condition and it's not straight out of the 1980's. It is a classically tailored 3 button pinstripe skirt suit.

Besides the Armani suit, my trip to the thrift store also lead my to their sister store in which everything in the store is $3. At this stop I ended up with a pair of Citizens of Humanity jeans, a pair of Seven for All Mankind jeans and a pair of Juicy sweats. Not bad for $9 if I do say so myself.

I hope everyone is having a nice weekend!

Friday, February 5, 2010

Today's Rachael Ray

I'm sitting here watching Rachael Ray's human experiment talking about non-surgical ways to increase breast size and it makes me wonder about why we have this stigma against the surgical option in this situation.

Just as a warning some of you may disagree with my opinions on this topic especially since there appears to be such a negative public opinion on the topic but to be honest, I think that public opinion is crap. Granted there are extreme cases (Pamela Anderson, Heidi Montag I'm talking to you) where women go too far or exercise their surgical option for the wrong reasons. I am absolutely against getting the surgery because some guy told you to do it. I am also absolutely against getting implants that make you look like a circus freak.

What bothers me is the negative stigma against women who get breast implants for the right reasons and do so tastefully. I know several women who decided to get breast implants to make themselves look better in their own eyes. Most went from a small A cup to a big B cup or a small C cup. They look proportional and because of the added confidence they seem to be happier and more confident. Sure there are risks, it is surgery and yes implants can rupture but instances of that are rare. Also, most of the women that I know who have gotten implants have really done their research in terms of the surgeon they use -- after all these are smart, educated, and successful women who had surgery to make themselves more confident.

I guess what my real rant here is that the media never does a story on these women. All we hear about are the negatives associated with the surgery. But really, is wearing a hard plastic device for 10+ hours a day in order to increase breast size that much less extreme? I just find it annoying that the media can't show a balanced segement on the topic.

What are your thoughts on the topic?

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Crappy weather = cozy food

Another lovely winter day here in Chicago, but the snow is really pretty -- the kind with the giant snowflakes. I've been a little absent lately mostly because the power cord on my laptop decided to crap out so I have to hold it in so that my battery will charge enough for me to use my computer.

Tonight's dinner all came from my most recent trip to Aldi, Winking Owl wine included (a steal at $2.99). I'm not sure what to call this meal, it's kind of a mix between coq au vin and chicken cacciatore and super easy and cheap to make (but doesn't look it of course). Anyway my special oven braised chicken recipe follows. I used chicken thighs for this dish because it doesn't try out like boneless skinless chicken breasts do, plus it was cheaper.

Katie's Oven Braised Chicken
1 package bone in chicken thighs
3 slices bacon chopped
2 carrots chopped
1 stalk celery chopped
1 clove garlic minced
1 onion minced
frozen peas
1 can tomato paste
2 cups red wine
1 cup tonic water
1/2 cup water
2 tablespoons each: granulated garlic, Emeril's essence, basil, pepper
1 tablespoon salt
1 tablespoon flour
1/2 cup flour
1 tablespoon each: pepper, essence, granulated garlic, steak seasoning
Preheat oven to 325. In a large brassier or dutch oven heat 2 tablespoons olive oil over med. heat on the stove top. Add the bacon. While the bacon cooks mix the 1/2 cup flour and the 1 tablespoon pepper, essence, granulated garlic and steak seasoning. Dredge the chicken in the flour mixture. Add to the brassier. Brown on each side then remove the chicken from the pan and set aside.
Add 1 tablespoon flour to the brassier. Stir well then add the carrots, onions, garlic and celery. Add the tomato paste. Mix well. Add the wine to deglaze the pan. Now add the tonic water and the water. Add some more water if the sauce is thick. Return the chicken to the pan.
Cover the brassier and put in the oven. Bake for 1 hour. Remove and turn the chicken. Bake for another hour. Again, remove and turn the chicken and bake for a 3rd hour. Add some frozen peas just prior to serving.
Top with green onions if you'd like and serve with mashed potatoes or buttered noodles.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Great way to save money

As all of my followers know, I'm definitely thrifty in other areas of my life besides food. I think this is in part due to being a student for so long. Anyway, I have discovered a fantastic new way to save some money that I thought I would share with all of you.

One of the bad things about moving to Chicago was the fact that I had to leave my long time hairstylist behind. As you can imagine, finding a new stylist can be fairly traumatic as can spending $50+ on a bad haircut. Here's where my tip come in and no this does not include going to Supercuts. Both of my Chicago haircuts have been at high end salons and have included both a wash and a style and have only cost me a tip. How so you may ask? Well, thanks to Craigs List I have been able to connect with stylists in advanced training. Usually I'll answer an add for an advertised haircut that they stylist is learning that I want and we set up a time. The cut is free but I usually look up the going rate for a cut at the particular salon and will tip according to that price.

Anyway, this is a great way to treat yourself to a nice haircut/salon experience if you are on a tight budget. It's also a great way to try out different stylists if you are looking for a new one.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Low-fat and yummy!

In honor of my new found love for working out (and the looming bathing suit/wedding season) I've been cooking much healthier. Last night's dinner was perhaps one of my better achievements in this category. I made Asian style pasta with chicken and tons of veggies. As an added bonus it was also super quick to make. Since I marinated the chicken in a diet tonic water mixture I've named this dish Asian Tonic Pasta.

Asian Tonic Pasta:
For the Marinade:
1/4 cup diet tonic water
2 tablespoons each: soy sauce, teriyaki sauce
2 tablespoons each: pepper, granulated garlic
1 tablespoon each: Emeril's essence, lemon pepper seasoning
1 package boneless skinless chicken breast

Mix all the ingredients (except the chicken) in a large food storage bag. Mix well then add the chicken. Make sure the chicken is coated. Place in fridge and allow to marinate for as long as you'd like (mine marinated while I was at the gym).

For the Pasta:
1/2 lb spaghetti noodles
1 1/2 cup frozen stir fry mix vegetables
2 tablespoons each: teriyaki sauce and soy sauce
1 tablespoon each: Emeril's essence, lemon pepper seasoning, basil
2 tablespoons each: pepper, granulated garlic
marinated chicken

In a large pot bring salted water to a boil. Add the pasta. In a large wok heat 2 tablespoons of vegetable (or other light colored oil) over med. high heat. Slice the chicken into thin slices. Add to the wok. Cook the chicken until it starts to brown. Add the vegetables. Cook stirring frequently until the vegetables are cooked but still crisp. Now add the teriyaki sauce, soy sauce and all of the spices. Coat the chicken and vegetables well. When the pasta is finished cooking drain and add to the chicken mixture. Toss well and top with a little more pepper if you'd like.

Wait a few minutes before serving so that the pasta can absorb some of the sauce.


Saturday, January 16, 2010

Too Funny!

For your viewing pleasure, Little Jersey Shore. I saw this posted on Perez and had to share it with all of you. Little Snooki and the Situation are dead on! Enjoy!

Friday, January 15, 2010

My Two Cents

As all of you sports fans are probably aware, Lane Kiffin in his most mature move yet left my beloved Vols to become head coach at USC. My response -- good riddance, have fun on NCAA probation with an increasingly mediocre program.

In my opinion it is not Kiffin who is the problem although he does make a great scapegoat. Tennessee's athletic director, Mike Hamilton, is the one who needs to be tarred, feathered and run out of town. Hamilton is the one who was behind Tennessee's former coach Phillip Fulmer departure from the program after 17 seasons (only two of which were losing seasons I might add). Hamilton was also the one behind Kiffin's hire against the better judgment of most. Al Davis may have a few screws lose but everyone is right sometimes, and folks Davis was right about Kiffin.

When you look at Fulmer's record there isn't really much to complain about -- 2 SEC championships, 1 National championship, consistently in the top 25. Sure he had two losing seasons but one of those seasons came just a year after ending up 12 nationally and playing in a very tough SEC Championship game against the eventual national title winner LSU. Fulmer's last losing season the team ended up 6-7. That's just one game below .500. That is also just two wins less that almighty Kiffin had this past year with a seasoned team.

Kiffin has a 7-6 record and has completely destroyed the Vol football program for the next season. Mike Hamilton I ask you, was it worth it? Was it really the losing season or did you just want a flashier head coach who would keep Tennessee's name in the media? I mean Kiffin certainly kept Tennessee's name in the press but for all the wrong reasons. I am inclined to think that it was the latter and unfortunately this gamble has come back to bite you in the ass.

If anything, Hamilton is the one who should receive the majority of Vol fan's angst. He is the one who should be fired. In order for the TN football program to rebuild, Hamilton needs to be let go immediately and someone dedicated to the University like Fulmer should be hired as athletic director and someone new should be hired as head coach.

So there it is, my two cents.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

New Years Resolution Help

Since it's very likely that the bf and I will be attending at least 2 wedding this year (last year it was 4, all of which at least one of us was in), I've decided to finally commit to losing the weight I gained while in law school.

Now I make this resolution every year and don't always keep it, but this year I've set my self up for success by using methods that have helped me successfully lose weight in the past. Also the sight of myself in pictures has gotten downright pathetic so that's also incentive.

I've decided to share some of my weight loss tips with the hopes of learning some of yours. First and foremost, I've made the commitment to cook healthier -- limit my butter intake and cook at home more where I can control the calorie content. Second, I finally found a gym in Chicago that I really like. I joined the Lakeview YMCA yesterday and love it (which is not surprising since I also loved my YMCA in Winston-Salem).

Now that I've gotten to the two biggies out of the way I thought I'd share some other tips that I've always found helpful when trying to lose weight. My first step was to create weight spreadsheet in Excel. Every morning before I get in the shower I weigh myself and log it in the spreadsheet. At the end of the week I log how much weight I've lost (or gained). I also had the bf take a picture of me in a bathing suit that used to fit me perfectly. The pictures will be updated every two weeks so that I've got a visual of my progress.

Finally, my favorite weight loss tip -- caloriecount.about.com. This is the best website, it allows you to log your daily calories, exercise, and weight, create daily calorie goals and weight loss goals. This is a great tool since most common foods are in its database so logging what you eat is super easy. It also grades each food that you eat and you can create a report/analysis of your food choices to see the breakdown of fat, carbs, protein, etc. in your diet. I also love the weight loss coach that tells you how you are doing!

So there are a few of my weight loss tips. What are yours?

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Such Crap!

Dear Lane Kiffin,

You are a giant douche. You have no class. There is a reason your reputation sucks. You are a self serving opportunistic asshole.



Monday, January 11, 2010

Back to doing what I do best

As always, the bf and I made resolutions to lose weight this year which of course means cooking at home a lot more. It also means that I will be getting much more creative in what I prepare.

After my Aldi run today produced some pretty great stew beef, I created an oven beef stew that is not only super yummy but also easy and waistline friendly (i.e. I made with with no butter and only 4 tablespoons of olive oil which is heart healthy). As a side note, this meal is also super cheap to prepare, especially since you can get away with a cheaper cut of meat (again just make sure there is some fat in the meat so that it does not dry out).

This recipe also introduces one of my favorite go to pots, my Le Creuset Braiser (which I found at Goodwill for $10). Besides my dutch oven, my braiser is one of my go to pieces of cookware -- it works well as a large skillet and also as bakeware.

Oven Beef Stew with Cola
1 package beef stew meat (choose a cut with a little bit of fat)
2 stalks celery
2 onions chopped
2 cloves garlic chopped
5 small potatoes chopped
1 6oz can tomato paste
2 tablespoons each: Worcestershire sauce, teriyaki sauce
6 oz cola (you can just fill the empty tomato paste can)
2 tablespoons plus 3 tablespoons flour
1 tablespoon steak seasoning
1 teaspoon + 2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon + 1 tablespoon each: granulated garlic, Emeril's essence, pepper
1 tablespoon each: basil, Italian seasoning, sage
1 bay leaf
2 tablespoons olive oil + 2 tablespoons
2 slices bacon chopped
Frozen peas
Water (up to 2 cups)

Preheat oven to 450. In a large dutch oven or braiser cook the bacon until crisp. While the bacon cooks, mix the 2 tablespoons of flour (plus a little more if necessary) with the steak seasoning, 1 teaspoon salt, granulated garlic, essence and pepper. Coat the stew beef in the flour mixture.

Add 2 tablespoons of olive oil to the pan with the bacon. Add the coated stew beef. Cook for a minute or two until the beef starts to brown. Add the rest of the olive oil and the 3 tablespoons flour. Stir well. Place the pan in the oven for 4 minutes. After the 4 minutes stir well and return to oven for another 4 minutes.

While the beef cooks in the oven, chop the onions, celery, garlic and potatoes (you may also add 1 chopped carrot). Remove the beef mixture from the oven and place on the stove over med. low heat. Reduce oven heat to 325. Add a bit more olive oil if necessary. Now add the celery, garlic, carrot and onion. Stir well and cook until the vegetables begin to soften. Add the tomato paste, reserving can and allow melt. Now add the Worcestershire sauce and teriyaki sauce. Stir well and fill the tomato paste can with cola (regular or diet). Add this to the pan and stir well. Make sure the tomato paste is completely dissolved.

Now fill the tomato paste can with water. Add to the pan. Add the potatoes and stir well. Add 2 more cans of water. Stir well and add the Italian seasoning, basil, bay leaf, sage and, the rest of the salt, pepper, granulated garlic and essence. Stir well. Bring to a simmer and return to the 325 oven.

Cook for one hour. Remove from oven and stir well. Return to oven for another hour. Stir well and check the potatoes for doneness. If the potatoes are not fork tender return to the oven for another 15 to 30 minutes or until the potatoes are fork tender. You may also need to add additional cans of water when you check the stew. Add a handful or two of frozen peas just before serving.

Serve with crusty bread and salad. Top with a little bit of sour cream and green onions if you like.


Friday, January 8, 2010

Let it snow!

While many of my fellow Chicago residents may disagree with me, I absolutely love the snow. This morning when I took Ms. Paddy for her morning walk I was able to take in our most recent snowfall in its undisturbed glory.. So peaceful, just Paddy and I and the sound of snow crushing underneath our feet (and you can imagine how early I had to get up to enjoy this, but it was totally worth it).

Anyway, this is more of a thrifty finds part deux since I took a short trip to the Salvation Army yesterday. Of my more notable (only) finds were two pencil skirts which I will use to illustrate one of the most important parts of thrifting -- you have to have an imagination. This was especially true for me yesterday since I was on a mission to find colorful pencil skirts (like the ones J.Crew had this fall). I was in luck, I found two -- one is from J.Crew about a season ago but it is 3 sizes too big; the other is a really pretty purple tweed with a waist that is straight out of Working Girl. Never fear, I've got a great dry cleaner who also does alterations. All the purple skirt needs is to be hemmed (easy enough) and to have to buttons moved over slightly to give the skirt a lower waistband. The J.Crew one will be a little harder but not much, only 1 inch taken in per side and hemmed. Although I will probably pay around $30 in alterations, that plus the $6 I spent on the two items is still only about 1/4 of the price of my inspiration skirt at J.Crew.

Finally, and the most exciting news of the day, apparently DJ Pauly D will be DJing a set at a bar here in Chicago in February with JWoww and the Situation making an appearance. I'm so there.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Thrifty finds winter addition

I'm very happy to report that I've finally found a thrift store I like here in Chicago (I've also found a consignment shop)! As you can imagine, I'm super excited about both finds.

I actually found the thrift store accidentally -- I was running errands and saw a Salvation Army thrift store next to Jewel and decided to check it out. I was skeptical at first since it has been my experience that Salvation Army thrift stores usually aren't that great; however, I was pleasantly surprised when I discovered this gem.

My first stop came up a little dry, but I really lucked out on my second and third visits. My second visit stemmed from a conversation with my mom regarding winter boots. Since moving to Chicago in May my mom has been pretty insistent that I purchase a heavy winter coat and warm boots (aka Uggs). I, of course, resisted at first, but ended up with a beautiful coat but still wouldn't let her talk me into the Uggs. You see, I really hate Uggs because living in the south for all of my life my only exposure to the boot was that horrible miniskirt/Ugg trend. However, on one of those balmy Chicago winter days where there was no snow on the ground (so I couldn't wear rainboots with wool socks) I wore only my dress shoes with trouser socks; I then realized that my mom was right -- I needed a pair of winter boots. I was going to purchase the Ugg type shoe at Target or Wal-Mart -- after all I would only wear them too and from the train, but my mom insisted that I purchase the Uggs. Long story short, in order to make my mom happy and also not spend $150 I decided to see what the Salvation Army had.

My trip to the Salvation Army not only procured me a pair of gently used Uggs (which I promptly cleaned and sanitized) but 3 cashmere sweaters, a scarf, and a pair of Marc Jacobs corduroy pants, which only cost me $20.

So excited about these finds, when discussing Christmas gifts for me from the bf, he asked me what I wanted in addition to the sweater he had already gotten me. I told him that I wanted a Salvation Army shopping spree. Not surprised, he told me that would be find and on the next Saturday we went and he said I had $20 and 1 hour. This trip yielded even better finds -- a pair of Blue Cult jeans, another cashmere sweater, and a Brooks Brothers pea coat. Of these finds the pea coat was the best find because I got it for $8 -- a similar coat on the Brooks Brothers website was $698. Needless to say I am very excited about my finds.

I've also been looking for the perfect pair of brown boots for sometime now. I've checked consignment shops, thrift stores, ebay and finally found the perfect pair at shopgoodwill.com. They are so cute, tall burgundy/brown leather boots with a small heel, perfectly broken in, and all mine for $11. I'll post pics of everything as soon as I find my missing camera cord.

Have any of you found any great bargains lately?

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year everyone! I hope everyone had a fantastic holiday, I know I did.

Now that I'm back in Chicago (just in time for the balmy weather we're currently enjoying I might add), I've got tons of new ideas for posts.

My first post topic of the new year came to me yesterday as I was grocery shopping at my favorite grocery store, Aldi. Shopping at discount stores like Aldi is a great way to save money on groceries, the quality is the same (Aldi is actually owned by the same company that owns Trader Joes) so only you will know the product is generic.

I actually started shopping at Aldi when I lived in Austria, it was the closest market to my apartment and I really loved the concept (and the beer prices). When I was living in Winston-Salem there was an Aldi near the Target I used to shop at and I often would try and buy groceries there when I could but it was a little far from my apartment and I'm lazy.

Anyway, Aldi is the closest grocery store to my apartment here in Chicago (there is also a larger one near Costco) and I've renewed my love of the store. What I really love so much about Aldi is the quality/price ratio. I've never purchased anything at Aldi that wasn't an excellent value and once you get past the fact that everything is store brand (there are very few national brands) you are pleasantly surprised by how much you can purchase at a fraction of the price of a regular supermarket.

Because the bf and I have been out of town due to the holidays we had not gone on a big grocery shopping trip since Thanksgiving. Of course, this meant one thing -- we were due for a big shopping trip, so I went to Aldi. I ended up getting an entire cart of food (including an entire brisket) for $65. Needless to say, I was super excited, especially since everything that I purchased would have been twice that amount at my local Jewell.

So the point of this post (which I know sounds more like a ramble) is twofold: (1) to express my undying love for Aldi, the discount supermarket; and (2) to share one of my favorite money saving secrets.