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.