Monday, December 29, 2014

Salty Bourbon Squares

I haven't tried very many new recipes lately but when I wondered across this recipe online, I knew I had to venture outside of the box. My husband is definitely a connoisseur of all things Whiskey and so I figured he would love these and that he did. The bourbon flavor was quite prevalent in these goodies, which made for one really rich treat. While Nick's favorite whiskey of all is Maker's Mark, we had a bottle of Elijah Craig bourbon, from our whiskey tour in Kentucky, that I decided to use instead, which turned out just as tasty.

Monday, December 22, 2014

Merry Christmas!


Photo courtesy of Judith Cameron

Friday, December 5, 2014

Hello Again!

Hey there blog world, sorry for the long absence. Maybe you missed me, maybe you didn’t, but here I am again. This past summer, my husband and I relocated to Michigan for his job. With the move and the new job came a new house. With the new house came a lot of new house work. Therefore, during the time I was unemployed, I managed to spend most of my creative time working on the house, unpacking, restocking, organizing, designing, etc. While I was still cooking, I stuck to things I knew and didn’t try many new recipes, hence the absence of food posts. Thankfully, I did get a job in Michigan within a month of looking and we have had many visitors, which have kept us pleasantly occupied.  While we are finally feeling settled into our home and Michigan 4 months later, I feel that I have finally hit my stride and I hope to bring back some more food posts but even more likely, some DIY posts for things we’ve done around the house. I appreciate your patience as I took a break from the blogosphere, but hope to jump back into it real soon. For now, enjoy this lovely pick of our new home that we love so much (more on that later).

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Swedish Meatballs

Swedish Meatballs
Have you ever had the Swedish meatballs at Ikea? Well, this recipe puts those to shame. I have never made this type of recipe before and I have really been missing out. These are so tasty and delicious, they would be great served with rice the next time so as to soak up all the sauce, mashies work well too. Seriously give this a try!

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Birthday Cookie Brownie Surprise

Birthday Cookie Brownie Surprise
Assemble in prepared 9 by 13 pan
Layer of chocolate chip cookie dough (recipe found here)
Layer of Birthday Cake Oreos
Layer of brownie dough (recipe found here)
Topped with rainbow sprinkles
Bake at 350 degrees F for 45 minutes

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Carne Asada

Carne Asada tacos with onions, cilantro, guacamole, and Cotija cheese
 Carne Asada is a delicious Mexican staple that Nick and I really enjoy. Carne Asada literally means "grilled meat" and in Southern California it is always referring to beef, even though it can be used for other types of meat. We love Carne Asada beef in our household because of the citrus and flame grilled flavor, especially when served as Carne Asada fries. In fact, I think Carne Asada fries are one of the best food creations ever made, but sadly they only exist in Southern California and so when we want them we have to create them at home from scratch, it is a lot of work but it is so worth it.
Carne Asada fries with homemade Idaho french fries, Mexican cheese mix, onions, cilantro, tomatoes, salsa verde, cabbage, sour cream, and guacamole

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Craft Corner - New Babies

In the past year we have moved from that phase in our life where all our couple friends are getting married to all our married friends are having babies. It's funny just how many babies have been born recently. Being far away from all our friends who are having babies makes it harder to give gifts because if I was in the same city and didn't have to pay for shipping, I would make big elaborate gifts like a diaper tower or a onesie bouquet. Since we are far away and on a tight budget, I have decided to invest some of my time and effort into creating unique gifts for our new baby friends. I have made enough onesies now that I want to share them, plus I think we are at a standstill for awhile before anymore babies are born. 

I hope some of you out there in the interwebs are inspired by these simple gift ideas for the growing families in your lives. These are simple, yet time consuming, ways to gift a unique personalized gift that can really impress on a budget. Sometime it's not how much you spend on a gift, but the thought that's behind it instead ;)


For Eliana. Eliana's parents are both in the medical field, hence the stethoscope onesie. Plus, they had an owl theme for Eliana's nursery and so I had to incorporate owls somehow. These were my first attempt at homemade unique onesies. I used felt with washable fabric glue reinforced with stitching. I also used beading fabric paint for the dot design.
For Nash. These onesies ended up being perfect for baby Nash because his parents chose a Chevron themed nursery. I think that little boy's dressed as men are super adorable, therefore I had to make him a cardigan and bowtie onesie. Lastly, I found the cutest polka dot felt that looked great as a tie. I used felt with fabric glue reinforced with stitching. I also quadruple double threaded the buttons so as to guarantee they would not become a choking hazard, you could also opt for felt buttons instead of real buttons.
For Kai. My childhood friend is Kai's mother and so there was no way she wasn't going to get some cardigan and bowtie onesies from me. I also found the cutest "Auntie's Little Monster" set that worked out perfect for my new little nephew, I just had to buy it. 
For Zane. Zane's father was the guitar player in Nick's band and was one of Nick's groomsmen. These parents decided to wait to find out the sex of their baby for the day it was born and as soon as I found out it was a boy, I knew exactly what to do. I think this guitar turned out pretty great, the sad part is I used an 18 month onesie (because I know parents tend to get a lot of newborn sizes, I try to make older months), therefore it will be quite awhile before I see that one in use, I can't wait.

Aside from the onesies, I wanted to make something special for my nephew and for our best neighbors ever. I came up with this idea to use my scrapbook supplies to make a really unique and personalized picture frame with the babies' full name and birth date, where the photo could be swapped out easily for updated photos (if desired). I enjoyed putting my scrapbooking skills to use since they have been in hibernation for quite awhile.

Saturday, June 7, 2014

Slow Cooker Stroganoff (crockpot recipe)

Stroganoff is already a fairly easy dish to make but with this slow cooker recipe it is absolutely the easiest. Plus it is tastier than the Stroganoff recipes I have used in the past. This is definitely being added to the rotation.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Trader Joe's Favorites

 I love Trader Joe's. Over the years my love has grown and now that I no longer live near one, my obsession has come full throttle. We currently live 90 minutes away from the closest Trader Joe's and so we make a trip to Indianapolis once every other month so that we can get my Trader Joe's fix along with a visit to Costco (since they are near each other). Since I am not able to visit Trader Joe's whenever I feel like it, I have come up with a list of necessities that I have come to need every time I visit. I have truly become dependent of Trader Joe's especially as I become more and more of a foodie, they just have so many gourmet and unique things for such reasonable prices. For this reason, I am extremely thankful that when Nick starts his new job, we will move to a place where we will be close to Trader Joe's and Costco again.

My Trader Joe's Must-Have's:

Matcha Green Tea Latte Powder
Mango Black Tea
Hansen Sodas (Root Beer, Ginger Ale, Tangerine Lime)
Peach Cider
Two Buck Chuck Wine

Steamed Lentils
Romano Parmesan Cheese Blend
Garlic Herb Pizza Dough
California Sundried Tomatoes
Mini Heirloom Tomatoes
Basil Plant

Frozen Langostino Tails
Frozen Shelled Edamame
Frozen Basil and Garlic Cubes
Frozen Mandarin Orange Chicken
Frozen Garlic Naan

Organic TriColor Vegetable Radiatore
12 Grain Mini Snack Crackers
Organic Creamy Tomato Soup
Organic Brown Rice and Quinoa Fusilli Pasta
White Cheddar Corn Puffs
Ezekiel 4:9 Bread
Raw Almonds

Yellow Thai Curry Sauce
Roasted Garlic Marinara Sauce
Rustico Pomodoro Sauce
Taco Seasoning Packets
All Natural BBQ Sauce
Salsa Authentica
Salsa Verde
Corn Chili Salsa

Instant Coffee Packets - All Dressed Up
Organic Moo Chocolate Sauce
Cookie Butter
1lb. Dark Chocolate Bar
Candy Cane Joe-Joe's
Chocolate Orange Sticks

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Korean BBQ Beef

I have been craving Korean BBQ ribs but haven't really searched for any local restaurants that serve them, instead I decided to make my own with some flattened rib eye steaks we had. This recipe was so easy and it turned out absolutely delicious, just like any Korean BBQ I have ever had in a restaurant. This was quite the treat and now that I know it is simple to make, I will definitely use this marinade again and I hope that I can find some short ribs so as to enjoy Korean BBQ ribs as they are are supposed to be.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Seven Reasons Why Living in Orange County is Not Worth It:

When Nick and I first ventured to the Midwest so that he could go back to school, we always assumed we would make our way back to Orange County, CA or at least to the West Coast once he was done. Gradually over the past two years, we have come to realize that there is so much that the Unites States has to offer compared to California and the West Coast. Although we are both happy with being raised in Southern California and getting our diverse upbringings there, we have come up with 7 reasons why California is no longer for us. We came up with this list after being asked repeatedly why we choose not to return to California. Keep in mind this is just my opinion, I am not backed by data, but just by mere personal experience. Not only that, but my experience has been in Southern California not Northern (they are different no matter what people say).

7 Reasons Why Orange County Is Not Worth It:

  • First and foremost, it is too pricey. The average Southern Californian spends a much larger percentage of their combined income on their mortgage and/or rent than any other location I have heard of (excluding big cities like NYC and Chicago, etc.). On top of that, gas prices are out of this world. Overall, housing prices are extremely high, which makes it difficult for new families to afford the cost of living easily. Plus, the homes in Orange County barely come with back yards.  They are built basically on top of their neighbors and therefore there is no privacy at all. Most of our young friends who are attempting to make it work in Orange County have both spouses working to afford the cost of living in California, something we do not desire for our family.
  • Southern California comes off much too superficial.  Although most people we know in Orange County are not superficial, there is a lot of superficiality that goes on. I went to a high school where many of my fellow classmate had a BMW or a Range Rover as their first car. We were lucky to be raised by non-superficial families which helped ground us, but living in Orange County where you are surrounded  by wealthy people, it becomes easier to get sucked into the hype of wanting or needing to look perfect and having ritzy things.
  • There is a large divide between the rich and the poor. It seems like the rich just continue to get richer and spend money on million dollar homes and name brand things while the poor struggle to make ends meet on a daily basis because they are taken advantage of. I feel that it is harder for one to really break free of the lower class to enter the middle class in Orange County because living in Orange County is so extravagant. It is much easier to just leave California and quickly become middle class just by moving to someplace else.   
  • Over crowded. There is always car traffic, including weekends, mid-afternoon, just all the time. There are just too many people in such a tight space. The last city we lived in, Irvine, has a population of 230,000 people while all of Orange County is composed of 3.09 million people. Our current place of residence of Tippecanoe county has a total of 177,513 (which is a little too small for us). Our possible future residence in Wayne county is 1.79 million (so at least half the size of where we were raised). Overall, we do not enjoy the over crowded feeling of living in Southern California, just too tight and compact.
  • Having no winter is boring. Personally, I love the weather outside of Orange County. Not only do we get four seasons but we get snow. I know most people think I am crazy, but it is so nice to have a reason to wear scarves rather than just as a fashion statement. I love experiencing all the seasons Mother Nature has to offer. Every time the seasons change, I am reminded of this beautiful world that God created. Plus, the worst thing growing up in California was having Christmas Day be over 80 degrees F every year, such a huge disappointment.  
  • California doesn't really have it all or pay the most. Although most people, including myself for awhile, believed that California has every career imaginable, it doesn't. Many of my friends have left California because they were unable to find the right job for them or a high enough salary to make it work. Perhaps that is because there is more competition for jobs in California, but it really just does not offer it all. Similarly, most people think that the salaries in California are more than elsewhere because of the cost of living, but the truth is that they are not that different. This is because the competition for jobs in California is so much higher and so businesses get away with paying people less because people want to live and work in California, it’s all about supply and demand.
  • High taxes are the worst. California has some of the highest taxes in the country.

Now don’t get me wrong, Nick has applied to jobs all over the country and we are trusting in God to lead us where He wants us, no matter where it may be (even if it meant back to California). But, since we are 99% positive that it will be outside of California, here are the things we will miss the most about California:

  • Family and friends. The biggest thing we will miss in California are our family and friends. Although most of our friends have left Southern California for the reasons I've listed above, our families have figured out a way to make it work in California and still remain there. It is difficult to leave them behind but we know that moving someplace where we can live comfortably will give us the funds we need to purchase a home where we have space for guests to come visit us and/or the funds we need to make frequent visits back to California to see family. Additionally, we will have enough funds to concentrate on our future family rather than struggling to make it work in Southern California.
  • Melting pot. I will miss the diversity of people and the diversity of food that Southern California has to offer. Seriously living in California has really blinded me to how not diverse other places are. I grew up in a white household but I was in an immersive Spanish language program for all of my education, which really helped me grow and learn all that every culture has to offer. I hope that wherever we end up that there will be a similar opportunity made available for our children.
  • Disneyland. I will always have a place in my heart for all things Disney and so it hurts that we won't be near Disneyland anymore, but I have come to terms with that loss. Mainly because the prices for going to Disneyland have increased exponentially. I remember when my mother got us all year passes for $99 each, nowadays it costs the same for just a one day pass. So ridiculous, but I still love Disney and I will make sure to take our future kids when the time is right.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Japanese Pork Tonkatsu

When Nick and I lived in Japan last summer one of our most favorite meals was pork katsu with tonkatsu sauce. Recently I was thinking back about this meal and decided to look up a recipe online and quickly realized it was quite simple to recreate. I'm so glad I decided to make this because it was very delicious and a great reminder of Japan.

Friday, March 21, 2014

Mexican Cornbread Casserole

This is a quick and easy recipe for what some call a "tamale pie," I refuse to associate this recipe with a tamale because the flavors are nothing alike; but that doesn't mean it isn't delicious. In fact this was very easy to make, so easy, Nick handled it all on his own. I definitely recommend this recipe, it was delicious and hearty.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Brownie Chocolate Chip Cookies

 When it comes to baked goods, our two most favorite items are chocolate chip cookies and then brownies; so how great is it that this recipe combines the two. These really are the perfect combo of brownies and chocolate chip cookies, very tasty and perfect with a big glass of milk.

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Homemade "Crunch Wrap"

Crunch Wrap
 So Taco Bell is a fast food joint that has made up this genius way of serving a hard and soft, cheesy, beefy, mess-less taco. The Crunch Wrap is one of Nick's most favorite inventions and so since we don't really eat much fast food anymore, I decided to give it a try at home. Oh my! These are great and yet oh so filling. You do not need more than one to fill you up.

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Midwest Winters

Being a So Cal native, this is definitely the coldest winter I have ever experienced. When my husband and I decided to pick up our stuff and move to the Midwest so he could go back to school, everybody thought we were crazy. Why would we choose to leave sunny, warm, using-scarves-only-for-fashion California? I for one was anxious and excited to experience a real winter with a guaranteed cold Christmas. Everyone warned us that it would get cold, but last winter (2012-2013) was easier than warned. It did get below zero but only for a couple of days, and we got a few snow storms, the largest not hitting until March. This winter, however, is a whole other story. The first snow happened weeks before Christmas, and we have had snow on the ground for over a month, basically since New Years Day. The temperatures on average have been in the single digits (mainly because of the numerous below zero days) and we have had over 26 days of snow storms including 3 "snow days". This winter has been a world of difference for experiencing the cold. Don't get me wrong, I am still enjoying the winter, but I have a better understanding of why people/Midwesterners complain about said cold. This year is also an extreme case because of the "return of the polar vortex" that hit the Midwest. Anyway, my point here is to share some of our experiences this winter.
First snow came in November before the fall colors had faded
First big snow in December left 8 inches of snow
Our largest winter coats
Frozen stream
A result of the Polar Vortex. Campus was closed down for two whole days. Roads were closed and if you were caught driving around you would be charged with a misdemeanor.

We enjoyed our snow day
Our roads have been layered with packed down snow for over a month straight
The walkway to our house, it's been weird walking through snow everyday for the past month and a half

Snow on campus
So much snow, no room to swing
Snow blowing on the road, makes the road look like it's moving
View of the Indianapolis Speedway covered in snow
After our big snow storm there was a rain storm causing the roads to turn to slush, which immediately froze into solid ice once the temperatures dropped again. Eventually the snow got covered in more snow, causing some really unsafe slippery grounds.
Local news reports this has been the coldest and snowiest winter in West Lafayette, IN since the 1980's
We have had to dig our car out of the snow numerous times. The most recent time it took us 20 minutes to dig out and an additional 20 minutes to get out of our spot because of the ice.
Literally frozen hair from my walks to work caused by the moisture in my breath. Luckily I can take a bus most days, but for some reason I didn't this day. When I got to work, my legs were frozen. Another plus of walking in below zero temps are the instantly frozen boogers when you walk outside. You can tell I was miserable this morning.
Overall experiencing the winter in the Midwest has been a great and lovely experience. Everything is so picturesque when covered in snow. Living on campus has made our experience relatively easier than most because we don't have to worry about shoveling driveways or walkways, plus we don't pay utilities so we can use our heat as much as we want. Additionally, we don't drive to work, although sometimes walking in the below zero temperatures can turn out to be quite painful. However, we have been without hot water a couple of times, but no longer than 12 hours. I truly think I love snowy winters, snow is so much better than rain and the chilling temperatures allow us to expand our wardrobe and use all the scarves and gloves that we never got to use in Orange County. I enjoy the thought that if we settle down in the Midwest that we will get to experience this every year.