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Home Sweet Home

Well this is embarrassing. I haven’t written a post in almost a year. Things have been hectic, to say the least (warning: venting is about to happen). Around this time last year, we were given the choice to get rid of our dog or move. We moved. There was no debating this. Without going into too much detail, the property manager at our first apartment decided to make an example out of us by singling us out (and our dog), and fining us $75/per day (levying ridiculously high fines like this on tenants is illegal), without providing any notice of the fine (also illegal) for having a dog over the weight limit living in the apartment. Never mind the Doberman, Labrador and boxer also living in the apartments. The property manager threatened to have the police come take our dog (again, illegal). Rather than fight someone who doesn’t understand property management law, or Texas law in general, we went on our way to pet friendly apartments (shout out to Marquis at Clear Lake). This is where we lived while our home was getting built and we felt very welcome and didn’t have any more issues. Lesson learned- there are some awful people out there.

Anyway…

Last year in July, my mom and I went cruising around the League City historic district trying to find the Butler Museum, but she turned down the wrong street. We stumbled across a new, yet historic, neighborhood that I immediately fell in love with. Earlier last year, Dustin and I had been looking to buy a home but every home we liked seemed to have an offer on it as soon as they were listed. We felt defeated and had completely lost hope that we’d be buying a home soon, so when I walked into the model home of this new/historic neighborhood and was told there were homes for sale, I got very excited! Within a week, we put down our earnest money and by August we were designing our home!

Designing our home was a blast…a dream, really. I never thought we’d build our first home, as it was never something Dustin and I discussed, but as you already know, life cannot always be planned. There were a few minor hiccups along the way, but it was worth it in the end. I wish I had been blogging about the process all along (I know I wished there were more blogs about the step by step home building process…lord knows I searched for them) but I didn’t want to add to the stress.

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Breaking ground…

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Framing…

 

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Looking like a house!

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Siding and Roof…

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Kitchen details…

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We closed on our home on December 23, 2015 and moved in the same evening after waiting several hours to hear back from the title company that we were funded. And if you’re wondering if I decorated my home for Christmas, I did! We shoved our Christmas tree into the back of my Jeep, ornaments and all, and set it up in our new living room!

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Cake Batter Blondies

Something super healthy just in time for summer!

I whipped up these cake batter blondies a few weeks ago to bring to a get together These were insanely easy to make, and everyone kept telling me how good they were. You can also make substitutions depending on what you like or have on hand. There are about a zillion types of rainbow sprinkles, and I don’t think you need any specific type in particular. You can use vanilla cake mix, yellow cake mix; I’d even like to try strawberry. I used the long skinny sprinkles you find at your nearest Baskin-Robbins. I almost omitted the white chocolate chips, because white chocolate is not considered chocolate in my book, but I really wanted to follow the recipe exactly. I’m glad I did! The white chocolate chips gave the blondies an added creamy and moist (do you hate that word as much as I do?) texture.

The trick to this recipe is to keep the batter as thick as you can while still being able to spread it somewhat evenly into the bottom of a brownie pan. Keep it as dense as you can, man! Solid!

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Pizza!!!

It’s been months since I’ve blogged. Well, this is embarrassing. I said last time that I was a bad blogger, and I guess I just had to prove it! Anyway, I’ve tried several new recipes and some oldies but goodies that I’ve yet to share. Lately, I’ve been cooking almost everything from scratch…because I have to prove myself to the blog gods, ya know?

First up…Homemade Pizza. And No, I don’t mean buying a Boboli crust and Ragu pizza sauce. Not that there’s anything wrong with that! A few weeks ago I had a hankerin’ for some pizza, but hubby wasn’t home and Lord knows I can polish off a Papa John’s pizza by myself, so I decided to do the right thing and make my own pizza. It couldn’t be that hard, right?! Since I’ve been making homemade pizza, we have yet to order one! I found the sauce and crust recipes on Allrecipes.com. You can find the sauce recipe here and what’s awesome is that it does not require any cooking, plus it’s a can tomato paste, water, and seasonings. It’s great! The crust (here) does take an hour to rise, but you can make the sauce while you’re waiting on the crust.

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The tricks to making a delicious homemade pizza:

  1. Unless you’re using a pizza stone, cook your crust for about 5-7 minutes before adding the sauce and toppings, otherwise you’ll end up with a sad soggy pizza. A melancholy pizza, if you will.
  2. Use FRESH mozzarella!!! Please, please, please do not solely use pre-grated cheese. This makes all the difference!
  3. Broil the pizza for the last 1-2 minutes for bubbly cheese and crisp toppings, but whatever you do, do NOT leave your pizza alone or it will burn. Your broiling pizza depends on your company. Your companionship. Your attention. Don’t leave it.

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(By the way, those are pepperonis that I tossed in the food processor. Don’t you hate taking a big bite of pizza only to tear off an entire slice of pepperoni and all the cheese that comes with it?! Actually, now that I’ve typed that, it doesn’t sound so bad…)

Say “Hello” to My Little Failure…and to some recipes.

Here she is…

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Can you guess which one is mine? Don’t worry. All was not lost! I attempted to convert my strawberries into edible footballs with approximately four strawberries before lowering my head in defeat. I say “approximately” because there was a fifth football strawberry in the making, but I quickly gave up. I waved my white flag. You win, Pinterest football strawberries, you win.

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Chicken Enchiladas

If you’ve ever made enchiladas, you know that corn tortillas can be tricky. There are very specific ways to warm a corn tortilla and if you don’t do it correctly, it will crack. As a matter of fact, when I first used corn tortillas to make enchiladas, they crumbled. And then I angrily threw the corn tortilla particles into the garbage. If you’ve had this problem, or you have zero tolerance for tom foolery, use half corn/half flour tortillas. HEB carries fabulous tortillas called “mixla” and they are great! They don’t crumble and you still get the corn tortilla flavor. I used a recipe from Tyler Florence and changed just a few things. I used precooked rotisserie chicken, used taco seasoning as the “Mexican seasoning”, omitted the Chipotle peppers and subbed one can of rotel for the green chiles. These were good! So good, that my husband who supposedly doesn’t like enchiladas says they are the best enchiladas he’s had and requests these! They took me about 45 minutes from start to finish, but then again, I didn’t have to cook the chicken.

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Chicken Alfredo

Refrain from buying jarred Alfredo sauce! It’s so easy to make from scratch and it tastes amazing! I started making it about 7 years ago after my mom’s friend served it up. Back then I was shocked that you could actually make Alfredo sauce from scratch! I’m really bad about not measuring my ingredients, but this recipe is pretty close to how I make mine, except I melt 4 oz. of cream cheese before adding the heavy cream. This helps the Parmesan melt and to become less grainy. I know this isn’t “fettucine” Alfredo, because I used corkscrew pasta, but who cares! Throw this sauce on whatever pasta you have, add some cooked chicken and call it a day! The sauce takes maybe 10 minutes to make…there’s no excuse not to try it!

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Keepin’ It Healthy

Okay, so that title was totally a lie. Between the holidays and being busy with work, I found it hard to eat healthy. So I didn’t! Christmas comes once a year, so you bet I’m going to muscle down a few extra sugar cookies! And holy cow…it’s been over a month since I’ve written. I’m a bad blogger! Say that five times really fast…

I bet you did 🙂 Good job!

Soft Pretzels

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What do you do when it’s New Years Day and you are watching Diners, Drive Ins and Dives and they show you a delicious soft pretzel that you begin to crave, but every place that could possibly sell them is closed? You make them yourself. I’ve made pretzels before, and they were kind of a pain to make. I came across some of those same difficulties this time, but this recipe was a whole lot quicker to make, as it requires no rise time. Yay! The problem I have when making pretzels is that the dough is very elastic. You start to roll is into a “snake” of dough and as soon as you let go, it begins to shrink back down into its original size. Frustration sets in. You curse the recipe Gods, and then realize if your dough was a bit tackier, it would stick to the counter and not shrink immediately. The second problem I have is dipping the pretzel into the soda water mixture. Without fail, my pretzel begins to fall apart, but alas, it’s easily fixed once on the pan for baking. These pretzels came out perfect, if I may so so myself! I even made homemade sauce for them found here in this recipe.

Beignets

This recipe isn’t really recipe and I was cheating when I made these. It’s actually the Cafe du Monde box mix from the grocery store. So why am I including it? Because they were SUPER easy to make, tasted really good and the box is sold at nearly every grocery store in the Clear Lake area. I’ve never had the pleasure of going to the actual Cafe du Monde, so I had to see what everyone was talking about. Anyway, here’s my rendition of their famous beignets!

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Homemade Biscuits

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The other night I made some delicious homemade stew, but it definitely needed some type of bread to go with it. I thought “making biscuits can’t be too hard” and they aren’t, but I was feeling lazy, per usual. I didn’t want to roll out the dough, plus I didn’t have a biscuit cutter. I googled “easy biscuits” and thank heavens, there was a recipe called E-Z drop biscuits. Sold! I searched no more. These are the easiest biscuits you can make from scratch, and they are very similar to Red Lobster biscuits. You could actually add cheddar (which I did), brush with melted butter mixed with Bay seasoning and they’d probably taste pretty darn close!

The next morning, I warmed up the biscuits and served them with homemade turkey gravy. I made my turkey gravy pretty much the same way as regular gravy, but you have to soak up all the watery mess that is expelled from the turkey sausage while cooking (yuck) and add some of your own grease, a.k.a., melted butter. Finish up as you would regular gravy by adding flour and milk. Ta-da! Healthier (somewhat) gravy!

Christmas Crafts

Seeing as Christmas is next week (!!!), it’s a little late to be posting Christmas Crafts. Between work and family, I’ve been so busy lately and I’m wondering where the year has gone. I switched jobs to one that I absolutely love (seriously, it’s crazy for someone to love their job as much as I do), Dustin switched jobs as well, we rescued a Husky that we named Aspen, and we celebrated our one year anniversary! So sorry I haven’t been keeping up with this as much as I had hoped to!

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Anyway, the first craft I completed was one I came across on Pinterest. Even though this is used on Styrofoam balls and meant for non-Christmas home decor, it worked well for making ornaments. You see, I’m going for a rustic Christmas look in our home and my cheap, shiny red ornaments didn’t exude the cozy cabin feel I had hoped to (nor did I know I wanted that look when I bought said ornaments three years ago). When I came across this tutorial, I thought, “I could do that with the cheap, shiny red ornaments”. And I did! With the help of my friend Tayler and her endless collection of twine, I crafted three of these bad boys.

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Even though this is self-explanatory, here’s the tutorial…

http://lovelycraftyhome.com/2011/01/04/bring-on-the-twine/

My next craft project came from the fact that I didn’t want to pay $40+ dollars for a custom Christmas banner on Etsy, so I thought I could make my own for a bit cheaper. I figured I could run into Hobby Lobby, grab the items I needed and go! Nope. It was a fiasco. It took me an hour to figure out what I needed, and once I got home, I realized that some of the letter stencils were too big for the cardboard panels. I wanted to scream. I would have to drive to Hobby Lobby and exchange the stencils, except there weren’t any others that I liked and they were not the appropriate size. I thought “I’ll just paint the letters by hand!”. It actually turned out way better than I thought, and gave me the rustic, handmade look that I desired. It only cost about $15 and took me an hour. I basically used the oldest paintbrush I could find, and splotched (is that even a word?) shimmery white paint all over the cardboard panels and used a maroon paint for the letters. I connected all of the pieces with twine and ta-da! My nightmare banner was complete.

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And the final product in action…

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A big thank you to my wonderful husband who puts up with my cheesy ideas, and to Jessica Pledger who always takes amazing photos!

http://www.jessicapledger.com/

And a few more pics of our one year anniversary…just because 🙂

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What’s for Dinner?

It’s that time of year when my cooking becomes more cozy. Soups, casseroles and chicken pot pie have begun to take over my life, and I’m totally okay with that.

Sunday – Chicken Pot Pie.
The idea to make this came from my husband, Dustin. It had occurred to me before to make this awhile back, but I thought it would be too challenging so I never tried…until now! Let me tell you, it was EASY. First off, buy yourself a darn store bought rotisserie chicken and a darn store bought pie crust and bask in all that extra time you have (or finish doing your laundry). I got this recipe from none other, than the Pioneer Woman. Folks, her recipes are a godsend and perfect for those who don’t cook because she takes pictures of each step along the way. I changed two things; I added half a cup of frozen peas and I made it with a bottom crust. Hers just called for a top pie crust, but in our household, we’d have none of that. It didn’t turn soggy either! The filling made enough to fill two nine inch pie crusts. We made one, and froze the other one. By the time we cooked everything and baked it, it took close to an hour.

http://thepioneerwoman.com/cooking/2013/08/pot-pie/

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Monday – My father’s birthday and we had delicious pizza from Slices ‘n Ices. Try it. You won’t regret it.
Tuesday – Cauliflower soup.
When I first told Dustin I was making this, he shook his head back and forth and said “No”, similar to a teenager. I promised him it would be yummy. If you want to make a lighter, calorie friendly version of potato soup, well, this isn’t the recipe for you. This soup lost all its nutritional benefits when I began measuring the grated cheese by the handful. One reason I like this versus potato soup is it takes less time. The cauliflower doesn’t cook for as long as potatoes and you don’t have to peel any potatoes…the bane of my existence. In total, it probably took 40 minutes.

http://thepioneerwoman.com/cooking/2014/10/cheesy-cauliflower-soup/

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Wednesday – Chicken Pot Pie…again!
So when I made the chicken pot pie on Sunday, I had enough filling for a second pie. I put it in the freezer, uncooked, anticipating that I’d bake it the following week. This pot pie was so darn delicious that we couldn’t wait! The next day I placed it in the fridge to defrost. Dustin and I both agreed that this one taste even better! One downside is that it took about 40 minutes to bake. I think the crust got slightly soggy when defrosting, but when it was done baking, there was no sogginess!

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Thursday – Loaded Baked Potato and Chicken Casserole
This is one of those pinterest recipes you see, and think, “I could really make that!”. This recipe was simple, yet good. It contains bacon, potato and cheese. How could it taste bad? I did read some of the comments on this recipe before making it, and based on the reviews stating it was too liquidy, I reduced the heavy cream to a few tablespoons drizzled over the top. I also did not add any butter. If you wanted butter, I’d recommend adding it to your serving only, just as you’d put on top of a baked potato. I’m glad I took a before and after picture of this recipe. It looks so pretty and colorful before, and definitely not as pretty or colorful afterwards. Looks aren’t everything!

http://www.deliciousasitlooks.com/2013/05/loaded-baked-potato-chicken-casserole.html

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Friday – Beef and Bean Burritos.
I know right. Beef and Bean burritos…so groundbreaking! But hear me out…this involves enchilada sauce, or Mexican tomato sauce if you can find it. I work late on Fridays and, solely because it was Friday, I was refusing to cook anything real, and this took maybe 15 minutes. To season the beef, I used my homemade taco seasoning before adding the sauce to it. And you guessed it…another recipe from the Pioneer Woman!

http://thepioneerwoman.com/cooking/2010/07/brown-hot-and-plenty-of-it-vol-i/

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Saturday – Pumpkin Pie Cheesecake
Okay, so this isn’t dinner. And I actually made it Friday night…but I ate it Saturday. It was life changing. Earth Shattering. Mind blowing. I never thought I could make a cheesecake, given that they have the reputation of being finicky and my amount of patience runs neck and neck with a toddler’s. I made this recipe, and changed two things. I didn’t have allspice, so I omitted it (and it was so good without it, so I’ll probably never add it) and I lowered the oven temperature to 325 F, let it bake for 45 minutes, turned off the oven and let the cheesecake cool down gradually inside. I read somewhere that if you cook it at too high of a temperature or for too long, it will crack like San Andreas fault. If that happens…just tell your guests it’s earthquake cheesecake. They’ll believe it was on purpose 😉

http://www.food.com/recipe/the-cheesecake-factory-pumpkin-cheesecake-by-todd-wilbur-46780

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