Saturday, April 30, 2011

New Toy!

I know I hinted on here several times that I was in the market for a DSLR camera. They are very pricey, even the beginner models, but I did a great deal of research and was ready to make the plunge. Thanks to some very generous birthday gifts in addition to what I've been adding to my envelope monthly, I was able to purchase the Canon Rebel SXi on my birthday last week.

I tracked it at UPS for several days. The lense, UV protector, and memory card all came in the mail before the actual camera. Finally the day came. On Friday afternoon the doorbell rang and I knew my camera had finally arrived!!
 I immediately opened it up and charged the battery. As it charged, I read the manual. Seriously, each page. As soon as the battery was charged, I went out to play. I took pictures of our animals and a lizard that happened to be out on our back porch. I plan to play more today and test some things out. After months of reading and hearing things like white balance, shutter speed, and aperture, I'm excited to put it into practice.




Check back soon for the releasing of www.cookinwiththejohnstons.com!
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Happy Birthday to me!

Because Easter was such a crazy week for Jarrod and I, we decided to celebrate my birthday on Thursday, the 28th. Jarrod took me to La Provence in Lacombe, Louisiana. It's a John Besh restaurant and it was absolutely incredible.

 We got all dressed up and hit the town for a night out. La Provence is on the Northshore and is not terribly far from our home. It's a beautiful farm house with a comfortable atmosphere. We were immediately impressed with the service. Jarrod made the reservations online and all night people were wishing me a happy birthday. The woman that sat us at our table, our waiter, the bartender, manager, and bus girl all were so friendly. We learned all about where our food was grown or breed, which was awesome!

Instead of simple warm bread, we were served pate and toast before our meal. Jarrod enjoyed it so much that he ate it straight from the serving knife! We ordered drinks - a cosmo for me and a mojito for Jarrod. Both were incredibly delicious and made with lots of love. The mint in Jarrod's drink was so fresh!

For an appetizer, we ordered the smoked salmon latke. Delicious! The potato pancake was crisp on the outside and soft on the inside. It paired incredibly well with the soft smoked salmon and light greens. After the appetizers we were brought delicious little rolls. It was the softest bread I've ever had! Delicious fresh herbs on top made this an incredible little bite. Soon our meals were delivered. I ordered the soft shell crab and Jarrod got the ham-wrapped sword fish. Both were incredibly delicious! My crab was lightly fried in a crisp corn batter and served over jalepeno grits. Jarrod's was served over polenta. Both were cooked to perfection and had a lot of deep flavors. The sauce with my crab had huge pieces of ham in it, which made for a delicious smokey flavor.

I'm glad we saved room for dessert!
It's called a candy bar and it was one of the best things EVER! Check out the candle on the edge of the plate, a beautiful touch! The dessert was made of a dense flourless chocolate cate topped with a light peanut butter mousse, a thin layer of homemade caramel, and salted peanut brittle on top. On the side was the most incredible ice cream on planet earth - a salted caramel ice cream with a cookie tuile. Jarrod and I fought over the last bite and practically licked the plate. It was a delicious ending to an incredible meal.

Jarrod gave me one of the best gifts ever over our meal. He said that he'd like to be a food blogger! I don't think he knew what he was getting himself into when he said that, but it's ON! I've been working for months to get him more active on this blog. I don't know if he will now, but I'm going to attempt. We needed a new blog theme now that we're moving from Louisiana. After much discussion, we're going to be

What's Cookin' with the Johnstons! 

I've purchased the domain: www.cookinwiththejohnstons.com and have begun work on a new look for the blog. It'll take a few weeks, but I hope to have things set by June. Don't worry, not much is going to change. I'll still be writing about random life happenings, recipes, and our crazy animals. Hopefully we'll include our journey to expanding our family and more restaurant reviews as we move to Dallas as well. And we might even see Jarrod make an appearance or two!
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Tuesday, April 26, 2011

New Wardrobe

In my current job I have very few days that I even need to wear khakis, let alone something more professional. For example, I'm wearing jeans and a t-shirt with tennis shoes today. I have nice clothes - date clothes, church clothes, and pretty dresses - but I don't wear them very often. Even to church, I often wear dress jeans, a cute top, and flats. My current wardrobe looks like this:

Some of these pieces are things I actually have in my wardrobe currently. Others are symbolic. These are my staples, though. Don't worry, I never wear my denim jacket with jeans - that's just too much! I have a wide variety of cute shoes (although colorful flats are my go-to) and funky jewelry - thanks to my step mom. Although I rarely accessorize to my full potential, I have the capabilities to do so.

I know that my new job will be more business attire than I currently have in my wardrobe - at least in my current size. I do not want to buy a whole new wardrobe, but I do want to invest in some classic pieces and great deals to get my new life started.

After some research, I've decided that I want my wardrobe to look more like this:



1. Cute t-shirt - I love this casual, but work appropriate t-shirt. I am a big fan of comfortable, cotton tees with ruffles, flowers, or beading to make it fancy and professional.

2. White Blazer - I am a sucker for a nice, tailored suit. I've never had a job that necessitated me wearing a suit on a regular basis, but I do think having at least one all season suit or two seasonal suits is important when working in an environment that requires a suit from time to time. I love this gorgeous tailored white blazer. It could be paired with a colorful scarf (18) or tank (8) with jeans or dress slacks (3).

3. White Suit Pants - I don't think suits need to be worn in matchy-matchy pairs, but it is always nice to have the option of looking very professional. These fitted and polished white pants would be gorgeous between Easter and Labor Day.

4. Dress Shorts - I haven't jumped on the dress short bandwagon yet, but I think I could very easily become a convert. These cute shorts could be paired with a nice pair of shoes (21) and a pretty top (6).

5. Classic Black Cardigan - I actually already own this sweet cardigan from Target. It's comfortable, fits well, and has cute flowers on the front. I'd wear it with a colorful tank underneath with dress jeans or slacks (14).

6.  Dress sleeveless shirt - I love this sweet top with the ruffles across the front. It's simple and gorgeous.

7.  Tailored Colored shirt - I am a firm believer that everyone needs a great colorful collared shirt. Of course I don't have one right now because my job doesn't require me to be buttoned up, but it will be the first thing I buy once we move. With a little elastic, this shirt will give some as I move around and get things done throughout the day.

8. Vibrant shell or sleeveless shirt - I am a huge fan of this color. I think it makes a tasteful statement and could look gorgeous paired with just about anything. It would be gorgeous with dress jeans on a date or with the white suit (2 & 3). I love versatile pieces!

9. Fitted and flattering tailored white shirt - Just like a colorful button up, I'm a huge fan of a classic white collared shirt. This one has 3/4 length sleeves and is fitted, but stretchy. Ideal for everyone woman because it cuts down on the button gaps. I'd wear it with a scarf (17 or 18) or funky piece of jewelry.

10. Soft cardigan - I misplaced the link for the next two pieces. This pretty and feminine cardigan would look beautiful dressed up or down. I like having multiple cardigans available for days where it's cooler in the mornings or inside the air conditioned buildings.

11. Feminine and neutral cardigan - This cardigan had me at hello. It's flirty and feminine, but also very neutral. I also like that this one is a little longer, which would make it more flattering on my short frame.

12. Patterned Skirt - A nice, fitted skirt is essential. This gorgeous pattern makes a statement and can easily be paired with a very simple white or black shirt with cute shoes. The skirt can be a signature piece.

13. Neutral Skirt -Like the patterned skirt, this neutral skirt is an essential. Dressed up with a colorful button up (7) or dressed down with a cute t-shirt (1), this skirt is appropriate for so many occasions. And it's stretchy! Can't beat that.

14. Black Cropped Pants - I love cropped pants. They make me feel like I'm wearing something very casual, but when paired with heels and a nice top, they are totally work appropriate. And of course they are great because I live in an area of the country that is about as hot as the surface of the sun in the summer.

15. Khaki Capris - These are a little more casual than the black cropped pants and can be dressed up with flowered heels (21) or dressed down with flip flops. Perfect for summer meetings and nights out with the hubby!

16. Dark dress slacks - Dress slacks are essential, but in the summer finding a good pair that can sustain an incredibly intense heat of Dallas summers. These seem to be lighter pants, but still professional for the office.

17. Bright, patterned scarf - I love scarves. They can fancy up any outfit and bring some color to a simple look. I love this patterned scarf because it's a paisley print in a very bright color. I'd wear it with a simple white oxford (9) and black cropped pants (14) with colorful shoes (21). 

18. Colorful and mature scarf -Another colorful scarf, but this one has beading, which for me means it's more professional than scarves with trim or patterns. ;-)

19. Neutral Slingbacks -I adore slingbacks. And normally I love shoes with color and personality, but I also know every girl needs a good pair of neutral heels. I love these because they aren't very tall. I am not a fan of heels at all and if I have to wear them, they need to be slow or super cute. I would probably wear these with a bright top or scarf to balance the neutral shoes.

20.  Printed Wedges - I love these shoes. They are wedges, which means they will be more comfortable than traditional heels. Plus the springy pattern is so pretty. It's neutral enough that they wouldn't be too overpowering with a colored top (1) and neutral skirt (13).

21. Printed heels - These might be my new favorite heels ever. They aren't too high, but the heels are thin and flattering. The pattern is gorgeous and would match many different colors, bright pink being my favorite, of course. They are just $50 at DSW and I have a $10 gift certificate. Awesome!

22. Silver Flats - I am a huge fan of flats. I love them with pants, shorts, skirts, and dresses. I wear them all the time because I've typically just walked or am about to walk and flats are much easier on my feet than heels. And these sweet silver flats are the perfect neutral to go with just about anything. They'd look awesome with jeans and a cute top for date night or with cropped pants and a sweater for work.

The final piece on the board is a funky woven bracelet from Banana Republic. I'm a huge fan of funky bracelets, although I rarely wear them. I wear funky earrings or a pretty necklace, but I'm usually scared of bracelets. My new wardrobe needs some cute bracelets and this one is awesome. It has teal ribbon running through it, which matches like everyone I own. Perfection!

I've generally paired some of these pieces together, but intentionally added things that would go together and match other pieces of my wardrobe to get maximum usage out of each piece. I can't say that I'm going to get each of these pieces or even something to represent each of these pieces. However, I am going to use this as a measuring stick before purchasing anything. Also, notice there aren't any dresses on here. That's because a) I'm VERY particular about dresses and won't purchase anything that isn't PERFECT and b) I've recently purchased 4 new dresses, all work and church appropriate. (Plus one that is a little causal that I could probably dress up for work.)

I'll keep you posted on my ever-evolving wardrobe. Probably won't be buying much before the big move. With each thing I buy, I am conscious that I'll have to find a place for it, pack it, and unpack it. Not appealing!

Any of you professional women have good wardrobe or store options for me? Where can you get great quality work clothes at a good price? What's your go-to piece?
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Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Another Important Announcement!

It feels like 500 years ago that I told you we are officially moving to Dallas. I knew that eventually I'd need to find a job in the area, but was perfectly content staying in Slidell through the summer to finish out my work here before moving to be with Jarrod. Of course I kept my ear to the ground on positions in my field, but it would take a perfect job to get me to leave what I have here.

Then I ran across my dream job description in a location very close to our new church. I applied for the position, had a Skype interview the day after we told our bosses we were leaving, and finally had a face-to-face interview last week. Everything seemed too good to be true. The job is in a great location, will require travel and meeting interesting people. It's in a field that I'm incredibly passionate about and combines my skills in organization, flexibility (don't laugh!), resourcing, and working with young people. Better yet - it uses my degree to more than it's full potential! I didn't get my hopes up, but was very excited about the opportunity.

About 12 hours after the interview I was offered the job. Less than 30 minutes later Jarrod and I were out looking for homes to lease in the area. Knowing I'd be bringing in a salary gave us peace of mind to make a good decision about where our family would be living.

I am beyond thrilled to have a job, let alone a job that feels like it was created for me. I can't wait to jump in and start meeting people. I know it will be challenging, in a good way and in a hard way. I know I'm starting on the wrong end of the learning curve. But I am hopeful and excited about the future. 

A month ago we were happily living in Louisiana. In a month, we'll be setting up a new home in Dallas, starting new jobs, making new friends, and beginning a new chapter of our lives. To say it's been a whirlwind adventure thus far would be an understatement. We are devastated to leave, thrilled to be entering what seems like a great new life, and overwhelmed about the things that need to happen over the next 6 weeks. We are more than confident that God is leading us and guiding us as we begin this new journey.

Things are falling into place. Jarrod has a wonderful job. I found a job I've been dreaming about for at least 5 years. We found a beautiful home in a great neighborhood with a fence for Lucy and a cat door to the garage for Sophie and Oliver. We are thrilled to be back near family and are excited about having a baby (someday!) near family.

Thank you for your prayers, support, boxes, hugs, and notes of encouragement. We are ready to see what the future holds for the Louisiana Johnstons!
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Fundraising Challenge

I will have an update on our lives soon, probably later today, but until then I wanted to share with you a very exciting opportunity! If I raise $292.50 between now and Friday, April 22nd at midnight, I will match every dollar raised. Read more here.

Click to donate
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Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Zucchini Pizza Bake

If you have stumbled here because you saw our recipe over at BeeWell - Welcome! Check out our other recipes and subscribe to our blog to receive all of our updates. 
Last week I added another Finding Joy in my Kitchen recipe to our recipe book. This zucchini bake was advertised as a delicious gluten-free casserole. I wouldn't call it a "pizza" necessarily, but it's definitely delicious! I have been craving this dish since I made it a few days ago. It's incredibly delicious, filling, and a great way to get your veggies in!


Zucchini "Pizza" - Adapted from Lynn's Kitchen Adventure

"Crust"
4 C shredded zucchini
2 C cooked brown rice
1 C shredded mozzarella cheese
1/2 C grated Parmesan cheese
2 eggs I used egg beaters.

Filling
5 chicken sausages
1 1/2 C spaghetti sauce I have canned veggie sauce and reduced-fat alfredo

Topping
1 1/2 C shredded cheddar cheese
 
Shred the cheese and zucchini. I used my food processor with the shredding attachment. In a large bowl, mix together the cooked rice, shredded zucchini, mozzarella and parmesan cheeses. Add the eggs and mix well.








Press into a 9x13" pan and bake for 10 minutes at 400 degrees or until edges are brown.
Look at that yummy browned cheese. Is there anything better than bubbly, browned cheese?!

Saute the sausages until brown. Add sauce and simmer for 10 minutes. Spread over "crust" and top with cheddar cheese.

Bake at 400 degrees for 10 minutes or until cheese is browned.




This is so delicious! Jarrod and I have already brainstormed about how to switch it up. He loves alfredo with spinach and sausage, so we might try that combo next. The "crust" was so delicious. The eggs make it very fluffy and you the zucchini keeps it moist. Delicious!
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Gluten-free Baked Chicken and Brown Rice

A few nights ago I tried my hand at Baked Chicken and Rice from Finding Joy in My Kitchen. It was easy and incredibly delicious. I know we'll make it again! I don't have any additions of my own, but I do have words to the wise: follow the instructions! I forgot to add the additional chicken stock and ended up with VERY crunchy rice. Don't worry, I added it after the first bake and it came out perfect.

Chicken, Mushroom and Brown Rice Bake - Adapted from Amy @ Simply Sugar and Gluten-Free

3 1/3 C chicken stock, divided - which I always have in the freezer!
1 1/2 C brown rice
1 T butter
12 oz. baby bella mushrooms, sliced thick
1 medium onion
1 bag frozen broccoli, chopped (~12 oz)
2 C shredded chicken - I used one whole chicken, dark and white meat.
2 T corn starch
1 C cream, divided
1/2 C Parmesan cheese, grated

Cook the rice in 2 1/3 cups of stock. The rice will remain crunchy and will continue cooking in the oven. When the rice is done, spread in the bottom of a 9x13" pan.

Melt the butter in a large skillet. Add the onion and saute until soft, about 5 minutes. Then, add in the mushrooms and cook the water out of them, about 5 minutes. Add the broccoli, remaining chicken stock, and chicken. Simmer for 5-10 minutes.

In a small bowl, combine cornstarch and add 1 T of cream and mix well until cornstarch is dissolved and the mixture is thick. I had trouble dissolving the corn starch in such a small amount of cream. I started adding more to make it easier and ended up with a thick cream mixture to add to the pan. 

Then add in the cornstarch mixture and stir constantly until the mixture thickens, about 5 minutes. Remove the mix from the heat. Pour over rice and cover tightly with aluminum foil. Bake at 350 degrees for 25-30 minutes.

Uncover and add Parmesan cheese. Bake for an additional 5 minutes or until the cheese is brown and bubbly.



 Jarrod enjoyed this dish very much and it made delicious leftovers. Definitely a new staple in our dinner rotation!
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Monday, April 11, 2011

Taco Casserole Bake

The Johnston Family April Menu calendar dictated that we have Baked Taco Casserole for dinner on Saturday. Jarrod and I broke out the masa and began making tortillas in preparation. We made 8 corn tortillas from scratch for this recipe. Unlike last week's eggplant casserole, this time I didn't stick to the recipe very closely. I'm very thankful for SnoWhite and her mom's recipe because I discovered a new and delicious casserole!

Here's the result of not following the recipe:

Ingredients
1 C salsa, divided
4 oz fat free sour cream
8 corn tortillas
16 oz. ground turkey, seasoned with taco seasoning
1/3 C green bell peppers, diced
1/4 C onion, diced
1/2 - 3/4 C cheddar cheese

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. 

Brown, drain, and season the meat. Pulled it from the pan and add the diced peppers and onions. Cook them down until onions are brown. Mix 1/2 cup of salsa with the sour cream.

Spray an 8x8 casserole dish with non-stick spray. Layer 4 tortillas on the bottom of the pan. Spread half the salsa mixture over the tortillas. Layer half the onions and peppers on the sauce. Spread half the meat mixture on top of the veggies. Add half the cheese. Layer the rest of the tortillas, sauce, veggies, meat, and finish with the cheese.

Bake at 350 for about 15-20 minutes or until the cheese is melted. 

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Sunday, April 10, 2011

Doors closing and windows opening

Jarrod and I in Abita Springs this weekend.
We've been keeping a little secret from you for the past few weeks. In just a few short weeks, we'll no longer be the Louisiana Johnstons. We'll be the Texas Johnstons!

Jarrod accepted a job at a great church in a town on the south side of Dallas! We're beyond thrilled. He starts on May 16th and his last Sunday here is May 15th. No idea how that's going to work, but we're excited. Our lease here up isn't up here until the end of June so if I don't have a job in Dallas, I'll stay through June.

We're very sad to leave Slidell - I adore my job and hate to leave it. We have an incredibly fantastic circle of friends that have become our family here. I never thought we'd make Slidell feel like home, but thanks to these folks to the right, I am so sad to leave. But we're ready to see our nephews more and raise kids closer to family. I'm so excited that Jarrod found a great church. We went out there for an interview and visit a few weeks ago and I really like the church. It's in a great area and the people are wonderful. I think it's going to be a good place for us. Of course the transition isn't going to be easy. We have an incredible support system here and a wonderful life.

There are a lot of unknowns right now. I don't know if/when/where I'll get a job. I don't know where we'll be living and when we need to move. I am more than confident we are making the right decision and I know everything will fall into place. I'm exploring leads on some incredibly interesting and challenging jobs. I am going to Dallas/Ft. Worth on Wednesday for an interview. It's the second round of interviews for a job that is incredibly amazing. It's something I've been dreaming about for 5 years or so. I am incredibly excited about the possibility, but not trying to get my hopes up. Jarrod will fly in on Thursday so that we can begin the search for a place to live. I'm exciting about buying some new furniture and decorating a new house. I'm excited about getting a 3 bedroom condo because we'll need a nursery sometime soon.

We have a lot of decisions to make over the next few weeks. Lots of books to pack, tears to cry, and necks to hug. It will be action-packed for sure. I can't envision what life will look like on May 20th, but I have a feeling it will be beautiful. Through Jarrod's interviewing process I said, "It doesn't matter because in the end, it's you, me, Lucy, and the cats." That's all that matters.

I'm excited to see my nephews more often and watch them grow. Jarrod has missed every single one of their 3 birthdays. We won't miss birthday #4!

I am sure that there will be more than a few posts in the next few weeks of all the things I miss, but right now, I'm just going to focus on the excitement!
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Thursday, April 7, 2011

Adventures in Chocolate Chip Cookies

One of my favorite responsibilities at work is providing hospitality to volunteers. I am in charge of making sure that volunteers who travel to Louisiana for a week-long mission experience feel at home. For me, this always means food. I started out buying a huge tub of cookie dough and making batches of cookies each week from the tub. Easy and cheap, no doubt. However, this wasn't putting nearly enough love into sharing hospitality as I'd like.

A few weeks ago we had huge groups of volunteers - about three times our normal volume - so I decided to kick it up a notch and made chocolate chip cookies, peanut butter and chocolate chip rice krispies treats and delicious chocolate caramel brownies. Of course they were a big hit. And naturally, I didn't get any pictures of the process.

I had a slow afternoon so I decided that it was time to make a few more batches for the volunteers coming to town next week and the following week. I know things are going to get very busy around here next week and I won't have time to bake, so I decided to double my normal recipe and make twice as many cookies.

I have tried Heather's recipe before but altered it and didn't pay much attention to the directions. This time I was committed to reading every line and following it exactly.

Thick & Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies(Source: Baking Illustrated, courtesy of Heather Drive)

Makes approximately 18 large cookies

Ingredients:

- 2 cups + 2 tbsp. (10 5/8 oz.) unbleached all-purpose flour
- 1/2 tsp. baking soda
- 1/2 tsp. salt
- 12 tbsp. (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, melted and cooled until warm
- 1 cup packed (7 oz.) light or dark brown sugar
- 1/2 cup (3 1/2 oz.) granulated sugar
- 1 large egg + 1 egg yolk
- 2 tsp. vanilla extract
- 1 - 1 1/2 cups semisweet chocolate chips

Directions:

1. Adjust the oven racks to the upper- and lower-middle positions and heat the oven to 325 degrees. Line 2 large baking sheets with parchment paper or spray them with nonstick cooking spray.

2. Whisk the flour, baking soda, and salt together in a medium bowl; set aside.

3. Either by hand or with an electric mixer, mix the butter and sugars until thoroughly blended. Beat in the egg, yolk, and vanilla until combined. Add the dry ingredients and beat at low speed just until combined. Stir in the chips to taste.

 


4. Roll a scant 1/4 cup of the dough into a ball. Hold the dough ball with the fingertips of both hands and pull into 2 equal halves. Rotate the halves 90 degrees and, with jagged surfaces facing up, join the halves together at their base, again forming a single ball, being careful not to smooth the dough’s uneven surface. This is where I ran into some trouble. I don't think I properly placed the halves back together. Place the formed dough balls on the prepared baking sheets, jagged surface up, spacing them 2 1/2 inches apart.


5. Bake until the cookies are light golden grown and the outer edges start to harden yet the centers are still soft and puffy, 15 to 18 minutes, rotating the baking sheets front to back and top to bottom halfway through the baking time. Cool the cookies on the sheets. Remove the cooled cookies from the baking sheets with a side metal spatula.

 They didn't turn out quite turn out as pretty as I'd planned. I don't think I really had the knack of splitting the balls and then putting them back together. I'd do it differently next time. And maybe cook them at a little higher temperature and for a little less time. I ended up baking them on the really long side just to get them cooked all the way through.

Thank goodness everyone else in the office was out for the afternoon because when all was said and done, I was left with the kitchen looking like this:

 

Thankfully I had plenty of time to clean up after myself before folks came back from meetings. I don't think they would have minded much anyway - the whole office building smelled delicious! 
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Tuesday, April 5, 2011

April Wish List

April is birthday month around here and as my friend's like to say, I celebrate my birthday Hanukkah style - for as long as I possibly can. It's been several months since my last Wish List post, I figured it was about time...even though several things from the last post are still on my list. :-)



 1. Ikea's Manstad Couch

Several weeks ago our couch broke. It was free when Jarrod got it from friends about 5 years ago. It had a good life with a family before he took possession of it and we've enjoyed it very much. It is slip-covered because the couch is a beautiful deep purpose that attracts our animals hair and looks pretty terrible. Weeks before the couch broke, the elastic broke in the slip cover. Then the couch fell off it's legs. One could argue that the cost effective thing to do would be to reinforce the wooden bottom of the couch and drill the legs back in. However, I think we're going to be purchasing a new couch. Hopefully one like this picture! 
I like this couch because it can fold out to a double bed for guests. I also like that there is storage under the couch for pillows or throw blankets. We do have a lot of throw blankets! I also love that the couch is essentially slipcovered and can be washed. Perfect for dogs, cats, kids, and messy husbands. 

2. Canon Digital Rebel T1i with an 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 iso lens

What!? Leanne wants a camera?! I had no idea... ;-) 



I've updated my wishes since last time to include this camera. After doing research and figuring out what my favorite photographer friends use, I think this is the camera for me. I've started saving my pennies as this camera is not cheap, but hope to have it in the next 6 months or so.

3. Ikea Hemnes Queen Bedframe

We have the mattress, all we need is the bedframe! The price has gone down to a reasonable $199, making it very affordable. Until we save the money for this bed, we'll be sleeping on our mattress on the floor. This bed matches our current dresser and I just stained the night stands so that they match too. Not to make everything too matchy-matchy, but just to make our bedroom look a little more grown-up. (Our nightstands were straight outta the box.)

4. Hemnes 3 drawer chest


And since we're dreaming and being matchy-matchy. I'd love a few drawers of my very own. Perhaps the ones shown above. We currently have the 6-drawer chest and I have one of the very small top drawers and the very bottom drawer and that's all.

5. Express Pinstripe Suit

My husband is fashionable. I definitely married up. He helps me pick out clothes and rarely minds shopping in the women's section. I don't drag him in there often, but when I do it's always fruitful for me. He knows what looks good and what I shouldn't even bother trying on. It's a truly wonderful quality to have in a husband, especially because I'm so fashion challenged. However, the drawback is that Jarrod has expensive taste and is always looking for new clothes.


 Last Easter Jarrod got a new suit. We budgeted for his birthday and Christmas presents and in February we'd saved enough for a nice suit. It is a light khaki and is gorgeous. It's from Express, Jarrod's favorite. Now he wants another one - a darker suit. I adore the one above. But for $350, he's going to have to wait a little while...

6. A pretty long dress.

A few weeks ago Jarrod and I went shopping and I tried on about a dozen pretty flowered dresses. I'm in search of a new Easter dress. These long, flowy dresses are showing up everywhere and I decided to try one on. Jarrod convinced me that it might be pretty, even though I'm not tall and skinny.


Turns out it was super cute. It was $45, which is so reasonable for such a cute dress, but I wasn't willing to spend the money. Since that day, I've thought about this dress a dozen times. It was very flattering, springy, and made me feel pretty. Jarrod loved it. In fact, he got all cute because it's the only long dress he's ever seen me in - save my wedding dress. If Kohl's was closer, I would probably head over there tonight and get it. But it's not. And I don't have the cash. So, I'll wait. Maybe in a couple of weeks it will be on clearance and I can get it for even less money!

 Of course the only thing I really want for my birthday is a cure for (breast) cancer. That didn't fit on my board but if you want to be part of the cure, please consider making a donation to Susan G. Komen 3-Day for the Cure in honor of my 29th birthday. Just 17 days left until my birthday!
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Monday, April 4, 2011

Eggplant Lasagna

I found this recipe from Rachael Ray and tweaked it a bit to make it fit our family. I made it on Saturday because it takes quite a while and uses up a lot of pans. We've already had the leftovers a few times and they are delicious.

I wasn't sure my meat-loving husband was going to go for the eggplant. I eat it all the time, but it's a new thing for him. He ate it just fine, but I wasn't sure it was a winner until he gave me the best compliment...
We could make this for people!
He liked it!

Ingredients
2-1/2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 eggplants ,sliced
4 cloves garlic, smashed and peeled
Two 28-ounce cans diced tomatoes, preferably fire-roasted
Salt and pepper
Six 3-by-6 1/2-inch lasagna noodles(we used gluten-free)
14 ounces low-fat (1 percent) ricotta cheese
1 large egg
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons grated parmesan cheese
8 ounces shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese
12 ounces of cooked and drained ground turkey
  1. Preheat the oven to 400°. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper and drizzle 1/2 tablespoon olive oil on each. Place half of the eggplant slices on each pan, turn to coat with the oil, then arrange in a single layer. Bake until tender and lightly browned, about 40 minutes. Be sure to watch them while they bake. 40 minutes was WAY too long in our oven.
  2. Meanwhile, in a large, deep skillet, heat the remaining 1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil over medium heat; add the garlic and cook, stirring, until just golden, 1 to 2 minutes. Add the cooked and drained turkey meat. Add the tomatoes; bring to a boil. Lower the heat and cook, partially covered and stirring occasionally, until the sauce is thickened, about 25 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.
  3. In a large pot of boiling, salted water, cook the noodles, stirring often, until tender, about 5 minutes. Drain the noodles and rinse with cold water.
  4. Line a 9-inch square baking dish with two 16-inch-long sheets of parchment paper, allowing a few inches of overhang on all sides. Using a food processor, puree the cottage cheese. Add the egg and 1/4 cup parmesan, season with salt and pepper and pulse to combine.
  5. Spread 1 cup tomato sauce in the bottom of the prepared dish. Lay 2 noodles side by side over the sauce. Layer half of the cottage cheese mixture, half of the eggplant slices and one-third of the mozzarella on top. Spoon 1 1/4 cups tomato sauce over the mozzarella and top with 2 more noodles. Layer with the remaining cottage cheese mixture and eggplant, another third of the mozzarella, 1 1/4 cups tomato sauce and the remaining 2 noodles. Spread the remaining tomato sauce on top and fold in the parchment to cover the lasagna.
  6. Cover the dish tightly with foil, place on a baking sheet and bake for 35 minutes. Remove the foil, sprinkle the remaining mozzarella and 2 tablespoons parmesan on top and bake until bubbly, about 10 minutes. Let cool for 10 minutes before serving.





I wish I'd thought to take pictures. It was a long process, but it was delicious! The meat was a good addition for our family. Jarrod's definitely not a vegetarian! I thought of perhaps adding sausage next time, which would be good. I also suggested eliminating the noodles in favor of portabella mushrooms. That would be delicious and I think I'll definitely do that next time. The eggplant added a delicious meaty quality to the lasagna and would definitely be filling enough without the ground turkey if your family can go without meat. 
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April Grocery Store Breakdown

After Jarrod and I designed the menu for the month of April, we set out on Friday/Saturday to purchase everything we could for the month. Before heading out to the store, I made a grocery list with everything we would need. I organized the list in 10 categories and sorted them based on how we typically moved through the store. Our list as follows:

Personal Items
Body wash
Advil

Dairy
low-fat ricotta cheese
eggs
Parmesan cheese
cream
sour cream
shredded mozzarella cheese
greek yogurt
milk
butter

Baking
Masa
Gluten-free bread mix

Snacks/Dessert
Potato chips

Cans/Beans/Etc.
large bag of dry black beans
large bag of brown rice
56 ounces fire roasted tomatoes
Gluten-free lasagna noodles
salsa
barbecue sauce
italian dressing
taco seasoning

Produce
eggplant
garlic
sweet potatoes
baby bella mushrooms
onions
baking potatoes
zucchini
lemons
green peppers
spinach
celery
oranges

Frozen
bag of broccoli
mixed berries


Paper goods
toilet paper

Pet care
dog food
poop bag refills

Misc.
cereal
wine
windshield wipers
paint brush

We stuck to the list and were able to purchase everything on the list at just three stores. We purchased all the meat, some of the dairy, toilet paper, chips, and some produce at Sam's Club. The Gluten-Free products, some produce, and cereal was purchased at Wal-Mart. The rest of the produce was purchased at Winn Dixie. All told, we spent $240 of our budgeted $300. Of course we paid with cash.

We currently have everything we need to make all our planned meals for April. Of course, we will need to purchase somethings here and there before the month is over. Here are some things I know we'll need to buy before April is over:
milk
bananas
cereal for Jarrod
yogurt
chips

That's all I know for sure. We don't need anything else for any of our recipes, though. Everything is good to go and stored appropriately. I'm making lots of new recipes this month, so I'll be sure to share my progress with you! 
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