Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Yam Casserole and My New Scale

My friend, Ke, got me a scale for my wedding shower so (and I quote) "you don't get fat after you get married." (Love her!)

I am a snacker (they say a picture's worth a thousand words), so it's not a bad idea for me to step on a scale from time to time.

At first, I really enjoyed my new scale. I jumped on and never looked down (I don't like to watch the numbers calculate). After a few seconds, I took a peak at the number and was delighted to see I lost 10 lbs! A-MAZ-ING!

Confession: I later realized that I never inserted the batteries -- who knew you had to?! -- and the number I was looking at was actually a sticker. And just like, that the 10 pounds I magically lost instantly reappeared. C'est la Vie.

But now that it's working properly, my scale has really come in handy. I used it to make sure my luggage was under 50 lbs before Hawaii. It was only 47.5, thank you very much!

And on Sunday, I used it to weigh yams. Yams were on sale at the grocery store, so I bought a couple with no plan in mind. When I got home, I found a yam casserole recipe in my "Better Homes and Gardens" cookbook. It called for 2 lbs of yams. Looking at my bag of yams, I guessed it weighed somewhere between 1 pound and 5. Not much help.

So I went upstairs and stepped on my scale (not wise when you're wearing clothes and boots). I took note of the number and then stepped on the sale again, this time with my yams in hand. Victory! The yams weighed 2.8 lbs. Perfect!

Now on to the recipe.

Note: It's almost like a dessert, but fun for a Sunday night dinner.

  • 6 medium yams or sweet potatoes (2 pounds)
  • 1/3 cup milk
  • 1/4 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup butter or margarine, melted
  • 1 egg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3 tablespoons butter or margarine
  • 1/3 cup packed brown sugar
  • 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1/3 cup chopped pecans

  1. Scrub yams or sweet potatoes. Cut off woody portions and ends.
  2. In a 4-quart Dutch oven cook yams, covered, in enough boiling, salted water to cover for 25 to 30 minutes or until tender. Drain and cool slightly. Peel and cup up yams.
  3. Mash yams with a potato masher or with an electric mixer on low speed. Add milk, brown sugar, butter or margarine, egg, vanilla, and salt. Beat until fluffy. Add additional milk, if desired. Turn into a greased 10x6x2-inch baking dish.
  4. In a small saucepan melt butter or margarine over low heat. Stir in brown sugar, flour, and pecans. Mix well. Spoon pecan mixture over casserole.
  5. Bake in a 350 degree F oven for 30 to 35 minutes or until heated through. Serves 8.
The recipe was perfect, since I already had all of the ingredients at home. I set out to make the casserole. Step 1 -- no problem. Step 2 -- Dutch oven? Forgive me, but the only Dutch oven I've ever heard of doesn't cook yams...

After a little Google searching, I realized that I'd have to boil the yams in a pot with a lid since I don't own a Dutch oven. It worked out just fine.

For step 3, I recommend the Kitchen Aid. It took a lot longer to mix than I thought, so I was glad not to have to hold a hand mixer. In the end I still had a lot of chunks, but M. confirmed that actually made the recipe even better.

Do any of you own a Dutch oven? If you do, do you find that you use it a lot?

Monday, November 22, 2010

Quick Tip: Don't Lysol Wipe Your Mirror

This weekend I was haphazardly cleaning the bathroom. I usually start by running a Lysol wipe over everything. I raised my hand to start on the mirror when I remembered...

Rewind back to August. Seven of my lovely college friends were staying with me for the weekend of my wedding shower and bachelorette party (so fun!). As I recall, I decided to whip the house into shape before their arrival.

Thinking a gleaming bathroom mirror would be a nice touch, I took a Lysol wipe to it. It left the mirror looking quite cloudy. I could barely see my own reflection, but I thought once it dried a little, it would be fine.

Fast forward about an hour. M. entered the bathroom to brush his teeth and I heard: "What happened to our mirror?"

Me (from the other room): "I cleaned!"

Loud sigh. Then silence...

What's that about? I walked to the bathroom to find out why the exacerbated sigh and witnessed the foggy disaster. Opps!

So I grabbed a bottle of something from under the sink (Tilex? Mildew remover? Honestly, I'm not even sure I read the label). Armed with some bathroom cleaning product, I took aim and pulled the trigger. As I started wiping the mirror (again) when I heard M. laughing as he ran downstairs.

A few minutes later, I was still trying to get the mirror clean when M. reappeared with a bottle of Windex. He informed me that it's really the only product that works on bathroom mirrors. Duly noted.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Thanksgiving, Take II

Guess who's cooking Thanksgiving dinner this year? Yup, that would be me.

Remember last year? First my family tried to keep me from cooking anything. Then after much protesting, they put me in charge of heating up frozen corn. And I screwed it up.

Well, my kitchen skills have improved considerably since then. I'm not completely Domestically Deficient, but I'm still a far cry from a Domestic Goddess. Maybe a Domestic Diva? My friends did get me an apron to prove it (Love!). However, since it is the holiday season, I'll be sporting my Cooking Claus apron on Thanksgiving. I digress...

On Thursday we'll be at the cabin with M's family. Then on Saturday it will be Thanksgiving, part II with my family and I'm hosting!

The Menu:
  • Cranberry Brie Bites (appetizer)
  • Italian meats, cheeses and crackers (appetizer)
  • Cinnamon Apple Squash soup
  • Salad -- my mom's contribution
  • Corn Bread Muffins
  • Roasted Sweet Potatoes with Cinnamon Pecan Crunch (a hit last year!)
  • Corn (would stink if I screwed this up... again...)
  • Turkey -- M. is in charge of this!
  • Cranberry sauce
  • Vegetables -- my aunt will be bringing the veggies
  • Pumpkin Log
  • Apple Pie -- another mom contribution
  • Alcohol -- my sister claimed this responsibility. Shocking! (not)
Am I missing anything?! Have any of you hosted a holiday before? When I cook dinner for four, I struggle to get everything out on time and at the same time. I'm a bit worried about preparing such an extensive meal for 10-12 people. Any advice?

Also, I want to do a little table favor for everybody. Have you seen any cute ideas this year? The Dining Diva recommended Hostess with the Mostess. Lots of cool ideas.

Hope you all have fun holiday plans! Can't wait to read about them.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Thanks, Shutterfly, for the free holiday cards

I just read a post from That's Sassy about 50 free Christmas cards for bloggers on Shutterfly. What a great promotion! I was in the middle of making two photo books with my favorite wedding pictures, when my mom asked me to help her with her Christmas card.

What better way to help? Blog about it and get half her order for free.

I must say, I'm not that cheap. I wouldn't write a blog promoting Shutterfly holiday cards if I were already planning to use them. In fact, I already have the cards designed, I just have to order!

If you're also a blogger, I recommend looking into the promotion. And if not -- Shutterfly is running a 20% off holiday card promotion at the moment. You can also get 50% off photobooks, free shipping on orders of $30 or more. Checkout the special offers and take advantage!

Happy Holidays!

P.S. I also used Shutterfly to make my wedding guest book and I love it!

Thursday, November 11, 2010

A Christmafied House

I absolutely love the Christmas season and everything about it. So to avoid severe depression when it's over, I start my celebrating on November 1 every year.

Between my Pandora Christmas station, and the 550+ Christmas songs in my iPod -- I've managed to already surround myself with the sounds of the season. It only gets better after Thanksgiving when Christmas is on the radio, too.

I also spent Sunday Christmafying the heck out of our house. The best part about owning your own house is you can start decorating WHENEVER you want and with WHATEVER you want. The new hubs -- let's start calling him M. -- fully supports the Christmas Crazy. After all, he knew exactly what he was getting into before he popped the question.

Next up, I have to work on Christmafying my new in-laws' cabin. I love traditional, tasteful decorations, but there is a part of me that thinks the more flash and flair the better. I secretly wish my house was like the one in the Wizards in Winter video! This year I left the taste at home and will be bringing the tack to the cabin.

For the past two years, I've went completely overboard stringing lights through every inch of the cabin. I also incorporated all sorts of decorations in all shapes in sizes -- from the tiny Santa knickknacks to the enormous blow-up snowman and Christmas bear. The loft is especially fun to decorate. Over the summer, M's family added a second loft and a grand staircase, so the possibilities are endless this year.

We spent Christmas Eve and Christmas morning at the cabin with M's family last year. I have to say, it was really great to wake up in a cabin decorated to the max in the middle of the woods, surrounded by snow. Does it get any better than that?

I should mention the "cabin" is two floors and equipped with cable, wireless Internet, a couple full bathrooms, a kitchen nicer than mine at home and a laundry room. So we're not exactly roughing it.

Here are a few pics of what I did to the cabin at Christmas last year.
We couldn't find a wreath big enough for that fireplace, so M. made one out of several coat hangers. We now refer to it as "the wagon wheel." Random parts of it blink sporadically. Pretty fantastic.

The original loft. Now there's a second one across from it (on the left of this pic).

The living room!

Little knickknacks.

The blow-up Christmas guys (and my brother-in-law on the computer).

With Buddy, the best beagle ever. Yes, we're wearing puff paint sweatsuits. M. asked my mom to make him one for an ugly Christmas sweater party. I got one too, and we both wore them with pride all day on Christmas.

My KitchenAid stand mixer was a gift from my in-laws at Christmas last year. Clearly they've read my blog!

From last year's Christmas sweater party at the cabin.

My Inspiration:

And so begins the 2010 Christmas Crazy. Love it!

P.S. That little pup in the first picture is Stella, my family's dog. Love her!

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

If we start turning orange...

I wouldn't be surprised. And no, it's not because we're into GLT.

It's pumpkin season and for the last few weeks, I've been cooking anything and everything that's orange.

What have you been making this season?


I've dedicated a few posts to my Naan Pizza creation. I even mentioned grilling it during the summer. Now I recommend trying the very seasonal butternut squash and onion pizza. Amazing!

butternut squash
olive oil

Cut a butternut squash into little cubes, removing the skin.
Slice an onion (as much or little as you like).
Put the squash and onion in a baking dish, add some olive oil and a dash of cinnamon and nutmeg (I use a generous dash). Cover with foil and bake at 350 for 15-20 minutes or until squash starts to feel soft.

When the squash and onions are done baking, scoop your mixture onto Naan bread. Sprinkle with cheese on top. I used a mixture of shredded mozzarella and parmesan. Then bake at 375 for another 10-12 minutes.


I also busted out the new pasta attachment for my KitchenAid. Love it! My first creation was pumpkin ravioli. I used an Epicurious recipe for the filling and just used semolina flour, eggs and a touch of EVOO for the dough.

Making your own pasta is a bit time consuming, yes. But difficult? No! And in my opinion -- it's well worth the extra effort.
Start dough by making a flour volcano and filling it with eggs. Then begin mixing the eggs with a fork, gradually adding more flour to the mixture.

Eventually I ditched the fork and used my hands to kneed the dough. The dough hook for the KitchenAid supposedly can do this for you, but a friend convinced me it's better done by hand.

The finished product. I used a sage butter sauce. So good!


After I made the pumpkin raviolis, I had some left over pumpkin, ricotta cheese and a few extra pasta noodles. So I made a pumpkin lasagna. This was my first ever completely improvised recipe and I'm not even exactly sure what I did.

I think I took the leftover pumpkin and ricotta, tossed in an egg, some parm cheese and a few spices. I had cut my extra pasta dough into lasagna noodles a few days before and had been storing them in the fridge. So I just used those to complete the recipe.

Personally, I think it could have used a few other spices -- maybe more salt and pepper? But other than that, it was pretty tasty, if I do say so myself!


I saw a recipe in a cooking magazine and decided to give it a try. I altered it a little bit and made it immersion blender friendly. We liked it so much, I made it twice. Try it with a nice chunk of sourdough bread. Delish!

2 pounds of carrots, peeled and chopped (roughly 1 inch pieces)
1 white onion, chopped
3 cups of chicken broth
dash of cinnamon
dash of nutmeg
2 table spoons honey
2 tablespoons butter

Melt butter in a deep pot (better for immersion blender later). Add onion and saute. Next add carrots and chicken broth. Cover and cook on high until the broth starts to boil. Then lower to medium low and cook for about 15-20 minutes or until the carrots start to get tender.

Use the immersion blender to blend the carrots and onions while the soup is still cooking. A few chunks are ok -- actually they add a little something extra. Once the soup is pretty much blended, add the cinnamon, nutmeg, honey, salt and pepper.