Tuesday, January 31, 2012


I have been fighting a cold since November.
Kind of feeling like it might happen, but thankful that it never fully formed.  

I think I pressed my luck for too long because I'm in full on cold misery.  

From the very start of cold-season I take an Emergen-C a day.  
Fingers crossed I'm in tip-top shape for the weekend ... first big competition!

Pumpkin Shells and Cheese

Yesterday Eric and I both spilled giant cups of coffee before 8am ... him at work, me in my car, totally unrelated incidents, but events that kick off semi-crappy days all around.  
By the time we dragged ourselves in the door around 7pm, 
we were ready for sweats, couch and comfort food.  

I remembered reading this recipe on the elefantitas alegres blog 
(she does Menu Sundays and I get a ton of dinner ideas there)

Recipe only slightly altered.

1 lb box whole wheat  medium pasta shells
3 T butter + 1 T for topping
4 T flour
3 c milk (I used fat free)
6 oz shredded mozzarella cheese
6 oz shredded cheddar cheese
6 oz Velveta cheese, cubed
1 c pumpkin puree
1 T fresh rosemary, finely chopped
1/4 t ground nutmeg
1/2 t cayenne pepper
1/2 c panko bread crumbs

Cook pasta in heavily salted water, removing from heat and draining 3 minutes prior to the specified cook time on the package.  
Melt 3 T butter in a large skillet over Medium-High heat. Add flour, whisking for about 30 seconds. Add 2 cups of milk and the rosemary, whisking continuously until smooth.  Add the third cup of milk and continue to whisk until the mixture thickens, about 5 minutes.  
Turn down heat to Medium, add cheese blend and whisk until combined.  Add Velveeta and stir until fully melted and combined.  Add salt, pepper, nutmeg, cayenne, and pumpkin.
Toss cheese sauce with cooked pasta and pour into a greased casserole dish {9x13}.  Top with breadcrumbs and dot with remaining tablespoon of butter.  
Bake for 30 mins at 400 degrees. 

I served this with quick sauteed spinach with garlic.

*note: I added spicy chicken sausage (browned/crumbled) to the mac for Eric, but I'd leave it out for me!)

Monday, January 30, 2012

Sauerkraut, Rubens & Rachels

**I found this in my draft folder - I wrote it right after the New Year and never posted it!

This is a 'non-recipe' for the best sauerkraut I've ever had (on New Years Day in Pittsburgh).
It was so good I had to recreate it immediately.

When I asked my friend how she made it, it was 'a little of this & some of that'... which is pretty much how I cook, so that was enough for me!

I made a walloping 4 pounds.  It's that good.
I used:
2 - 2 pound bags of barrel cured sauerkraut
1 envelope of Liptons Onion Soup Mix (I never cook with stuff like this!)
10-12 oz (ish) of naturally unsweetened apple sauce
1/2 cup (ish) of brown sugar
lots of freshly ground black pepper and some salt

Toss it all together, cover with aluminum foil and into the oven it went for 4 hours at 300 and another 2 hours at 275/250 (ish)... and I might have let it cook even longer, 
but we were starving!

Normally, I would cook it with a roast or something, but we had our eye on Rubens and Rachels.
A Rachel (sandwich) is the cousin of the Ruben, substituting turkey for corned beef.

To assemble the Rachel, butter 2 slices of marbled rye and place one piece butter side down in a skillet over medium/low heat.  On top of the bread in the pan, add a dollop of Russian dressing, a pile of sauerkraut, a few slices of turkey or corned beef, a slice of swiss cheese  and top with the remaining slice of bread with a smidgen more Russian dressing.
Periodically pressing down with a spatula, cook the sandwich until golden brown on both sides.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Blueberry Orange Muffins

I needed to take something breakfasty to dance this weekend and I had a box of blueberry muffin mix in the cupboard.  I jazzed up the mix with orange and pantry items...
they turned out great!

Normally I'd make muffins from scratch (or buy them from the bakery!), but this was quick and easy.

Duncan Hines Blueberry Streusel Mix
Directions call for:
1/2 C milk
1/4 C oil
2 eggs

I added the zest of a whole navel orange

It came with a powdery 'strussel' topping, and to that I added:
2 T brown sugar
1/3 C oatmeal
1 T melted butter

From there I just followed the directions.
Not bad for a quick throw-together muffin! 

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Brussel Sprout Slaw

I so have not been cooking real dinners.  I have been teaching dance and sparking costumes.
Poor Eric... while I might scarf some humus, a pickle, a piece of string cheese and call it dinner, he would actually prefer something more substantial (imagine that!).

I read about this particular brussel sprout slaw here, which linked it to the recipe here.
I love love love brussel sprouts and this is a super delicious way to serve 'em up!

The recipe below is only slightly modified from the original.

1 bunch/lb. brussels sprouts, bottoms trimmed and outter leaves removed
1 c. red grapes, sliced lengthwise
1 avocado, diced
1 T. dijon mustard
3 T. red wine vinegar
1/2 c. olive oil
1 t. honey
salt & pepper

Slice the Brussels sprouts into thin shards, 
throw them into a bowl and separate the leaves with your fingers.
Toss in the grapes, followed by the avocados.
In a small bowl, whisk together the Dijon mustard, vinegar, olive oil, and honey.  
Season with salt and pepper.
Using all the dressing, toss the salad thoroughly and let sit for at least
15-30 minutes before serving.

I served up a manly bacon wrapped pork tenderloin and oven sweet potato wedges with this.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Costume Overload

31 dancers...
30 costumes with custom blinged Prince symbols
15 hours of sparkles and hot glue!

On top of:
5 bird costumes with custom tutu bustles
7 Lady Luck Halloween costumes transformed into dance costumes
6 lyrical costumes created out of tank tops
lots and lots of solo costumes sparkled, altered and customized
Gaga headbands made
Sparkle clips galore
feathers, sparkles, tulle, glue and love!
(not to mention, oh, ya know, the dancing)

We're days away from the showcase 
and a week away from the start of the competition season.
These weeks leading up to everything are hectic... but so worth it :)
The team looks great!

Also, the Comp Team shirt for this year ...
not my most awesome graphic design work, but really cute and fitting for this group

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Quick Miso Lunch

When I work at the shop, I usually gobble something quick for lunch when I have 2 seconds...
Lately I've been on a Miso Soup/whatever is in the fridge kick.

Miso with bok choy, mushrooms and scallions.

My favorite brand is by Sushi Chef

(I make the soup piping-hot, add veggies and let them sit in the broth for about 5 minutes)

Pinwheel Free Printable

Super cute free printable at Oh Happy Day for Pinwheels.
Makes me want to throw a party!

DF Showcase

Just finished the poster for the upcoming Dance Showcase.
What screams Dance Fusion more than Black, Green and Zebra?

Happy Birthday Lemon Squares

We celebrated my little brother's 23rd birthday on Sunday at my Mom's house.
She made an Italian feast requested by the birthday boy, 
and for dessert she made these lemon squares.

They were the most lemony-lemon delicious lemon squares I've ever had 
(but I think I've only had the boxed variety up until now). 
Just had to share!

Coconut Water

I am slowly but surely getting addicted to Coconut Water.

I used to drink a TON of water during the day when I worked in an office.  
It was just easier to monitor... fill water bottle 3 times, done.
Now that I am working from home, running around, at the dance studio, at the shop yadda yadda, 
I'm lucky if I get 3 servings of water in me.

Obviously Coconut Water isn't a water replacement, but I find it keeps me super hydrated.
(It's also hands-down the best hangover remedy around!)

Taco Party

It has been a crazy long week already...
but we had a fun weekend before we jumped into madness!

Last Friday I threw together a last minute taco party for a few good friends.
I love having people over and I can easily throw an over-the-top party of any variety, 
but sometimes it's nice to keep it simple and low key. 
Find me a person who doesn't like a taco.  Easiest party food ever. 
It can be made vegetarian or meaty and requires little effort to pull together.
For taco fillings, I've made orange-chipotle pork, honey lime shrimp,
black beans with corn and cilantro... 
the taco filling possibilitys are endless and can far surpass 
the ground-meat cafeteria style some people think of when they hear 'taco'.

Toss out a few bowls of fixin's, a big bowl of tortilla chips & salsa, pour yourself a margarita and turn on the samba music because the part is ready to go.

This time I kept it suuuuuper simple.
shredded chipotle chicken
mild salsa
shredded romain lettuce
black bean & corn rice
3 hot sauce options (we like it spicy!)

'skinny-girl' margaritas, corona and sparkling limeade

I love the real Bethenny Frankel Skinny Girl Margaritas,
but they are surprisingly hard to find around here. 

I've hit a couple of liquor stores and only been able to find a bottle or 2 at any one time...
and since it's a complete mixed cocktail, a bottle doesn't go very far in my experience.

So I figured I'd make a knock-off version of my own.
I first made these for my birthday party this past summer.  They were a hit.
(small disclaimer: this is nothing like a true fresh-squeezed margarita and real margaritas should take offense to me calling it such, but it is leaps and bounds better than the sticky sweet neon green stuff labeled as margarita mix at the grocery store!)

1 pitcher of prepared lemon-lime crystal light
1 cup freshly squeeze lime juice
3/4 - 1 bottle of Jose Cuervo Silver Tequila 
(this is a lot of booze, back it off if you're not professional margarita drinkers)
Rim glass with lime juice, then dunk in margarita salt
Add lots of ice, pour margarita and garnish with a lime wedge.
These weigh in at about 65 calories per drink ... not too shabby!

Friday, January 13, 2012

Quick Dinners: Stir Fry

This the my busiest time of year, hands down.  
Eric and I barely see each other during the week, 
and if we happen to have an hour to spare to have dinner together it's on the fly.  

Stir Fry is one of those things I can whip together at the speed of light, 
plus it cleans out the fridge* (always a bonus!)

No recipe, I just toss chicken, shrimp or tofu in a screaming-hot wok with a drizzle of sesame oil and cook through.  Remove and set aside.  Slice veggies into strips and cook quickly in the wok, add protein back in, drizzle with a stir fry sauce, toss to combine and serve over bean threads, brown rice or whole wheat thin spaghetti or chow mein.

Tonight we had a stir fry of chicken, bok choy, green peppers, 
crinkle cut carrots, mushrooms and scallion over bean threads.

*I have 3 ways I clean out the fridge:
1.  Dump it all in a stir fry
2. Toss it all on top of a pizza shell
3.  Put everything on top of a bed of greens for a mega salad

In my experience, these 3 different vehicles can handle just about any combination of ingredients.
Sometimes the best dinners come from just cleaning out the fridge at our house!

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Winter Black, Winter Blues

Laundry duty is a shared task around here.  

I'm the sorter, Eric and I both will toss it in the machine and change the load to the dryer, Eric is the one to carry the laundry up 2 flights of steps, I am the master folder, and Eric is more tolerant of the putting away of the clean, folded laundry (the worst task in my opinion).

(I prefer to fold laundry on the bed, watching the Kardashians and checking email)

This is a stack of my stuff ... apparently I've been wearing black, black and more black ... peppered with a purple tank top and a gray t-shirt.  

It's this time of year ... winter = black.  
I should really try to spice it up before Spring!

Also, our new washer is being delivered Saturday while I'm at dance.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

To Resolve Project

Zebra Pashmina

Normally I am far from the zebra-print wearing type.  

However, dance competition season is literally right around the corner 
and at the competitions zebra print anything in team colors is where it's at.  

Since I am a lover of pashminas, this seemed like the perfect compromise... 

purchased at affordable scarves

Friday, January 6, 2012

Challenge: Master Bedroom Pt. 3

Uh oh.
I was browsing The Perfect Palette* and I saw this color inspiration...
I feel like that tangerine-red color is calling my name and must be apart of this bedroom re-do.
Other update news:  In a happy accident, I completely forgot about an awesome retro piece of furniture I've had in storage for over 5 years that is going to put this room over the top!

A wall has been stenciled, the coolest chair ever has been purchased & cleaned, 
a super cheap art project has been completed,
and I've been painting my little heart out.

And while I was to be cleaning up the paint edges last night, I accidentally cleaned out my closet instead.  These are the things that delay my projects. 
But 3 giant bags for Good Will later and I'm feeling good.

We.  Are.  So.  Close...  
(unless I add in this awesome color)

*a note about The Perfect Palette.  This site is so awesome for color inspiration.  It's clearly meant for brides trying to choose color schemes, but I use it all the time for party inspiration, design inspiration, fashion inspiration and more.  View with caution... you'll want to redecorate everything.
Also, most people (myself included) are great at coming up with 2-3 colors they like together, but this site expands upon the basic 2-3 color schemes into pallets with 5-6 colors.  I love it.

Party Favors

I'm a fan of the party favor.  

It's a super cute way to send your guests off with a token of 
"thanks-for-coming-you're-so-great-and-I'm-so-glad-we're-friends-let's-party-again-soon!" (apparently my party favors are quite chatty).

She took inspiration from here 
and turned some recycled frappuccino bottles into no-fuss party favors.

Anything can be a party favor, but in my experience, eatables are quick, easy and often appreciated.  I also like to give ornaments, personalized items and themed items to go along with the party.  But I always try to give whatever it is a personal/handmade touch.

New Music

I loooove discovering new music.  
It goes hand in hand with dancing and choreographing 
(and I think just being artistic in general).

  I have been known to get lost in the never ending circle of YouTube, iTunes, music blogs and old dance competition programs for hours trying to find something new that I can't live without. 

So much inspiration, so little time.

Eat Seasonal

This is kind of neat from the Sustainable Table.  
You can use the drop down menu to select what state you live in, what part of the month it is, 
and a list of what is in season right now is generated.  

Different seasons always mean different produce cravings for us ...
Summer, tomatoes, corn
Winter, root veggies, citrus
Spring, asparagus, etc...

But I love seeing what is actually in season and not just what we get hankerings for!

Monday, January 2, 2012

I Wish

New Years Eve in a Nutshell

We had a great time in Pittsburgh!

In no particular order: We went Dahntahn, 
saw some fireworks & hit the casino (Eric won some moola!)

We went to Construction Junction and I picked up an 
awesome new chair for the new master bedroom.

Eric found his new PA West Coast love Razzy Fresh (his PA East Coast love is Whirled Peace) and he possibly ate his weight in frozen yogurt.

We partied like it was 1999 with our favorite Picksburgh people.  There were gin & tonics consumed and I ate the best sauerkraut I've ever had.

New Years Day was appropriately filled with lounging, naps, movies and chicken nuggets.
Resolutions were made...
Eric:  To learn how to cook and make dinner once a week (YAY!)
Tessa:  To make more time for the friends we love to see, 
but never do because we have the schedules of crazy people
Happy 2012!