Friday, June 7, 2013

The Art of the Catch-Up Post!

Hello! I thought I said I was going to be better about blogging... what happened?! Things have been chugging along as the NEW usual for a few weeks now, so let's catch up!

The first thing I'm super excited about makes me sound like a super nerd, but hey... if the shoe fits! Martin has fixed the hole in our living room ceiling! HOORAY! Last May, we met my parents at Mackinaw Island for a great overnight trip, then trekked back to our side of the UP for a little visit. While here, my father and Martin cut open the ceiling to discover what why we were having leaking issues.
Cutting open the ceiling!

Low and behold, there was a HUGE piece of metal pipe sitting in the buckling section of the ceiling! Who know how much longer that would have held?! Dad and Martin discussed how to fix the hole... then it stayed there.... for a year!

The offending pipe!
Well I came home from work one day to Martin hard at work in the garage, and before the end of the day the ceiling (which I often complained about) was fixed! Happy day! Thanks Martin! It may be a bit odd looking, but I don't really care! No more ugly ceiling hole! Now, if we can fix the couch situation, this room will be just about done! Yay!

FINALLY! Hole be gone! 

What else? About a month ago I got accepted to Michigan Tech to start a Teaching English as a Second or Foreign Language (TESOL) program. I literally got the acceptance in the mail on Friday, registered for my first class Saturday, and started on Monday! I'm back to school ya'll! I am a very different student now than I was a decade ago (while I was in college), and I'm probably driving my classmates crazy! I have been able to keep an A through the mid-term Exam we just had (90.5% on that exam!), so I'm going to give it all I got to maintain until the end! I'm shooting for the 4.0 this time!

I'm also super pumped up because I was accepted to participate in a "Fit for Life" Zumba program that one of the local instructors started this summer! Her daughter is fighting leukemia, and the two are related (I can't say how...yet!) in an awesome way. I've committed to attending at least three Zumba classes a week, but I'm aiming for five! Most weeks I end up right in the middle at four! Working on my fitness AND a good cause! Holla!

Martin's car finally gave up the ghost a few weeks ago. It would cost $800 to fix, and now that we are both based at Michigan Tech, we are trying to become a one car family. Hopefully this will help us save money (insurance, gas), and won't drive us TOO crazy. Martin has been a trouper working around my earlier-than-he-goes-to-work schedule AND sticking around while I go to Zumba. He's the best! We'll see how we do this summer and re-evaluate in the fall!

Earlier this week I had a bit of a "milestone" birthday. That's right everyone, I have graduated from my 20's and I'm now the big 3-0! When I was asked how it felt to be thirty, the only thing I could think of was "same as 29!" I haven't really had a problem with starting a new decade. In fact, I have HIGH HOPES for the 30s! I hope to work towards lasting fitness and health, start a family, support Martin as he finishes his PhD and we figure out the next step, get TESOL certified, and (fingers crossed) start/finish a Library Science Masters Degree program! I should totally come back and read these hopes every year and see how I'm doing!

Photo from
Now, to reward you for reading all the way through this update blog, a Menu Planning Monday.. on Friday! This is the first week in a bit of a "reboot" project that Martin and I are doing. One of the benefits of having insurance is being able to get to a doctor for a wellness checkup. Sadly, I did not really pass that wellness check with flying colors! I'm still working things out with my doctor, and will know more next week, but I'm being proactive! We are cutting back on meat and trying to up our plant based protein. We are trying to cut back on gluten and up our ancient grains. The results? SCRUMPTIOUS! Hooray!

Strawberry Quinoa Salad = Amazing! We loved it so much that I ended up making a second batch later in the week! Our notes: we used "Sweet & Spicy" Pecans from Trader Joe's rather than toasting our own pecans. Also, after crisping the prosciutto, it was rather bacon-like. Might as well save yourself some bucks and just crisp up some bacon instead! The second batch I didn't have feta, so we used the gorgonzola we had left over from last week, and it was equally wonderful (if a bit more fatty)!

Chicken Marsala Casserole has become one of our go to meals! We use orzo pasta in lieu of rice, but now that we are trying to cut back on gluten, we may have to try it with rice. Don't skip the fresh parsley - it adds something! We've made this with skim milk, 2%, and half and half.... all are good! It gets richer (duh) with fat content! 

Crockpot Chicken and Quinoa Enchilada Soup Mmmmm... the flavors are very reminiscent of one of our favorites, White Chicken Chili, but it is broth based and doesn't have a block of cream cheese in it! We added some jalapeno dip and mexican blend cheese on top and it was super duper! I don't have a link for the Tamale Bake, it was the first recipe I ever made from my "Trader Joe" cookbook from my bestie LB! Let me just say... polenta, black beans, zucchini, soy-chorizo, and cheese work in perfect harmony!  

I'll have to let you know how the wheat berry salad is next week! I really AM planning on exploring the "Homemade Pantry" book too! Life kind of threw me for a loop when I started taking classes three weeks after staring my new job, going to three or four (or five) Zumba classes after work, fitting in doctor appointments, and oh yeah, spending time with my husband, cooking... etc! We are working out the kinks of having a set schedule and now only having one car too. I guess we never REALLy stop juggling, huh?

Wednesday, April 17, 2013


Hello everyone! I am futzing with the layout and the header design, so please be patient with me during this bumbling transition! I'm not computer illiterate, but I'm not really sure what I'm doing right now either, haha! Hopefully I'll have everything smoothed out in no time!

That's not the only thing changing around here - I'm also FINALLY changing jobs! WOO HOO!!!! Most people that read this are my real life friends and family and already know this information, but I am SO excited about it, I'm sharing again! After a year and a half of juggling, stress, no sleep, and no insurance, I'm going back to my favorite place - the library!

Michigan Tech's Library!

I've been working in libraries for over a decade now, and I've worn many different hats along the way. I started as a page, putting materials away, and ended up running school libraries! My new position is going to be a bit different from anything I've done before, but I'm excited! YAY!

Isn't it inviting?

I'm especially excited to have insurance for the first time in almost two years! There also seem to be some nice fringe benefits - including a new computer and iPhone 5, AND they are paying for the phone bill too, NICE! I'm really excited to have a stable schedule and time to work out and cook for myself and my husband!

I'm also excited about some new blogging ideas I've been playing around with lately! For my last birthday I got a bunch of really awesome cookbooks, one of which is called "The Homemade Pantry." Since moving to the UP Martin and I have tried to rely less on supermarkets and make things ourselves. I've been DYING to dig in to this book, and I've never really had the time to do so. Now I'm playing with an idea to challenge myself (a la Julie & Julia style) to make all the recipes in this book and compare the homemade version with the store bought version! What do you think? Good idea?

YAY for homemade! :) 

I'm also really excited about trying my hand at cheese making, more crafting, and finally finishing the decorating of this here house! I seriously can't want for these changes to start, YAY! 

Excited Yooper Love!

Monday, February 11, 2013

Menu Planning Monday... It's Baaaaacccckkkkk!

Hmm... let me see if I can BRIEFLY describe the last six and a half months that I've been MIA: Pneumonia. Pneumonia. Too much work.... pneumonia. HOLIDAY WITH THE FAMILIES!!!! New Year. Drama at work. Too much work.... present day. Ta da! I'm a word genius! :P

I had pneumonia or some demon version of it for four solid months ladies and gents, and it was a hot mess! Martin and I were not really cooking, and anything that was made was completely on the fly and came from Martin's bag of tricks! I finally started to kick the sickness at the end of the year, and when 2013 arrived, we toasted each other and committed to work on our happiness and our health. January we slowly started to get back on track, and I assessed the damaged that had occurred to my general health and well being... and yeah, there certainly was some!

One thing we quickly restored was our menu planning! It is astounding how much less we spend on groceries, and how much less wasted food we have when we plan out what we are going to make before we make it. What a simple, yet effective concept! I never even got to show off our fancy crafting project for our menu plan and grocery list, so I'm absolutely giddy to do so now! Behold! Ooooo! Ahhh!

Old Door + Chalkboard Paint = Craft Goooollldddd!

Of course we have improved the general functionality since our first use many months ago... I think! We really try not to keep the colors distinct, but of course my cell phone picture doesn't really do this much justice! So what are we eating this week? Behold!

February 11-17 at a glance!

I freely admit that it is better for everyone if Martin does the writing on this chalkboard - the things I write are nearly illegible! I'll try to keep that in mind for future menu pictures! Truthfully, I wasn't even considering blogging yesterday when we threw this together, but you MUST strike while the iron is hot, so... deal with it! Sadly, I don't have many new links for you, as the stuffed peppers are a homemade mishmash, the chicken stroganoff is from a cookbook, and the coconut shrimp and lentil salad has already been shared! It ain't pretty, but I'm going to go ahead and link to the bare bones Cream of Carrot Soup recipe that we use! This soup has somehow become my signature dish over the past 20+ years! We really love it, so I hope you will give it a try!

I'm really hoping that my schedule will start to ease up in the VERY near future and that I'll start blogging with more regularity. I just worked 18 days straight, and today is my only day off until next Monday (it was going to be 12 days, but I just couldn't stomach it!), so needless to say, I'm still figuring things out! At least I have put the kibosh on working doubles! I haven't pulled a double in over a month, and I have no plan to pull another in this lifetime! Haha!

Anyhow, I've missed crafting, cooking, and blogging, so I hope I'll be back here sharing with you soon! If I manage to grab a few minutes this week I'll share a few pictures from the MTU Winter Carnival celebrations! What do people do to pass the time up here in the great white north to pass the time during the months of snow, snow, and more snow? Well duh, they create giant works of snow sculpture artwork! A unique yooper experience!

MUCH Yooper Love! <3

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Ode to My Crock Pot

First off, I am absolutely FLOORED that it has been a month since I last posted! How terrible of me! I have MANY posts in my head that I even took pictures for, and yet, they never got posted! I'll try to get  back on the ball from now on!

Now, since I missed QUITE a few Menu Planning Monday posts, I bet you think that I didn't actually do the planning! WRONG! I have been a planning machine, and I love it! My new favorite cooking machine for the summer? Not the grill (though I do LOVE the grill!), it's MY CROCK POT. It doesn't heat up the whole kitchen, and it is just so darn easy it feels like cheating!

There is something rich and comforting about a slow cooked meal. They are usually familiar flavors and often creamy or slightly heavy. I don't think I would have normally made some of these meals in the summer, but since they don't require me to stand over a hot stove, I'm game! I'm REALLY excited about making these recipes during our ridiculously long winters, let me tell you! But not, enough talk! Let me catch you up on some of our newest experiments, and I'll also throw in a few of our favorites!

Want some summer favorites? Who doesn't love BBQ Ribs or BBQ Pulled Chicken? If you had told me that I could make ribs in my crock pot, I probably would have looked at you sideways - but believe it! They are SO tender and SO yummy! It's a summer delight, that's for sure! The ribs have both a dry rub and sauce when going into the pot. They are finished under the boiler with a lovely sauce made from the liquid in the crock pot. Martin did so much of the work for this while I was off shaking it at Zumba, and it. was. wonderful! We will totally be making this again!

THANK YOU BACK TO HER ROOTS! These are awesome ribs!
This BBQ Chicken was one of the first recipes I EVER made in the Crock Pot, and it quickly became one of our favorites. Great for a party, and totally easy to make into sliders! We followed the suggestions on and add onion and garlic right away. It really adds some depth! Make it your own ya'll!

Mmm, saucy! :) 

Sure, it's summer, and you probably don't think of soup or chili as a summery dish do you? Well...OK, I have no defense for that! It really is more of a fall and winter food, but I'm a soup junkie, so when I see a new crock pot recipe that appeals to me, I'm going to make it REGARDLESS of the month! We recently made Lasagna Soup and one of my childhood favorites Chicken & Dumplings! We made a Cream Cheese Chicken Chili a few months ago, and it has become a recipe I get STRONG cravings for - really yummy! 

The Lasagna Soup really could become a deconstructed lasagna if you add hearty noodles! One of my favorite bloggers, Cassie, from Back to Her Roots, posted this on her blog (a long time ago), and I'm so glad we decided to make it. Truthfully, I'm not willing to put in the effort to create a lasagna, and this sounded easy... and it was! DO take the time to finish each bowl under the broiler with the ricotta and mozzarella on it - it is totally worth the five minute wait! 

BTHR does it again! I'm a huge fan of her food!
One of my favorite childhood meals HAD to be Chicken & Dumplings. We didn't have it all the time, but when we did, it was such a wonderful treat! I was shocked to see the dumplings for this crock pot version were made from Grands biscuits! I had some serious doubts that this would taste ANYTHING like the dumplings I loved, but I'm happy to report that they do! Because the biscuit is essentially steamed in the chicken stew they don't crisp up at all, and really DO have a dumpling quality. Give it a shot and let me know if you agree! Next time I will be adding some veggies as this is a bit rich for me (though it is actually NOT very calorie-rich, which is a bonus!). Peas will really look nice in here! 

Comfort Food. Enough said!
Last, but never least, our new standard for Chicken Chili! I don't think I need to say much here, you've already heard me rave and rave about this, haha! I'll let you in on a secret though, DO add some extra jalapeno! We didn't the second time we made it, and it was a mistake! The taste was still good, but it just didn't compare! Don't go crazy, we used less than half a jalapeno, and it was only because we had some left over, now I will get one just to add in here!

The BEST Chicken Chili I've ever had!
I'm so glad that I finally posted again, but I have to say it was exquisite torture too! I'm doing a few days of juicing & smoothies right now to try to "reboot" my body and start actually losing weight again, so these are just taunting me, haha! But like the commercial says, "We shall detox... then retox!" I know I'll be making these again soon! 

Yooper Love!

Monday, July 2, 2012

MPM: A Little Blast From the Past

I think since I went home recently, I've been craving some tastes from my childhood, and perhaps a bit further back than that! There is something a bit Retro Rad (thanks Food Network Star for introducing me to THAT catch phrase!) about our menu plan for this week, and I am pretty excited about making and devouring them!

Meal #1: Stuffed Green Peppers! I guess that it really is true that your tastebuds change as you get older/grow up. I have always been a fan of the stuffing of these peppers, but I have never been a fan of the green pepper shell. I still don't love the taste off green peppers (especially raw), however when I had these a few months ago, I didn't even mind eating the shell! Hooray for sneaky veggies!

But of course there will be melty cheese on ours! :)

Meal #2: Grown Up Grilled Cheeses & Tomato Soup! We are trying out some savory fancy pants toasted cheese sandwiches this time! Jalapeno Popper & French Onion Sammies to be exact! And of course, our dear friend "Amy" is providing the soup! Yummy! 

Spicy? We'll see!
Soup IN a sandwich... sort of!

Meal #3: Crock Pot Chicken Chili! You remember this one don't you? I raved and raved and raved about it, and I've had a taste for it ever since of course! Mmmm I can't wait to have some of this soon! 

So easy and tasty! 

Meal #4: Martha Stewart's Warm Lentil Salad! Gotta get back on track with our co-op bulk items. We have a great red lentil dish, so now I need to find a go-to green lentil dish! These flavors sound wonderful, and I'm looking forward to tasting it! 

Chevre! My fav!

We are also playing with the idea of cooking out on or around the 4th, but haven't finalized the menu at all. PLUS we might just be getting a brat or hot dog at the park while we watch fireworks! 

Oh boy guys, I'm being a derelict ambassador for the UP lately! Last weekend we missed Calumet's Pasty Fest because I was working, working, working, and this weekend we are missing Chassel's big Strawberry Fest! I can't believe it! No pictures of the parades, the yummy yooper treats, or even the Strawberry Queen! I hope you will forgive me - I'll try to make it up to you with a report on some of our favorite places to visit in the Keweenaw! 

Til then, 

Yooper Love from me to you!

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Adventures in Canning!

I'm really excited to share our recent culinary adventure - canning! I can say beyond a shadow of a doubt that I would never have even CONSIDERED canning even a year ago! City living is amazing, and man I miss the Logan Square farmer's market more than I can express in words, but I wasn't looking to buy fruits and veggies to store for the winter! In retrospect, I had more organic produce available to me then than I do now, so I probably should have been, huh?! Oh well! I'm a convert NOW, and that counts for something, right?! RIGHT!

So how did this all start anyway? With a virtual book wish list on my Pinterest account of course! I spread the word about the wish list through the best networking tool ever- my mother! :) For my birthday I got three of the books I'd been coveting, and all our experiments came from the absolutely stunning "Food in Jars." (Thanks sister Erin!)
Check out her AWESOME website too: Food in Jars!

My mother's birthday is just six days after mine, and after I got this book I knew IMMEDIATELY that I wanted to try some recipes out and create her gift from our experiments! I poured over the book for over a week trying to figure out what I wanted to try, and ended up marking far more recipes than I could realistically make... but that's okay because it means that I will have more to try out later! 

The first recipe we tried was inspired by our back yard! Hey, remember when we waxed poetic about our rhubarb? Well add this recipe to the MUST MAKE for you rhubarb lovers (and non-lovers!) because it's amazing! Behold, the glory that IS Strawberry-Orange Rhubarb Jam! Holy Moly! The fantastic taste of strawberry and rhubarb with an awesome tart note from orange juice and zest! The flavors are so bright and fantastic - a serious summer in a jar winner! 

OKAY! Now that I've over sold it - here we go! 

My amazing sous-chef Martin chopped his heart out for me! 

Strawberry-Orange Rhubarb Jam
From "Food in Jars" by Marisa McClellan
(Makes 5 Pint Jars - Though we used some half pints for gift giving!)

6 cups chopped rhubarb (about 2.5 pounds)
4 cups chopped strawberries (about 2 pints) 
zest and juice of 2 oranges
5 cups granulated sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 (3 oz) packets liquid pectin

Prepare a boiling water bath and the pint jars, place the lids in a small saucepan and simmer over very low heat. (If this is the first time you are canning, make sure you read up on this process! Also make sure you have all the tools you will want or need!) 

Combine the rhubarb, strawberries, orange zest, juice, sugar, and cinnamon in a large nonreactive pot and stir to incorporate. Bring to a boil then reduce heat to simmer and cook fruit over medium-high heat for 15-20 minutes or until the rhubarb breaks down and the jam has a glossy shine. 

Add the pectin and increase the heat to high, letting the jam boil for five minutes. Remove the pot from the heat and ladle the jam into the prepared jars. Wipe the rims, apply the lids and rings, and process in a boiling water bath for 10 minutes. 

Testing the jam, filling the jars, and processing! 

Okay... seriously? I can't even tell you how worried I was that I was going to do something seriously wrong and that we wouldn't hear the POP! of the tops that we wanted to hear! BUT, soon after removing the jars from the water bath, we heard the awesome ping, ping, pings we were listening for! Hooray! 

I was looking for something fun and different to make, and I saw that there was a recipe for a Zesty Lime Curd included in "Food in Jars!" My mom and I share a lot of tea party, scone, and coffee shop memories, and I know she is a great fan of lemon curd, so I thought this sounded perfect! I have to be honest, Martin made the whole thing, start to finish, and all I did was process it! I was actually working on making the pear butter recipe we made, which we forgot to take any pictures of, but I DID get great pics of the curd! Away we go! 

Martin, hard at work!

Zesty Lime Curd
From "Food in Jars" by Marisa McClellan
(Makes 2 Half Pint Jars... ours made a BIT less than that!)

1/4 cup finely grated lime zest (about 4 limes)
1 1/4 cup granulated sugar
4 large egg yolks 
2 large eggs
1/2 cup freshly squeezed lime juice (about 6 limes)
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into cubes

Prepare a boiling water bath and 2 half pint jars; meanwhile, simmer the lids and rings in a saucepan.

Combine the lime zest and sugar in a bowl, rubbing the zest into the sugar until it is fragrant and combined. Set aside. 

Set up a double boiler (or... you know... two sauce pans that you hold over heat and stir constantly... you rock Martin!) with 2 inches of simmering water over medium heat. Keeping the top half of the double boiler off the stove, add the egg yolks and whole eggs to it and whisk them together. Add the zest and sugar combo and whisk in. Finally, add the lime juice and stir until blended. 

Put the double boiler back together and drop in the cubes of butter. Switch to a silicone spatula and stir continually as the lime curd cooks. Using a candy thermometer, monitor the temperature of the curd while you stire. As is approaches 190-200 F, it should start to thicken. It typically takes 6-9 minutes for a curd to cook (it took us a lot longer because we weren't using a double boiler!). When the curd has thickened to the consistency of sour cream, it is done! Remove the top half of the double boiler and stir off the heat, it will continue to thicken a bit. 

Strain the curd through a fine-mesh sieve into a measuring cup. The straining removes both the zest and any bits of scrambled egg! Pour the curd into the prepared jars, leaving a generous 1/2 inch of headspace. Wipe the rims, apply the lids and rings, and process in the boiling water bath for 25 minutes. 

When the time is up, remove the canning pot from the heat and remove the lid. Let the jars sit in the pot for another 5 minuts, this helps to prevent the curd from reacing to the rapid temperature change and bubbling out of the jars!

My contribution to the process!
Wowza - way more complex that we expected! Martin and I were sweating bullets in our over heated kitchen, and we were NOT expecting to be standing over boiling water for as long as we did! We already have plans to make more of this.... but maybe when the weather is a little cooler since citrus is in season (um... in Florida!) in the winter! 

Want to see the gift we crafted? Here it is!

Happy Birthday Mom!
Of COURSE Martin whipped up a batch of bread to go with our spreads, what else?! All three were big hits, and GUESS WHAT?! We got to bring home my great grandmother's double boiler! I am so excited to try making more curds - oh boy!

Do you can? What are your favorite recipes? Share! :) 

Thursday, June 21, 2012

UP Living: Bridge Fest

Ooooohhhh everybody - get ready! You're about to enter one of the most unique seasons in the Yooper year - summer! It seems like there is a parade or celebration just about every other week up here at this time of the year. You know we have to celebrate the nice weather before it runs away again! :) 

Last year Martin and I were smack dab in the middle of moving me up here and out of Chicago. I distinctly remember driving out of town just as signs for "Bridge Fest" and "Seafood Fest" started to go up. I told Martin I was determine to attend the festivities the next time they came around, and I did! 

You might think that Bridge Fest is a festival celebrating the bridge that connects Houghton to Hancock, as I thought. And while that might be the roots, I didn't see much celebration of the actual bridge! The festivities are kicked off on a Friday evening with a parade that does in fact, go over the bridge! It is just absolutely typically small town, and I dig it! Flags everywhere, marching bands, local businesses with poster board signs, and to finish it off, a line of fire trucks from EVERY SINGLE DISTRICT AROUND! I happened to be working, and had handed my camera off to one of my girls, and it wasn't until I looked at them later that I realized some shots I WOULD have taken didn't make it, and many shots I wouldn't have bothered with did make it! C'est la vie! Let's watch a parade! 

Oh how patriotic!
The parade had many flags, many armed forces, and of course, some tanks! I'm not sure HOW this celebrates the bridge, but my goodness, I can't imagine a parade up here without this line up!

Music, music, music! Bands and flasks, oh my!
 There were bands of all size, talent, and professionalism at this parade! There was a bag pipe man drinking straight from his flask in front of us, and the Michigan Tech pep band (the goofs in the overalls) sang a song about drinking beer. Just want I want my 15 year old charges to see and hear, haha!

Hometown heros
Throughout the whole shindig there were trucks, sports teams, kids, and...well... trucks! I know I've lived here for a while when I actually KNOW people I see in the parade! Hooray! I'm a noob no longer! 

Bridge Fest is REALLY a celebration of (of all things) SEAFOOD. Now, when someone says "Hey, let's go to seafood fest!" I think that it will be a festival of SEAfood. Not QUITE how we roll up here! However, since it is indeed a fund raiser for the Rotary Club and not a gastronomic, epicurean festival, I guess I'll let it slide. I have to say though, that it's a bit sad when you can see the Sysco truck parked behind the food pavilion! But hey, it's live music, beautiful views, and good company! 

Check out the menu (if you can!)
I had to get a good picture of the bridge in here at some point, now didn't I?? The fest is right on Houghton beach, and it's quite lovely! I was sad to realize that I didn't get a good picture (okay, ANY pictures) of the live music. People were dancing and having a dandy time! I would have just LOVED to throw back a brew and listen to the music, but alas, I WAS at work! Next year maybe! 

I'm officially on vacation for a few days, so I hope I can get a few more posts up before I have to go back to work! How are you celebrating summer in YOUR neck of the woods? We have construction going on literally outside our door, so I'm pretty excited to escape a shaking house for a hot minute! Fingers crossed it will be done by the time we are back!