Friday, October 18, 2013

Spinach and Feta Loaded Turkey Sliders

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Just because summer has come to a close doesn't mean burgers are done for the year! I think burgers loaded with hearty flavors are a perfect warm comfort food for these cooler temperatures. So, bust out that grill pan and let's get cooking.

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Now, as much as I love the idea of packing burgers with every ingredient I can think of, I really don't like beef. Weird, I know. Probably un-American (which brings me to the fact that my second least-favorite-food is American cheese. Like probably under squid heads and stuff. Talk about not being a red-blooded American). So, the idea of American-cheese smothered burgers isn't really my style.

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But THIS burger is all of my favorite things rolled into one: spinach, turkey, mushrooms, sundried tomatoes, caramelized onions, and roasted red peppers. These are so flavor-packed, you have to make them into tiny little sliders or your head might explode from rich flavor overload.

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Of course I added spinach to the top (cereal is basically the only thing I don't cover in fresh spinach before I eat) and smothered the bun with pesto mayo. Holy sliders of America. Even the leftovers were amazing. I ate a patty over a bed of couscous. As much as I love bread, I highly recommend that, too.

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Ingredients:

1 lb ground turkey
1 egg
1/4 cup oats
1/4 cup panko breadcrumbs
1/4 cup crumbled feta cheese
1/2 onion, thinly sliced
2 roasted red peppers, finely chopped
3 sun-dried tomatoes, finely chopped
1/2 small can mushrooms, finely diced
a few olives, diced
1 large handful of spinach, roughly chopped
1 heaping tsp. garlic
1/2 tsp. salt
small buns for serving

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Saute onions over low heat with olive oil, salt and pepper for about 20 mins. Meanwhile, saute mushrooms over medium heat in a small pan until slightly crisp and browned.

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Mix all ingredients together (usually best to just dive in with your hands). Once combined, form into small, flat patties. Cook on grill or grill pan for 8-10 minutes, flipping once, until cooked through.

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I thought sweet potato fries would be a great accompaniment. Because I can't think of a time I don't want them for an accompaniment, mostly. To make those, I simply cut potatoes into strips, drizzle in olive oil, sea salt, pepper and a spicy seasoning and bake for 30-45 mins on 425, turning once or twice. For the pesto mayo, simply mix your favorite pesto into plain mayonnaise until you're happy with the balance. Onion buns were mighty good with this flavor combo too.

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The beauty of these little guys is that you can really omit any item or throw in extras based on your own preferences! But this combo was killer if I do say so myself.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Our Home-buying Story

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This may be really old news for some of you (it's been a few months now), but I think I'm finally ready to share the "Before Pictures" only since we are *almost* ready to start sharing after photos of what we've been working on. And now, I bring you a little backstory about the house.

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Andy and I knew we wanted to stay in the West End, which is where we lived before. It's full of old houses, trees, charm, and it's really close to where he works and the places we frequent. We tried to think outside the geographical box, but my heart was always in the West End. I also really tried to like houses built after the 1920s. I really, truly, wholeheartedly tried, but to no avail. I just love me some old houses.

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By the time we started looking at houses, Andy had already been actively searching online for months. This one terribly ugly house kept coming up again and again. As a real fixer-upper. I called it the insect house since the porch had been screened in and the front was all widows that looked like large, ugly eyes staring at you. The "charming" awning was about 25 years past it's prime and the whole thing just hadn't been updated in a very long time. Plus the square footage was way too much for just the two of us.

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After looking at a number of houses, Andy brought this one up to our realtor, who somewhat hesitantly agreed to show it to us. As we got out of the car and walked up to it, Andy thanked me for humoring him and I kind of laughed.

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Once we got past the enclosed porch, which looked like the inside of a metal barn, everything was mint green. The wallpaper, the floor-length curtains. So much. (We've since discovered that was the least of it. At one point the shutters, doors, and fixtures had even been painted that color. We thought that was bad. Then we found mint green carpet shards as we were pulling up carpet in one area. Apparently we had seen nowhere close to the worst of it.) But, man, the bones of the house were so good and there was so much space. And just so much all-around potential it hurt.

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By the time we'd gotten into the ridiculously large kitchen, I sheepishly looked at Andy and said, "um, I actually really like it..." We looked at more houses and talked and our realtor thought we were nuts when we said it was a top contender. To give you an idea of what a hard sell this was, the previous owner had not lived in it since 2008. This means we got a really good deal on it. Exactly in the neighborhood we wanted, even closer to Andy's work than before.

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I think some reasons this had been a really hard sell before are:
  • (Read this like a yo mamma joke) The front of that house is so ugly, the realtor said she couldn't even get people inside to look at it! But it's true.
  • An unreal amount of old, thick wallpaper. Unreal. Everywhere. And on the ceilings in half of the rooms. And in the closets. And on the ceilings in the closets. WHY.
  • The only full bath is upstairs under the pitch of the roof and the shower head is on the short side. Unless you are less than five feet tall, this is not cool.
  • The "master bedroom" off of the kitchen. It's actually not the master, and we're using for an office now, but this seemingly random, weird L-shaped room was used as the master (even without a full bath on that floor) since the tiny doorway leading upstairs couldn't fit a box spring mattress up. (Yeah, we already knocked that wall out.)
  • And then there are the issues of ancient sockets, switches, fixtures, etc.
  • Weird large mirrors everywhere. In the dining room, above the fireplace, in the office off of the kitchen. Who knows why. Feng shui? Body building? I won't ask.
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This house was going to need some love, but this was the one for us. I just kept saying, "It's so weird; I love it!"

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As you might imagine, we've got quite a to-do list and the major things include:
  • Tearing down wallpaper, updating sockets and switches, and painting the dining room and living room and adding recessed lighting in the living room (in progress)
  • Remodeling first floor bathroom to make a full bath (and it hopefully won't smell like old sweaty socks anymore)
  • Tearing out the enclosed barn-porch and making it an open porch fit for this wonderful bungalow
  • Remodeling the upstairs bathroom and weird short shower situation
  • Patching, removing wallpaper, and painting the upstairs bedrooms
  • Eventually... Remodeling the kitchen and back office, and putting in a back patio
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So far, I've come to hate wallpaper with a passion, Andy's learning all about electrical things, and I'm itching to get the living room decorated! I thought we might do a statement wall of wallpaper, but no way. I mean, we scrubbed wallpaper paste from the high ceilings of closets for goodness sakes (shout out and thanks to my dad on that specific task!).

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This is going to be a long process, but we're really close to seeing our work start to pay off in the form of finished rooms and I'd say we would absolutely pick this house and these crazy projects again. Now welcome to our adventure.

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Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Trip to Italy

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So this is really old news, but I turned 25 in Italy earlier this summer. (I also turned 20 in Italy, so I'm just planning on making it an every 5 year thing for life, of course.) Now, let me say that I had a ton of fun, exciting blog posts prepared at the beginning of the summer before my little hiatus, and I will spare you the "Yay, it's summer: let's grill!" and "Whoo hoo for cold drinks!" posts. Maybe next year. But, I would like to share a bit of this trip, as a little trip diary if nothing else. Then, my friends, we will forge ahead into fall together. In the meantime, let's soak up some Italian sun.

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Right after Andy went to China, graduated with his MBA, and we bought a house (which all happened within two weeks), we left for Italy. Two weeks of amazing food, good wine and relaxed days were just what we needed after that insane few weeks. We spent most of our time in the small, picturesque village of Urbania.

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We ate good food. A lot and often. The meat and cheese was such good quality wherever you went. The pasta was homemade more often than not. And the pizza was thin, crispy and topped ever so lightly with any combination of ingredients you could imagine. Is there something called "too-much-of-ridiculously-delicious-and-rich-food syndrome?" Yes, because I think I had it. I would probably double in size if I lived there.

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The scenery leading to Urbania was stunning. And though, unfortunately, it was raining and in the 50s-60s most days (in May and June!), I could have just walked around outside all day long and stared at the rolling hills. I promise that is not as boring and weird as it sounds.

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Though we were in a little town for the most part, we took plenty of day trips to places like Florence and Milan. We took a cooking class, conversational Italian classes daily, visited 2 Ferrari museums, a vineyard, a balsamic vinegar operation that went back generations, saw all sorts of cathedrals, sat around bonfires and drank wine at noon. It felt leisurely, but we packed a lot of living in.

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We stayed in this amazing house right right on a little river. You can see you had to walk down steps to get to it. It was recently remodeled and fairly Americanized, (so hopefully we weren't cheating too much on the traditional Italian experience).

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The little road leading to the house was filled with flowers, just like all the little streets there. People sat out in their lawn chairs and chatted as we walked by. The fact that neither of us spoke each other's language was really pretty irrelevant.

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Oh, and check out me cutting my birthday cake: a Nutella gelato cake. Did you get that? A NUTELLA GELATO cake. Yes, it was as good as it sounds. OK, maybe I could break the trend and go back before I'm turning 30... I mean, if I had to.

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Thursday, September 26, 2013

Welcome to my new blog!

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Welcome to my brand-spankin' new blog!! Things have been a little nuts and it's been about 890732490 years since I have even written a post, but I'm baaaack.

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As an overview, in the last 12 months, Andy and I got married, I quit my job, I started a freelance business, we bought a house, Andy went to China, graduated with his MBA, and we traveled to Italy. So, basically we're planning to not do anything for like the next 3 years. Except for completely renovate the fixer-upper we just moved into. There's that. Get prepared for some DIY posts out the wazoo.

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Over the past year, in addition to learning how look for and buy a dream house, becoming an entrepreneur and figuring out how to overcome the overwhelming urge to sign my maiden name by accident for months, I've spent a few minutes or hours here and there over the past few months revamping this blog. I've learned some very (emphasis on the very) basic coding solutions and have been able to customize it quite a bit more. It's still a work in progress, but I think this will do just fine for now.

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This blog started as a means to keep track of recipes I made up and wanted to remember. But recently it's really begun to grow into something more than that. And I need to step it up, folks. I go weeks without posting and I'm still getting hundreds of views a day. (Like over 600 sometimes— Pinterest is an amazing traffic driver!)  It's really exciting to have strangers let me know they tried my recipe out on their family and it was a total hit. I have people tell me quite often how much they enjoy reading these posts. And I enjoy writing them.

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So, without further ado, welcome to the new-and-improved site. Thanks for reading along! Oh, and don't worry, all my old posts have been moved over here, too.

P.S. I'll have a "real" post really soon, I promise.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Summer Swimmies

Contrary to how it may appear that I have never worn a swim suit since my skin is roughly the color of a crisp white bed sheet, I have! Gotta pile on that SPF, but it happens. And with the weather finally warming up, I'm just itching to soak up a little sun (and this year I'll have a yard in which to soak it up!). So, I've rounded up a few of my favorite looks this year.

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 I may not have jumped on the adorable high-waisted bandwagon last year—I admit I'm still a little wary of what these tan lines may look like—but I ordered the bottom half of Look Three to pair with a navy and white polka-dot bandeau I picked up at the GAP. I just received them this week and so far my husband's review is that he doesn't understand them. He made a point to say that it's not like he doesn't like them, he just doesn't get it. He followed this with saying that I look like I'm from Mad Men. How that would not be a compliment is beyond me. So, I suppose only summer will tell. Any thoughts on high waisted bikini bottoms?

One and Two: Urban Outfitters, Three: ASOS, Four and Five: Modcloth.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Our Home

I have a little announcement to make. Drumroll, please...

We bought a house! It's a real fixer-upper and we could not be more excited to make it our own! We'll be all moved in by the end of the month. This means two things for anyone who reads along: 1. Anyone and everyone who is interested can chart our progress of making this ugly duckling into a beautiful swan and 2. We have to say goodbye to our adorable little apartment, so I've decided to share photos here for those who've haven't yet been able to visit.

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Step right up for the guided tour.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Tangy Glazed Pork Chops with a Pomegranate Reduction

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Here in the Midwest, we're in this weird weather state. Kind of an un-season. My spring allergies are in full force, but I'm wearing sweaters. The next day is sundress weather, which turns to rain, which freezes and turns to snow. You can't put away your winter clothes or get out your summer clothes.

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What to wear from one hour to the next isn't the only issue. We're stuck between hearty, winter-y meals and light, fresh spring and summer foods. So, in all this chaos and confusion that is my state of being, I've got one thing that really works for this un-season.  I give you these pork chops. The best of a hearty, warm, winter meal in pork chops jazzed up with sweet, tangy fruit and a kick of spice. Finally, a reason to like the un-season.