Wednesday, October 31, 2012

French Country Stew

If you haven't notice, my style is more rustic and country.  Don't get me wrong--I love the refined tastes of some culinary delicacies that we made in school, but honestly, I love a good rustic meal.  I love making every aspect of it using fresh ingredients; I love the heartiness of the food too.  It's authentic and comfortable--no muss or fuss. 

{Adding the spices--forgot to get a picture of the end product (I might have been hungry)}

Ben is the same way; if I fed him meat and potatoes at every meal, he would never complain.  We love the French Country Stew recipe!  It's so good with the smoked sausage and sweet tomato sauce flavor.


{Getting everything ready to throw together}

{Sauting the beans and sausage for more flavor}

French Country Stew

Makes 6 servings


1 cup carrots, chopped
1 cup celery, chopped
1/2 onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 pound kielbasa (or any other smoked sausage), chopped
1 can tri-blend beans, drained and rinsed
1 can diced tomatoes
1 can tomato paste
1 can tomato sauce
1/2 cup beef broth
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1 tablespoon dried oregano or thyme
1 teaspoon black pepper
  1. Saute carrots, celery, onion and garlic in a saucepan.
  2. Add sausage and beans; saute for 3 minutes.
  3. Add tomato products, beef broth, oregano or thyme, and pepper.
  4. Simmer for 30 minutes or until thickened.
  5. Serve with bread or over mashed potatoes or rice.
This recipe can be made in a crockpot and is just as good.

What is your food style?

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Monday, October 29, 2012

Spiced Cider

My family loves everything about fall--the cool weather, the hearty food, the leaves changing--I could go on!  I hosted a Welcome Home party for my brother the first day he was back.  We had yummy roasted apple spice cupcakes, pumpkin bars, egg rolls, buffalo chicken dip, and spiced cider!

{Hot spiced cider on a cool fall day=PERFECT!}

Such an easy drink recipe--throw everything in a crock pot or sauce pan and let it simmer for a bit then serve!  Perfect party drink!  Plus, you can make this an 'adult' beverage by adding spiced rum.  Delicious!!!

{Fresh apple cider in the crockpot}

{Added spices!}

Spiced Cider

Makes 1 gallon


1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
1 gallon apple cider
1 cup orange juice
Spiced rum (optional)
  1. In a crock pot, combine cloves, cinnamon, cider and orange juice.
  2. Heat on low for 2-4 hours.
  3. Serve in mugs.
*Pour rum into the crock pot or individual cups to turn this into an adult beverage.

What is your favorite fall drink?
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Friday, October 26, 2012

Roasted Apple Spice Cupcakes

In true fashion, smitten kitchen posted ANOTHER recipe that I knew I immediately had to try: roasted apple spice sheet cake.  However, she made a very large amount of the cake so I did have to cut the recipe in half which still ended up making lots of cupcakes, but no compliants because I got to share it with my wonderful coworkers who enjoyed every. last. one!

{Roasting the apples before putting it in the batter--GENIUS!!!}

I made these for my brother's Welcome Home party--not that I need an excuse to make delicious food!  I figured that while he was here enjoying the fall, he should make every day (and second) count by filling up on roasted and spiced fruits and vegetables of the season!

{Pre-roasting--I used MacIntosh.  They have spots because I might have waited ALMOST too long to make this recipe!}

{Roasted--they were really dry--it was strange}

{Chopping apples}

These are deliciously moist, and another easy recipes (although maybe not so with the dish factor...)!  In fact--I am eating one as I write this!  Oohhh I should try it with peanut butter!

{After adding the eggs}

{About to start alternating flour and applesuace mixture}

{Folding in roasted apples to the batter}

Roasted Apple Spice Cupcakes

Makes 40 cupcakes

6 apples, any variety you prefer, peeled, halved, and cored
3 3/4 cups all purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
3/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
3/4 cup honey
2 1/4 cups unsweetened applesauce
1 1/2 sticks butter, room temperature
3/4 cup dark brown sugar
3 large eggs, room temperature
  1. Preheat oven to 375.
  2. Line a roasting pan with parchment paper; place apples face down on the paper and roast in a single layer until dry to the touch about 20 minutes. Cool.
  3. Reduce oven to 350.
  4. Line cupcake tin with liners (if making a cake, grease pan).
  5. In a large bowl, whisk dry ingredients together until combined.
  6. In another bowl, whisk honey and applesauce together.
  7. In a mixing bowl, cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy.
  8. Add eggs to butter mixture one at a time until incorporated.
  9. Add 1/3 of flour mixture to butter mixture; then add 1/2 of applesauce mixture. Keep alternating, ending with the flour mixture.
  10. Chop roasted apples into small, bite-size pieces and fold into batter.
  11. Fill cupcake liners to the top (batter doesn't rise much).
  12. Bake 15-20 minutes or until an inserted toothpick comes out clean.
What foods do you start making when fall comes?
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Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Apartment Redecoration

Every now and then I get this overwhelming feeling to reorganize, redecorate, and relocate furniture our apartment.  I contribute it to the fact my family moved around every few years so we would go through all of our stuff twice a year and get rid of clothes we outgrew/didn't wear and toys that were broken/not played with and so on.

My recent urge was after the realization that we have lived in our apartment for almost 5 years, and it didn't look like we really lived there.  It took me two years to put pictures and such on the walls (I wasn't really allowed to growing up).  It was another two years before we really started personalizing the apartment (personal knick-knacks, personal pictures, etc). 

Finally, after asking the landlord if they would paint the apartment since the walls were looking pretty bad, and them saying no but we could paint it whatever color we wanted as long as it was a light color; that was the trigger.  We started looking at paint colors, and I started day dreaming about how I wanted our living space to be.  So after 5 years, I have finally gotten comfortable enough to decorate and personalize the apartment.  WOOT!!!

This post is filled with before and after pictures.  I'm no interior designer by any means.  I did a lot of research and thinking and changing my mind.  Ben was very patient with me, and he really seems to love the apartment that much more too!  I love coming home and hanging out--I'm a homebody at heart.  Unfortunately, we couldn't update appliances, tear down walls, or anything else of that nature; we did scrub EVERYTHING down and repaired what we could (after asking the landlord multiple times and them saying--if you want you can repair it yourselves--yes I realize that I will probably not get my deposit back at this point, but I don't care--the apartment looks FANTASTIC).

One more thing before the pictures--My inspiration came from nature.  Ben and I love nature so I incorporated it into our apartment--you won't find much 'modern' furniture in our apartment.  We love a comfortable, rustic feel, and I think that we achieved it! 

Now without further ado....

Bedroom--The inspiration is the ocean so the colors are beige, tans, blues, and white.


We painted the room 'Toasted Almond" from Valspar, changed the position of the bed, and put all of our shells and sand on display in jars (they are all gathered on our dresser, but they'll be spread out more when we get some more shelves).  We put up a different curtain rod and added some lanterns; the curtain is a black-out curtain which makes it easier to sleep in ;o)

The bedroom is not totally finished yet, but it will get there.  We really don't spend much time in the bedroom except to sleep. 

Bathroom--Painted "Courtyard Tan" by Valspar.  The colors currently are red and brown; we also have green and cream towels when we want to change things up.  I love the versatility of the shower curtain!

I was/still am sooooo embarassed about how the shower looked that I didn't take a picture.  Just know that the grout was stained, and the caulk was discolored and cracking--just not pretty.  Ben and I tried everything to clean it--baking soda, bleach, industrial strength cleaner--nothing worked!


I have no clue how a cream towel ended up out there!  LOL  Anyway, all we did was slap a fresh coat of paint on the walls and cabinet.  Then we regrouted the shower along with a new smear of white caulk.  We had some nicks in the enamel of the bath tub, and so we filled them in with white nail polish; it looks good as new!  We also installed a curved shower rod and a rain shower head (I've wanted both for SUCH. A. LONG. TIME! that I finally got them for myself for my birthday).  Everything has made such a difference!  I LOVE IT!!!
The bathroom is done--not doing anything else unless we change some of the pictures in the frame.

Kitchen--Painted "Courtyard Tan" by Valspar.  The colors in the kitchen are wood and green with cream/white accents. 


Sorry for the crappy picture light on two of them...  Basically, the cabinets had knicks and such; they might have been a bit cluttered...


Basically, everything got a fresh coat of paint, and the appliances got a good scrubbing.  We hung some floating shelves for extra space to put stuff. 

It still needs some finishing touches.  For example, I'm still toying with putting the branch and flower idea back up (I change the foliage depending on the season).  I also went through a bunch of my equipment and gave some up to family who needed it more than me.

Living room--The flower canvas painting above the TV was the inspiration for the room so the colors we did were yellows and greens with red and wood accents.


Ben couldn't wait to get the TV so we kinda got it before we were ready.  We had a corner entertainment center with an 'old school' TV.  The couch had to angled so you could see the TV.  Yes--I have a massive cat tree.  Yes--it might be hideous to look at.  My cats enjoy it, and it saves my furniture--enough said.
 {Where the flat screen is (on the coffee table) is where our old TV used to be}


We painted the room "Tea Cream" from Valspar, hung new curtains, rearranged the furniture, and rearranged the pictures on the walls.  I love the way this looks!!!

This room is done!  Nothing more than some wedding pictures will be done to this room.

Office/Kitty room--This room is attached to the living room so we painted it the same color and kept the same idea.


Not much to say except boring...
 {We were starting before I realized I forgot to take pictures--oops!}


We installed some floating shelves from Ikea (one of my favorite stores!) and rearranged some pictures.  One shelf serves as a sort of entry table.  When I say 'kitty room' yes I literally mean they have a room that houses their litter boxes, kitty cardboard tunnel, food bowls, water bowl, and toys (for the most part).  I also made new cat boxes that look a bit better than the conventional ones do plus they have more room.  Our desk is in this room too.
 {I LOVED this piece of art from Meijer!  Totally represents us!}

I'm not done with this room--I can't put my finger on it, but it needs something else.  Not sure what yet, but I will soon!



Just boring...


I love the look of black and white pictures against a gray wall--so I did it!  Paint is "Modest Silver" by Valspar.  I did want a pop of color so I put my favorite print-from-a-painting "Starry Night" by Vincent van Gogh.  I LOVE this!!!

Hallway is pretty much done--I'll probably add some wedding pictures on the other wall space (not pictured) and am toying with printing some of our favorite poems/quotes to put on the other walls which are bare at the moment.

Whew!  That was a long one!  Lots of hard work went into this!  I couldn't have done it without Ben!  Like I said, I love coming home and seeing this beauty.  It feels comfortable and just like home.  I am happy with it, and my family really loved it too.  Ben's parents haven't seen it yet, but they will!

Have you redone an entire room?  An entire house?  Do you have any suggestions for some of my not-quite-done-yet spaces?  I'd love to hear from you!
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Monday, October 22, 2012

With this ring, I thee wed...

{Something old...}

{Something new...}

{Something borrowed...}

{Something blue...}

{And a penny in your shoe!}

{I now pronounce you man and wife!}

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